Newark and Sherwood District Council leisure operator Active4Today 'failing' in its duty, disability officer claims
Leisure centres have failed disabled people with timetable changes, it is claimed.
It follows the removal of one-to-one swimming lessons at Active4Today leisure centres across Newark and Sherwood.
Newark constituency Labour party’s disability officer Jamie Bostock, who has cerebral palsy, raised concerns about the impact it will have on disabled people.
Jamie, of Southwell, said: “Active4Today is failing to provide inclusive provision for people with disabilities. It is disheartening considering the day and age we live in.
“In my opinion it is an issue of exclusionary behaviours. They are impacting the most vulnerable people — disabled children and young people.
“They have a duty to provide inclusive provision but they are failing.”
Active4Today, which operates the council’s leisure centres in Newark, Southwell, Boughton and Blidworth, scrapped it’s one-to-one swimming lessons during the pandemic and now offers small-group sessions instead.
Among those affected is 17-year-old Molly Shearlaw-Pay, who has a pain condition and is hypermobile, and cannot take part in land-based sports.
Her mum Emma Pay said: “Water is an accessible way she can exercise and it helps her mind and body. It gave her a chance to go somewhere regularly and the instructors understood her needs."
Because Molly is autistic and has ADHD, group classes are not accessible as she can’t hear the instructors and gets frustrated.
“When they stopped one-to-one lessons during the pandemic I understood — but then they said they would only offer group sessions,” Emma said.
“We were offered the Penguins sessions, but they were only on Saturday and I had to be in the pool with her.
“She is 17, she doesn’t want that. I am not going to treat her like a toddler, which is what it felt like. It is ridiculous, they have no understanding or awareness of what disabled people can do for themselves. It is infantilising.”
Emma since cancelled the membership as the only session available was inaccessible for Molly.
She added: “She was doing so well before.
“Now Molly doesn’t want to go to he leisure centre at all. It used to be her safe place.
“They have removed all choice for disabled children and their parents. It is inaccessible for those who don’t fit in a perfect mould.
“These classes can mean the difference between people just existing and having a good quality of life.”
After being made aware of the situation, Jamie got in touch with Active4Today.
Jamie said: “Some people can’t take part in the group lessons due to the nature of their disability.
“It seems to de-value them as people, as time is not being made for them to be able to take part."
In a letter responding to the concerns Jamie raised, Active4Today’s director of development Martin Picker explained that the change was due to a limited availability of pool time and resources.
The campaign is also personal for Jamie, who has cerebral palsy, as he benefited from one-to-one swimming lessons at Southwell leisure centre as a child — and is concerned that the lack of one-to-one lessons will have a wide-reaching impact on disabled young people.
“Swimming lessons helped me to develop self discipline, strength and health, is good for self-esteem — and it is important for everyone, including disabled people, to be able to take care of their bodies," he said.
“Exercise opens doors for people with disabilities. I know with my cerebral palsy that if I don’t exercise enough I can become fatigued, which would mean I can’t socialise. It affects other parts of your life.
“How can people feel their best when they do not have access to exercise?”
Andy Carolan, managing director of Active4Today Ltd, said: “Mr Bostock has been in contact with Active4Today and Newark and Sherwood District Council recently and received a detailed response to his communication.
"As part of the communication Mr Bostock was offered a meeting between himself, and his other colleagues and friends, and the senior management team of Active4Today, in order that the company can gain a full understanding of their concerns and offer support if they are able to.
“The company is waiting for Mr Bostock to contact them, in order for the meeting to be facilitated.”