Anger as budget slashed for Disability Sport NI
Sport NI have been accused of dragging disability sport in Northern Ireland back to the dark ages following drastic cuts to the Disability Sport NI budget.
In a statement Disability Sport NI (DSNI), which provides opportunities for people with disabilities to become involved in sport, said there are now fears for the organisation's future due to a decrease in budget of 50% over the last three years.
DSNI added that it would have to remove services to 7,000 of the 20,000 people it works with, reduce its staff from 19 to 14 and scrap several programmes.
Public body Sport NI, which administers funds to Disability Sport NI, is dealing with savage cuts itself - in December the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the Northern Ireland Executive were cutting Sport NI's budget by more than £1m.
But that has cut no ice with Disability Sport NI. Chief executive Kevin O'Neill said: "Last year we received £285,000, this year we got £207,000 and in the new financial year that is going to fall to £146,000."
Dr Janet Gray MBE, president of Disability Sport NI and world disabled water ski champion, added: "This is a disgrace. At a time when the rest of the UK has woken up to the value of disability sport and Britain quite rightly celebrates the achievements of Paralympic athletes, Northern Ireland is going backwards.
"Sport NI is dragging us back into the dark ages and ignoring the needs of vulnerable people for whom getting involved in sport is often transformational. "
Sport NI said it was committed to working with DSNI to help people with a disability to participate and excel in sport in Northern Ireland.
It added: "Sport NI has planned for an overall exchequer budget cut of 11.2% but in a bid to minimise impacts on people with a disability has worked to restrict budget/resource reductions in that area to 10%."