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Swallows Leisure Centre staff stop dad James Mayhew helping son, 10, with cerebral palsy on slide

A dad is calling for changes to be made after his disabled son was told he could not use a slide at a swimming pool.

On Sunday, James Mayhew and 10-year-old Mason, who has cerebral palsy, visited the The Swallows in Sittingbourne which only reopened last month after a huge revamp.

But when Mr Mayhew asked a lifeguard at the Avenue of Remembrance leisure centre if he could assist the youngster to the top of a flume, before waiting for him in the water below, he was told it was not allowed.

James Mayhew with his son Mason (11704792)
James Mayhew with his son Mason (11704792)

Mr Mayhew, from Sittingbourne, said: “We were having fun in the pool and Mason said he wanted to go on the slide – he loves slides. I went over to the lifeguard and explained Mason has cerebral palsy and needs assistance to the top of the stairs, which I said I would do before going down the slide and waiting for him in the water.”

He added “I was told only one person can go up the slide at a time, that was their policy because of health and safety.”

Having asked to speak to the leisure centre’s duty manager, Mr Mayhew, 46, said he was given the same response.

“This is what we normally do at pools or water parks - I’ll wait at the bottom for when he comes down,” he said. “We’ve never had a problem before.

“How do you explain to a young child they can’t go on a slide because of their disability?" James Mayhew

“Mason is in a wheelchair - he is mobile to a degree but he can’t walk long distances or go upstairs unaided. If he went up the stairs alone and fell down, he would have a very bad accident.”

The father-of-two added: “How do you explain to a young child they can’t go on a slide because of their disability?

“Mason doesn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed – he loves the pool and slides, this has affected him as he is saying he is never going swimming again.

“It’s ridiculous. Instead of health and safety looking at able people being able to do things, they should look at those who are unable to do things.”

Swallows Leisure Centre, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne..Work to start on pool area..Picture: Steve Crispe. (11705044)
Swallows Leisure Centre, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne..Work to start on pool area..Picture: Steve Crispe. (11705044)

“Every child has a right to have fun and being disabled is no different.”

Dave Harcourt, chief executive officer at Swale Community Leisure (SCL) – the trust managing the centre – said any incident which made someone think twice about going swimming again was of concern.

He added: “We strive to be as inclusive as we possibly can, but also accept that sometimes rules and regulations can present a barrier to participation.

"Our staff on the day were acting within the guidelines set for them and were conscious of safety at all times.

“Every child has a right to have fun and being disabled is no different...” James Mayhew

“It is regretful that on this occasion the child concerned underwent such an upset, for which I can only apologise but must stress that our staff were acting with the best of intentions.”

“This occurrence comes at a time when SCL has started to make a number of in-roads into improving inclusivity, such as including a sensory zone in in the new Family Adventure Zone (due to open July 2019) and the booking of a pantomime performance at Christmas for children with autism and other additional needs.

"SCL has also formed an ‘advisory group’, which is working to make other such improvements and explore opportunities for additional sessions/activities.”

“As a result of this incident and also our recognition of the need to constantly improve, we will be reviewing our policies and procedures, alongside staff training, in order to ensure that children and adults with similar needs will continue to feel included.”

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