Father can’t take both kids swimming

Hillsborough Leisure Centre

A single father was not allowed to take his two sons (aged 3 and 5) swimming at the Hilsborough Leisure centre because the company’s policy is that under-eights must be accompanied on a one-to-one basis by adults.

The concerns

Phillip Smith was turned away because the centre feel that during normal public swimming sessions one adult can not supervise two young children adequately. It should be noted that the pool in question boasts a water slide, water cannons, tipping buckets that soak swimmers underneath and a lucky mermaid. It does not have a toddler pool.

Reporting the story

The Daily Mail reporting this on 7 January 2009. Mr Smith is quoted as saying the Hilsborough Leisure Centre in Sheffield are “discriminating against single parents” and “A change of policy is in order. I do feel strongly about discrimination in any form. This policy limits the options of single parents to an unacceptable level when they have every right to take their kids swimming whenever any other parents might wish to go.”

Mr Smith is also reported as saying “As a fireman, I’m highly trained and expected to be able to provide first aid at emergencies” and “To say I cannot cope with looking after my two sons at a swimming pool is just mad.”

Is this Seriously Silly?

There is no doubt that people drown in swimming pools. And it seems likely that the risks posed by ‘fun’ pools like this one are higher than in ‘standard’ pools where behaviours are more predictable and supervision is easier. Other pools operate similar rules, and so the Hilsborough Centre may not be so silly.

It is noted that the same organisation runs other pools that have different rules. In fact Mr Smith did manage to take his sons swimming that day. That being the case it does sound like a risk based approach has been taken, and whilst people will argue about where the cut-off should be, this suggests a sensible approach is being taken. Also, the centre does have sessions that would have allowed Mr Smith to take his children swimming where extra supervision is provided.

Should Mr Smith have been able to take his Children Swimming?

In this case there was a clear policy in place, and the duty manager was perfectly correct to have enforced it. Mr Smith may have felt he was able to supervise his children adequately, but proving that would be very difficult. Also, it is a little worrying that he have used his ability at first aid as a reason why he should be able to take his children swimming as really the aim is to avoid the need for first aid!

In this case a risk based approach has been taken to develop a simple policy that actually sounds quite sensible. There are always arbitrary cut off points that will disadvantage some people, as was the case for Mr Smith being a single parent. The reporting of this story made no attempt to support the centre’s approach or policy, and it must be questioned why it got into the paper in the first place.