"Having run thousands of miles on prosthetics myself I’m delighted to see the next generation take their first steps in experiencing the freedom of running whether just for general enjoyment or towards achieving their own Paralympic ambitions.”
Children across England have begun to receive new running and swimming blades from the National Health Service (NHS), in a move by the British government to help a future generation of young people get active and even become the next Paralympians.
The introduction of children’s sports prostheses on the NHS follows the creation of a GBP 1.5 million fund by the Department of Health to help children run, swim and play sport using specialised sports prostheses.
The move was announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with the first children now benefitting from the new prostheses.
The money has been split between funding going to NHS limb centres to fund requests for prostheses and investment in a Child Prostheses Research Collaboration, bringing the latest technology into the NHS. It will also enable more children to benefit from sports prostheses that are tailored to their needs and the sports they want to play.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Every child should be able to participate in sport."
"ParalympicsGB surpassed everyone's expectations at last year's Paralympics and this investment will ensure the next generation of children who have either been born without a limb or who have lost a limb will be able to lead an active life.
“It’s wonderful that the first children are now receiving their blades and that they will be able to reach their sporting potential – I hope some may even be selected in the future as members of ParalympicsGB.”
Sports prostheses given out include a running blade for a 13 year old boy in Brighton, and a water limb that will allow a child from Cumbria to go to the beach or pool and swim with friends.
Ben’s mother Kate Moore said: “We’re really pleased Ben has been fitted with a new running blade. After watching the success of ParalympicsGB last year, this blade means Ben can develop his interest in sport and could become part of the next generation of ParalympicsGB. We hope more children and young people like Benjamin will be able to benefit too."
Ben, 13, has just been fitted for his new running blade at the Sussex Rehabilitation Centre at Brighton General Hospital and has enjoyed using his new running blade to play football and run. He has now set his sights on the Paralympics.
The fund was made available after a campaign to highlight the issue by Sarah Hope, whose daughter Pollyanna lost her right leg below the knee when a bus hit her on a pavement in South London at the age of just two.
Sarah Hope, mother of child amputee aged 11 Pollyanna Hope, and founder of Elizabeth's Legacy of Hope, said: “The running blade is vital for children like Pollyanna to try and make her life easier. For Pollyanna it’s more of an activity blade, giving her the opportunity to dance and play with her friends. Because ultimately people need to remember that amputees are missing a part of their body and nothing can ever replace what should be there.”
Kiera Roche, Chief Executive of LimbPower, the National Disability Sports Organisation for people with limb impairments, said: "The children’s prosthetic fund has been welcomed by the amputee community as a really positive step in supporting children to be more confident and socially engaged, providing them with the equipment to participate and immerse themselves fully in school P.E. and community activities”.
Richard Whitehead MBE, double leg amputee and double Paralympic champion in 200m T42, said: "Having run thousands of miles on prosthetics myself I’m delighted to see the next generation take their first steps in experiencing the freedom of running whether just for general enjoyment or towards achieving their own Paralympic ambitions.”