Editorial: Let's see action, not talk

The Black Caps cricket team meet disabled brothers at Eden Park, made possible by the Halberg Foundation. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Black Caps cricket team meet disabled brothers at Eden Park, made possible by the Halberg Foundation. Photo / Doug Sherring

The Halberg Foundation, a charity with a truly hallowed name in this country, clearly needs to rethink the way it is trying to help disabled children play sport. Its problems, as Dylan Cleaver reports today, go deeper than the fact that less than $1 in $10 donated to the foundation goes to disabled children.

That is an embarrassment faced to a greater or lesser degree by most fundraising organisations. It takes a great deal of money to employ people to raise money and deliver services. Commercial operations are doing well if their income exceeds their costs by more than 10 per cent and charities are no different.

They might not exist for profit but they are not staffed by unpaid volunteers. They need to pay competitive rates for competence and leadership. Of the $2.5 million donated to the Halberg Disability Sports Foundation in the latest year, just on half, $1.2m, was paid to staff.

Most of the rest must have gone in running fundraisers such as the annual Halberg Awards dinner, though they say it runs on "a shoestring", for only $197,898 went to disabled individuals or clubs.

It costs a lot to make a little. But as Cleaver reports, the little that is distributed is not going to the right places, according to a support group, Parents of Young Disabled Athletes.

They want regular sporting programmes organised for the disabled. The foundation seems to prefer to talk to schools and sports organisations about how they can include youngsters with disabilities. Its chief executive, Shelley McMeeken, calls it "breaking down some of the barriers" to their entry to sport.

The foundation tells schools and clubs how to "embed an inclusive philosophy and how to adapt and modify things to make this possible".

Meanwhile, parents such as Pam Cleverly, whose daughter Charlotte lost her limbs to meningococcal disease in infancy, says she is "banging her head against a brick wall" trying to find regular sport for her.

Clearly, what they want are organised programmes for the disabled, not talk of inclusiveness and occasional events.

At least one new organisation, the Chariot Project, has been founded to try to fill the gap. But the Halberg Foundation has the status and good will to be more effective.

In the name of its esteemed patron, it should make an effort to provide what disabled young sporting people really want.

- NZ Herald

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