Disabled swim club under threat of closure as council proposes 'unfair' move to new leisure centre
PUBLISHED: 08:50 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:01 04 October 2019
A disabled swimming club which has been running in Redbridge since 1977 is under threat of closure after the council's leisure arm put forward proposals to move its club to another site, leaving its members "highly unsettled" and unable to attend sessions.
Redbridge Dippers Club, a registered charity, currently holds two weekly classes for its 48 members at Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre in Barkingside.
Vision, Redbridge Council's leisure arm, is proposing to move the club's Tuesday sessions to Mayfield Leisure Centre in Goodmayes, which will leave many members with a 90-minute round-trip, the club said.
The club's Sunday session will remain at Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre.
Members are "extremely concerned" at the prospect of moving and have written to Vision to ask for the proposals to be reconsidered.
A spokeswoman for the club said: "Members mostly live locally, the short walking or driving distance to the pool being of huge benefit.
"We are a small club that has been running since 1977 in order to meet a very real need in this part of the borough. Our sessions help people with a wide range of problems from autism and learning difficulties to physical disabilities and impairment from strokes.
"Over the years it has become clear that participation contributes to improving general health, wellbeing, confidence and social skills and is also simply an opportunity for members to have fun and enjoy the freedom that being in the pool offers them.
"The news of the proposed move is proving highly unsettling for our members.
"Change is not a thing that a lot of members can easily cope with, and it often has a really disorientating effect.
"We are fearful that many members will stop attending, which will mean them losing out on so much.
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The club was moved from Seven Kings to Barkingside 11 years ago and managed to consolidate and rebuild following the move.
"However, the concern is that the club is now mainly run by older volunteers, who will not have the strength or stamina to rebuild again," the spokeswoman said.
"It pains me to say this, but it feels that, as a small organisation for those with disabilities, we are being ridden rough-shod over in favour of those who are able-bodied."
Gloria Mead, 74, the club's treasurer, told the Recorder: "They have been trying to move us for some time. I want this to be highlighted because of the lack of pools in the borough.
"Thirty members came to the meeting with Vision but they would not allow them to come in the meeting.
"We look after so many people in this voluntary service - autistic kids, stroke patients, and people with learning disabilities. It's very valuable for members. We do a good service."
One member said: "My son has autism and has great difficulty adapting to change. It would therefore make it very difficult for my son to attend at all. This proposal to move the session is just unfair as it is pushing out people with disabilities who otherwise have very little access to any activities in this borough."
Another member, whose daughter suffers from a genetic disease, said the club offers more than just swimming classes - it also organises Christmas parties and group outings.
"The decision to move out to Mayfield could bring this club to the verge of closure and would take away the happiness they are spreading to much needed special needs people," they said.
A Vision spokesman said: "We appreciate the importance of swimming for disabled residents in Redbridge, which is why we've been supporting the club with free facilities twice a week for over ten years, and will continue to do so.
"The proposed move to Mayfield Leisure Centre for one of their free sessions will give the club and swimmers access to a super facility, including modern changing rooms specifically designed for disabled customers and improved access to the pool with graduated steps.
"The move will also help grow the club in a different part of the borough and provide enjoyment and exercise for even more disabled people, at the same time as freeing up space at Fullwell Leisure Centre for some of the 2,500 children and adults on the waiting list for swimming lessons.
"Members of Redbridge Dippers can also use Fullwell Cross pool at any time during public hours."