Child of Courage award winner Dante Martin with Ashley Banjo. Photograph credit: Mirrorpix/Variety
Dante, the Variety Young Ambassador who stole the show at last night’s Pride of Britain Awards, highlights how crucial it is for disabled children across the UK to receive the support they need, says the charity. 

Recent figures show that there are now around 1.3 million disabled children and young adults in the UK, around 8% of under 18’s.

The number of disabled people is rising as the population grows and as medical advances increase life expectancy for babies born with complex disabilities and congenital conditions such as cystic fibrosis. There is also much greater awareness of neurodevelopmental disabilities like autism.

Eleven-year-old Dante, who is from Liverpool, won the Child of Courage Award at the star-studded ceremony. Viewers saw him collect his award from Ashley Banjo for helping to raise £30,000 for a Variety Sunshine Coach and for visiting other seriously ill and disabled children in hospital. The charity provided him with a bespoke wheelchair that has transformed his life and he became a young ambassador in 2018.

Child of Courage winner Dante Martin. Photograph credit: Mirrorpix/Variety

Dante said:

“A wheelchair is only a means of transport and not an attachment to my body, wheelchairs take people as far as their imagination will allow.”

Variety now wants to double the number of wheelchairs it provides but to do that it needs to raise £1million for this specific programme alone. The average cost for a wheelchair provided by Variety is £5,000 but this figure can rise to as much as £25,000.

Jo Carter, CEO of Variety, said:

“We are immensely proud of everything that Dante has achieved during his time as Variety Young Ambassador, he really is an inspiration to us all. The need for the important work that we do is only set to increase in 2020 as we look towards the decade ahead, so any support for Variety is truly invaluable for the young lives that we support.”

As we move into a new decade, the charity looks at the challenges facing these families. These include:

  • 69% of families saying that they don’t receive any support for their disabled child and with a £434 million funding gap for disabled children’s services, children are missing out on vital equipment.
  • Increases in the cost of living are also driving disabled people further into poverty, with disabled people twice as likely to be living in food poverty than non-disabled people.
  • 80% of schools report that they don’t have facilities or equipment appropriate for offering accessible sport for disabled children.
  • SEND funding has dropped 17% since 2015.

Variety, the Children’s Charity, has been helping disabled and disadvantaged children across Britain to reach their full potential for the past 70 years during which time it has helped over one million children. It provides vital equipment, including its iconic Sunshine Coaches, as well as access to life-enhancing experiences.

As it celebrates its 70th anniversary it has pledged to support even more children like Dante in the decades to come.

However, in order to continue the vital work it needs to raise more money.

Harold Tillman CBE, Chief Barker and Chair of the Board of Variety, added:

“With your support, we hope to be able to reach even more children and make the next 70 years even more successful. None of the work that we do is possible without the generosity of the public, so we hope to be able to build on the incredible achievements of the last 70 years as we move forward.”