DR UK’s role in government’s opening ceremony ticket handout was ‘incredibly wrong’


theweek120by150The government has been criticised for asking Disability Rights UK to play a key role in deciding which organisations received free tickets to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics.

Last week, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published the names of people invited to the Paralympic and Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, and to London 2012 sporting events.

Most of the tickets given to prominent disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and disability charities were for the Paralympic opening ceremony, with pairs of tickets worth up to £3,000.

DCMS was unable to clarify last week exactly how the government chose which disabled people and organisations were given the tickets.

But this week, a DCMS spokeswoman told Disability News Service: “We wanted to have good representation from disability charities and disability sport at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

“We worked with our colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions, Disability Rights UK and with sport’s national governing bodies to help put an invite list together.”

Among those given pairs of £1,500 tickets were representatives of Scope, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Brittle Bone Society, RNIB and Mind.

And among the disabled people’s organisations handed pairs of £1,500 tickets were Disability Wales, Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living, ecdp (formerly Essex Coalition of Disabled People), Southampton Centre for Independent Living, and Disability Rights UK itself.

Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said the government’s decision to go to DR UK for advice was “incredibly wrong” and “not on”.

He said the tickets for the opening ceremony had been “gold dust” for many disabled people, and questioned the decision to give pairs of £1,500 tickets to the big non-user-led charities, at the expense of disabled people in grassroots organisations who would not have been able to afford tickets to London 2012.

He said: “Here is another example of how DR UK tends to be the organisation that gets singled out and approached by government in matters relating to disability.

“For me, it does reinforce our view that DR UK is a very privileged organisation when it comes to working with government departments.”

Level Playing Field, the user-led charity which advises sports and government on issues relating to disabled sports fans and accessible stadia and venues, is believed to be one of many organisations that had to sign confidentiality clauses in order to work with LOCOG.

A Level Playing Field spokesperson said in a statement: “We sat on a number of consultation and advisory groups in a voluntary capacity in the years leading up to London 2012 and so gave significant time and resources.

“We did not receive any tickets for either the Olympics or Paralympics last summer.”

Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, who herself spent more than five years on London 2012 consultative groups, questioned why DR UK had been involved in deciding who received the tickets.

She suggested the decision to ask DR UK indicated that it was now considered to be the government’s “preferred supplier”.

Newman said she was “surprised and disappointed” that some of the disabled people within the host boroughs who had spent years on various London 2012 consultations had not been offered tickets.

Newman, like many others, had to buy her own Paralympic tickets, but added: “It would have been difficult to accept the [free government]tickets, given the problems with Atos as sponsors, but it may have been courteous to have been offered.”

Even Margaret Hickish, the disabled consultant who played a key role in ensuring the accessibility of London 2012’s purpose-built venues, was not offered any free tickets by the government.

Hickish said there were too many disabled people who had contributed to the success of the games for them all to be given tickets, but she added: “There are a lot of people out there who are miffed they didn’t get free tickets.”

Both DR UK and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed they had only suggested organisations and individuals connected with disability sport.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of DR UK, said: “Everything that Disability Rights UK has done in the area of sport has been led by disabled people and involved disabled people engaged in grassroots sport.

“DCMS asked for suggestions for people to invite and we suggested some local disabled people and local DPOs who have done positive work to enable more disabled people to exercise our right to get involved in everyday sport and fitness.”

She added: “We had no control over government’s decisions on the final list.”

A DWP spokeswoman added: “The 2012 Paralympic Games was all about showcasing the talents and sporting expertise of disabled people performing at their best.

“We worked with our colleagues at DCMS to help give advice on putting an invite list together to ensure the games had a good representation of disability sport.”

31 January 2013


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