Leeds parents’ anger over changes to swimming lessons for disabled children

Hazel Pughe-Morgan and her son Woody.
Hazel Pughe-Morgan and her son Woody.
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Parents of disabled children in Leeds believe they are being treated like “second-class citizens” after the council decided to pull the plug on specialist swimming lessons.

Representatives from a parents’ action group are meeting the council’s chief executive Tom Riordan and Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew next month to share their concerns.

The council recently reorganised the way it funds swimming lessons, which led to the resignation of one of the city’s most experienced swimming teachers for disabled children. Jean Ingham, who taught classes through disability organisation SNAPS, said the council stopped subsidising her existing lessons and she was told to change pool venues, times and teaching methods to fit in with the council’s own classes, known as “disability hubs”.

Some 40 parents who have formed an action group say these hubs are unsuitable for their children because there is no provision for one to one lessons, no support in the water and a long waiting list.

The only alternative is to pay for one to one lessons with private companies, but these cost more than double the price. A council spokesman said the changes were designed to increase the number of children who could be taught at the hubs and provide a better service.

He said: “It’s unfortunate that a teacher in one of our partner organisations felt the need to resign over these changes which have been largely received a positive response and seen a reduction in waiting lists.”

Hazel Pughe-Morgan, whose son, Woody, eight, has autism and ADHD, said: “Under Jean’s tuition, my son had just learnt to swim without armbands. I have been told there are no spaces available in the council-run lessons. Our children are being treated like second-class citizens.”

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