Pool to be closed to disabled children on weekends
Parents with children who can no longer use the Belcamp pool on Saturdays. photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Families of disabled children who helped fundraise for a specially-adapted swimming pool have been told they can no longer use the facility on weekends.
The St Michael’s House swimming pool at Belcamp in north Dublin has hoists, ramps and wheelchair-accessible changing rooms and is used by young people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
But families – many of whom sold raffle tickets or set up direct debits to support the construction of the pool – say they were told with just a week’s notice that it would be closed to their disabled children on Saturdays.
St Michael’s House is planning to open it for other commercial groups which it will charge to use their facility.
The organisation says the move will generate income and help fund the pool’s use for service users with disabilities on weekdays.
However, parents who gathered outside the pool at the weekend said it was a lifeline to social activity for the children and should be kept open.
One mother of a boy with disabilities said: “Routine is hugely important to our kids and the freedom they got in this heated pool isn’t available elsewhere.”
Another said: “The Saturday swim is not only about the swimming time. It’s about being able to encourage independence among children, allowing them to play together. Over the last few years it’s been fabulous to see how far they’ve moved on.
“That’s all gone now, and how do you explain that to our children: that they can no longer swim with their friends on Saturdays. Who can put a price on this weekend routine?”
St Michael’s House – which received €74 million in State funding in 2011 – said it has been the subject of significant cuts. Its budget has been reduced by a total of €11 million over the last four years, with further cuts expected in 2013.
“As a result it is not possible for the organisation to continue with the current pool opening hours and staff numbers at the swimming pool and leisure centre have had to be reduced.”
St Michael’s House said its priority was now to keep the swimming pool open and maintain available swimming hours during the week from Monday to Thursday.