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Eye On Swimming Pool Problems

Right To Swim Campaign

4 May 05
Tide Turning On Swimming Pool Guidance
Update on meeting on the 5th April 2005 with Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State and 16 representatives of swimming organisations.

The meeting established that the Health and Safety Executive guidance on health and safety in swimming pools is the only guidance that pool operators need to use by law. This guidance will cover them in event of an accident in their pool provided they have carried out a risk assessment. The ISRM went on record at the meeting stating that their guidance was based only on anecdotal evidence provided by their members and was not based on any analysis of drowning trends or statistics. The Right to Swim Campaign requested that Professor Jo Sibert attend the meeting as he is an independent researcher into childhood drowning. His report states that the chances of a child drowning in a public pool is 1 in 9 million visits. ROSPA stated that the highest risk of drowning is in children over the age of 8. The government have pledged to carry out research into drowning trends and admission policies and the results will be available in the Autumn.

As a campaign we continue to support the Health and Safety Executive's guidance and will fight for the scrapping of the ISRM guidance which is not supported by any research. Our Early Day Motion in Parliament now has nearly 100 signatures from MP's calling for the scrapping of these
restrictive guidelines.

We would ask that parents continue to support our endeavours which finally seem to be paying off.

Carolyn Warner
Chairperson of the Right to Swim Campaign

25 January 05
Tony Blair Meets Right To Swim Campaigner Promising To Look Closer
The Caithness campaign to get access to swimming pools for parents and toddlers and have the regulations changed back may have died down but in other places the campaigns are still running.  A recent edition of the Kent Messenger shows campaigning mum Carolyn Warner taking her case to Tony Blair who has promised to look at the matter.


30 October 2004
Some Campaigns Never Die
The National Right To Swim Campaign Grows
Hugh Robertson, the Shadow Minister for Sport and MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, Julie Kirkbride, the former Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and MP for Bromsgrove, Carolyn Warner, Chair of the Right to Swim Campaign and Margaret Creear, Director of Gingerbread will be at Dragon’s Health Club and Swimming Pool in Maidstone on Thursday 28 October at 10.30.

They will be there to highlight the campaign organised by Right to Swim against the government’s new rules on supervision of children in swimming pools.

The campaign comes as a result of the government’s decision to back recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive and the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management. These restrict the number of children an adult can take into a swimming pool to one under the age of four and two under the age of eight. This prevents children taking exercise and discriminates against larger families and lone parents.

Hugh Robertson said: “This is a perfect example of the damage done by compensation culture. Swimming pools have no option but to comply with these guidelines or risk being sued. We should be encouraging children to go swimming rather than placing artificial obstacles in their way. The government should force the HSE and the ISRM to change these unnecessary and draconian rules.”

Julie Kirkbride said: "As usual, the government is all talk and no action.  If they want young children to be physically active - as they say - then they must take action and give parents the right to be responsible for their child's safety in a public swimming pool."

Carolyn Warner said: “We are a national campaign group with over 10,000 members across the UK.  Our campaign aims are to increase awareness of the plight of thousands of children across the United Kingdom, to guard against social exclusion from sport and to advocate safe swimming for everyone.  If this guideline is supported by the government then it is their legacy that will ensure that we are a national of non swimmers.  We would like to encourage people to visit our website at www.righttoswim.co.uk and sign our online petition which will be taken to the Prime Minister.

Margaret Creear said: “Approximately half of lone parents have more than one child. They are often isolated from their extended family and lack support. These guidelines serve only to increase that isolation and we urge the government to find other ways to ensure the safety of children in swimming pools.”

No changer To Rules At Swimming Pools = August 2001
16 August 2001
Nothing much has happened in the dispute over the swimming pool rules debate in recent months and it looks as if the powers are waiting on the campaigners to get fed up.  Any movement anyone?

13 April 2001
Update on the Swimming pool saga.

To set the scene first a bit of background. Councilors unwilling to make a decision on admittance policy locally until the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management issue revised guidelines which whilst due to be published in December 2000 have still not been issued!!
We have argued that the issue of these guidelines will in itself not improve safety in the pools but rather officials should take action to address the risks they have highlighted in their own risk assessment. Valerie Webster and myself made this point to Graham Nicols in December and he promised a review of this sort in January.
When January came and went we contacted Mr. Nicols again and he said the review would be completed by the end of March and the admittance policy reconsidered at the same time.  In view of this you can imagine the disappointment when we read this week that despite what we had been told verbally and in writing council officers plan no revision of the rules until these IRSM guidelines are published. We honestly feel that council officials have made promises of taking action in the medium term with no intention of carrying any reviews out with the hope that we will go away!
I would urge anyone who supports our stance of wanting the identified risks addressed should write into the Groat and their local Councillor especially in Thurso as the Councillors there have been very unsupportive.

Mr Nicholls Letter To Alan Tait

The Group Letter to the John O'Groat Journal 13 April 2001

14 March 2001
Alan Tait, community councillor in Wick has said at the recent Wick community council meeting that he was disappointed at the slow progress to resolve the matter.  The report from the Institute of Sport Recreation Management dealing with swimming pool safety.  The regular swimmers at Wick and Thurso have had supervision problems since the enforcement of rules regarding children under three years old meant another adult was required if two children were present with the adult.
The pool users argue that the restriction are not required for the type of facility available in Caithness and that the recommendations were designed for much larger pools in the south.  Councillors are not making their decision until the report is available.

18 February 2001
From the Swimming Pool Action Committee
Just to mention that we have not yet given up on getting some relaxation on the Swimming Pool admittance. Since our meeting with Mr. Nichol's (council Cultural & Leisure) just before Xmas our MP - Mr. MacLennan has continued to be involved and is trying to establish why the restrictions imposed in Caithness have been the most severe. Since no progress appears to have been made since that meeting we sent a letter last week to Mr. Nichol.   Read The Letter.

15 January 2001
From Alan Tait
Just before Xmas Valerie Webster and myself met with Graham Nichols who is the head of the areas Cultural And Leisure. This meeting was brought about by the prompting of Rhoda Grant who is a list MSP who took the matter up with the Council and requested the meeting should take place. We had previously requested a meeting without any response! Incidentally Robert MacLennan MP and Jamie Stone MSP are looking into the issue of restricted access especially the apparent difference between the policy being operated in Caithness to that in the rest of the country.

The said meeting had the following outcome-
1. The current policy was that children under 3 must be accompanied on a one to one basis and not children under 4 as per the notices displayed at the pool. Notices have since been amended.

2. Whist we still feel that an adult should be able to look after 2 children regardless of the split of ages it was proposed that in the short term until the revised ISRM guidelines are issued the age where children require one to one supervision could be brought down to under 2.The thinking behind this was that under 2's are more of a handful and need close supervision.

Unfortunately Mr. Nichols was not willing to go with that immediately rather he wished to address the issue of more proactive lifeguarding and said that he hoped that review will be complete by the end of January.

Our petition of approx. 375 names was given to Deirdre Steven for presenting at the next meeting of the council where they discuss this issue. Unfortunately the councilors overall are not willing to take the matter forward until the ISRM guidelines are issued hopefully within the next four weeks.

There is no doubt that some families are still unable to go swimming and whilst no figures of bathers /takings have been issued my experience over the last few weeks is of near empty pools. At our meeting we urged Mr. Nichols to review this issue along with his staffing levels as we feel that there is ample life guard cover to allow every one into the pool.

21 December
Allan Tait

Highland Councillors were due to decide on the restrictions at a meeting this week but have delayed that until the revised national guidelines are published early next year.

Whilst this is disappointing we have managed to clarify following a meeting with Mr Nichols the policy currently being employed at Wick and Thurso pools and it has been confirmed that it is only children under the age of three need to be accompanied on a one to one basis.  It was previously thought to be children under four. The notices at the pools have been amended accordingly.

This now means that one parent can take two children between the ages of three and eight.  Eight year old and over can go unaccompanied. We are hopeful that by the end of January that the age for children needing accompanying will be down to under two's. In view of the staffing at the pools and the usage we still feel that one adult should be allowed to take two under eight regardless of the children's ages but to be succesful we need the total backing of Caithness Councilors and I am not convinced that will be forthcoming.

28 November
From Allan Tait
At a council meeting yesterday the Councilors rejected officials request to accept the current restrictions and agreed instead to await the updated guidelines to be published on 4/12/2000 from the ISRM(Institute of Sport and Recreational Management).
A further meeting has been arranged for 18/12/2000 where a final decision will be made.
We feel that officials have been unable to explain why the restrictions at Wick and Thurso are the most severe of any pool in the North of Scotland!!
It seems that rather than positively address any risks highlighted in their risk assessments they have taken what appears to be the easy option and simply restrict access.
We intend to hand in the petition currently being circulated prior to the next council meeting and would urge everyone concerned about this matter to lobby their councillor especially those in the West of the County who do not appear as supportive as the three Wick Councillors.

24 November
The arguments roll on and the process of debate will reach some answers soon.  With councillors meeting on Monday it is to be hoped that a satisfactory outcome is possible.  Either everyone will be satisfied or the wrangle will continue with continued threat to swimming pool revenue.  No one wants anyone to be in danger and safety is paramount but hopefully the reasonable views of parents will be able to be accommodated within the rules and risk assessment procedures.

10 November
Community Councillors in Wick want to see a relaxation of the new rules on swimming supervision brought in until the guidelines and risk assessment have been looked at again.  there is no word on whether the management of the pools will agree to this.

5 November
A Note From Allan Tait for the Protest Group
Just a short update to say that we have spoken to both Wick councillors Deirdre Steven and Graeme Smith who have both confirmed that they think a relaxation of the rules is required along the lines we propose of 1 adult taking 2 children under 8 even if one is under 5.
There is a council meeting Monday the sixth and hopefully this will produce a positive outcome.

1 November 2000
 protest11.jpg (70098 bytes) Pictures at Pool Protest
Parents, Children, Swimmers and others gathered today outside Wick Swimming Pool to protest about the new rules which prevent a parent on their own taking two young children to swim.

There can be little doubt about the determination of parents and friends of younger swimmers in Wick after today's protest.  The application out of the blue of risk assessment on pools in Caithness seems to be completely arbitrary.  Other areas do not seem to be making the interpretation of the rules in the way it has suddenly been in Caithness.  The people who turned out today are in no doubt about the stupidity of the application of these rules.  Parents say that they can still take their children into the swimming pool in Inverness but not in Caithness.

Everyone now wants to see the detailed report of the risk assessment apparently carried out which led to the effective banning of half the customers with young children.

31 October 2000
Message From the Pools Protest Group
In an effort to keep the campaign for a relaxation of the restrictions in the forefront of our councillors agenda we have decided to arrange a protest at Wick Swimming Pool.
We are inviting everyone with concerns over the restrictions that have been imposed to gather at the pool at 15:30 this Wednesday afternoon.
We hope that as many pool users especially parents and their young children who are directly affected will come to show their unhappiness and sign the petition as well as get their photo taken for the Groat.
The Courior will have the story on Wednesday and we would ask everyone to pass the news around and encourage as many people as possible to turn up.

28 October 2000
From The Message Board - in case you want to write -

On Swimming Pool Restrictions
Thanks for your comments Niall.
 Some councillors E-Mails are as follows -
 Graeme Smith - graeme.smith.cllr@highland.gov.uk
 Deirdrie Steven - deirdre.steven.cllr@highland.gov.uk
 Jim Oag - no E-Mail but phone 01955 651207

Falconer Waters - no E-Mail but phone 01847 894196
Roger Saxon - roger.saxon.cllr@highland.gov.uk

Following a phone call to the Health And Safety Executive in Inverness it  seems that the "guidelines" being applied in our area so strictly have no legal force and should only be used as guidelines with each pool doing their  own risk assessment based on their own circumstances -
Nos using pool
Hazards identified
Staff input

The bottom line is that these "guidelines" are not "set in stone" and
there is room for relaxation.
Allan Tait

Other Councillors , MP and SMP's Contact details are in our Political SectionIf enough people write it can have an effect.  But look out for the petition and see if we can get some common sense into all of this.

27 October 2000
Local parents and others involved with young children in swimming pools are now locked in a struggle with officials concerning the enforcement of rules regarding supervision of young children in swimming pools in the Highlands following the death recently of a young child in Inverness.

The rules now being enforced require that each child is supervised by an individual adult.  This means that one parent or adult cannot take two children to the swimming pool.  Since many parents take their two children on their own they are effectively barred unless they can persuade someone to go along with them.  This new set up has stopped a number of people going swimming in the Wick pool.

A group are now running a petition to try to get the rules changed or at least enforced in a more sensible way.  The rules appear to have been brought in to cover a situation in the Inverness pool which is much larger and has many hazards such as flumes which are not present in most of the smaller pools in Highland.

Parents feel this new ruling while aiming to prevent any tragedies is not being used sensibly and effectively bars people with two children from pursuing their regular swimming trips.
The petition has also been barred by official from being placed in the swimming pool buildings.  Undeterred by this unhelpful attitude the parents are now placing the petition in other places around the county such as shops.

They are also encouraging people to contact their Councillors to have the matter more fully investigated

A message has already been placed on the Caithness.org message board and reads as follows -

Date:   10-26-00 21:55

Is anyone else angry with the recently imposed restrictions at our local swimming pools which prevent for example a parent taking his or her two young children swimming.

Following research it seems other areas are operating a system where one adult can supervise two children under eight even if one is under four. This slight compromise would allow the vast majority of families to return to the pool.

We have started to issue a petition and would welcome anyone that agrees with this relaxation of these restrictions to sign that petition or better still take some sheets.
Please also lobby your local Councillor.

A lot of people fought hard to get our pool and it is sad to see young children who should be gaining confidence in the water and learning to swim actually being prevented from entering the pool.

All help would be appreciated

Allan Tait
Deirdre Aitken
Valerie Webster

What the Papers and Others Say

Caithness Courier
Wednesday 29th November
Area Cultural Services manager said he expected there would be a relaxation in the new rules when the national guidelines are finalised on 4 December.
Different pools will create different policies due to markedly different designs and layouts.  He still maintained safety lay with the operator and could not be transferred to parents.
Council Members will reconsider the matter on 18 December  - two weeks after the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management completes its review.

Friday 24 November
John O'Groat Journal
Caithness councillors are to be asked on Monday to back the controversial new regulations to swimming pools in Wick and Thurso.  They will be warned thay could be legally liable if they take the resposibility for bather safety away from the manager.

In a report to highland council Graham Nichols acknowledges that the policy changes have resulted in "considerable public outcry"

The newspaper article reiterates many of the arguments on both sides and say that current ISRM guidlines are being reviewed and the outcome should be known by 4 December.

If they are materially altered the pools admission policies will be reconsidered.  But they reiterate that current policy is based on risk assessment and is motivated from a bather safety point of view.

Friday 10 November
John O'Groat Journal
Allan Ferrier chairman of the Wick Community Council sai the srticter supervision rules have been branded "a fairly powerful overreaction" to a tragic accident which took place in the Inverness Aquadome.
On Tuesday night the chairman accepted that the guidlines had been implemented following the death of a four-year old
but considered them in appropriate for the smaller swimming pools in Wick and Thurso.

Guidleines had been in place but never stricly enforced before.  A Risk Assessment had brought about the change and needed looked at again.  Highland councillor Mrs dierdre Steven pointed out he system had anomolies as the age of eight was used as the cut off but this did not mean that they could swim.

Mr Graham Nichols, Culture and Leisure services manager is currently preparing a report on the matter.  It will be considered in January.  National guidlines are due to be published on 4 December.

Meantime community councillors agreed that rules should be relaxed.

Friday 3 November
Around 80 parents and children turned out to protest against the enforcement of the regulations which have been imposed at the two public swimming pools in Caithness.  The organisers were delighted with the response.  The parents have urged the council to relax the rules to allow one adult to look after two children under eight.  At present one adult can supervise two youngsters but only between the ages of four and eight.  Mr Tait says the rules in other parts of the Highlands are more flexible.

Mrs Katrina Gordon has expressed concern about the regulations and has written a second letter to the local facilities manager Mr George Sanders calling for a rethink of the position.

Mrs Gordon said " As a coastal area it is of paramount importance that our children learn the life skill of swimming at an early age in oreder to prevent unnecessary fatal accidents in our rivers, harbours and boating ponds.
" While the council worries about safety in its own facilities only, as parents we must also concern ourselves with safety in the wider environment.

Mr Nicholls of the Culture and Leisure service says tha policy is being reviewed.

He stressed safety is the council's overriding concern but feels there may be an opportunity to find a way to accommodate parents and stay within the guidelines.

Wednesday 1 November
John O'Groat Journal
The paper highlighted the story on the front page today as the protestors increase the campaign pressure with the protest being organised for today.

Allan Tait one of the parents protesting about the new rules which mean each child under three must be accompanied by an adult is too strict and will lead to fewer people using the facility.

Valerie Webster and Deirdrie Aitken -the other two parents behind the campaign would like to see the council relax the rules slightly to allow one parent to look after two children under eight.

The parents are urging Councillors to look at the issue..  Pools in other parts of the Highlands allow one adult to look after two children under eight.

"People are unhappy about these new rules"

Mr Tait stressed the rules are affecting the number of people using the pool and are resulting in a drop in income.  Takings, he understood had fallen over the weekend at Wick from around £600 to between £200 and £250.

Mr Tait described the decision by a council official not to allow the petition into the Wick and Thurso pools as a "bit of a blow" but is confident there is strong public support for the campaign.  the petition can be signed at local shops, nurseries and other outlets.

The Highland Council's cultural and leisure services manager for Caithness & Sutherland Mr Graham Nichols explained that the new policy - which was introduced following advice from the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management - is currently being reviewed on a national basis.

A report will be presented to the next meeting of the cultural and leisure services committee.  Mr Nichols stressed that safety is the overriding concern but felt there may be an opportunity to find a way to accommodate some of the concerns of parents.  and stay within the guidelines.

Mr Nichols said the issue was a complex one and claimed that a number of factors including staff levels had to be considered in the risk assessment studies.

" We had fewer staff then in Inverness for example and I would say that at the present time the policy is right", he said

27 October
The John O' Groat Journal carried details of the protest and the problems caused to parents who have two young children.  the petition was mentioned and the fact that the swimming pools have banned the petition from their premises.