Family of disabled swimmer hit out after club forced out by council deal

Dinah and Talia Lewis, of Aqua Kidz

Dinah and Talia Lewis, of Aqua Kidz - Credit: Archant

The parents of a youngster whose swimming helps alleviate her disability have said they are “livid” about plans which could see her club close.

Dinah and Talia Lewis, of Aqua Kidz

Dinah and Talia Lewis, of Aqua Kidz - Credit: Archant

Marc and Caren Lewis’s 10-year-old daughter Dinah, who has Tourette’s syndrome, has been a member of Aqua Kidz swimming club – based at Ilford County High School – for the past six years.

But now the future of the swimming club is uncertain after Redbridge Council announced a new deal with the school for Vision to run public lesson.

Mr and Mrs Lewis, who live in Barkingside, fear their daughter Dinah will miss out on her Sunday lessons.

Mrs Lewis said the proposed takeover would have “a big personal effect” on the family.

“The council are trying to take the choice away from families,” she said.

“Swimming helps my daughter her manage her tics.

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“She has built a relationship with the swimming teachers there.

“It’s so important she is comfortable.

“With smaller classes, someone is in the water with her. It’s important for her to be watched closely.”

She said the weekly lessons made such a difference to her condition, Dinah no longer needed to take medication on the days she swims.

“It’s very difficult for her and swimming provides a relief,” said Mrs Lewis.

“She doesn’t tic as much in the pool, and gets a sense of achievement.”

Both Aqua Kidz and another club Watertots, which have both been based at the pool for the past decade, have been told their termly three-month contracts would not be renewed after the end of March.

Tricia Brown, who runs Watertots with son Simon Stocker, said: “I’m devastated. I’ve been here 10 years, I’ve built it up from nothing.”

Charlotte Skull, head coach at Aqua Kidz, has also launched a petition calling for the club to be allowed to stay at the pool.

She said: “We are all devastated by the news, having been associated with the pool in some way or another for over 20 years, and are looking to fight this decision.”

ICHS chairman of governors Morris Hickey said they had to choose the arrangement “of greatest advantage to the school”.

He said the new set-up had longer-term certainty, more financial benefit and less “administrative burden”.

Cllr Wes Streeting, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said five of the clubs had been retained at ICHS, two had been made offers to stay but three remained displaced.

A council spokeswoman said: “We know this news is disappointing to groups already using the pool, but we couldn’t miss this opportunity to significantly expand access to swimming lessons for lots of residents and children in particular across the borough who may not have the same access to private clubs.

“We’ll also work hard to make sure that anyone receiving swimmingly lessons privately can continue lessons with Vision.”