The Committee was advised that the Standards and Business Committee, at its meeting on 24th November, had referred the following motion, which had been proposed by Councillor Michael Collins and seconded by Councillor Ferguson, to the People and Communities Committee for consideration:
“This Council recognises the shortage of services available for people with disabilities. The Council will seek to engage with BETTER to expand and promote inclusive services within our leisure centres to ensure an accessible and welcoming environment for everyone.
The Council will seek the input of service users, engage with autism support networks, BETTER and Disability Sport NI to bring inclusion and community to our leisure centres by improving accessibility for people with autism and other disabilities in a number of key areas including:
· Belfast’s 12 leisure centre to promote inclusive sessions for people with disabilities as is the case with Lagan Valley Complex and Dundonald Ice Bowl in Lisburn
· These sessions should include but not be limited to swimming pools, and should be at an accessible hour for children and parents to make best use of them
· The Council will work with BETTER to ascertain which other services: such as trampolining, Inflatable Park facilities and any other leisure facilities which may be included in these inclusive sessions
· The Council will strive to ensure all amenities inside leisure centres are fully inclusive for people with disabilities. This includes improving advertising and continuing to promote the use of WAP cards, as well as ensuring staff are adequately trained to support children, families and carers to provide fully inclusive services to people with autism and other abilities
· The Council will continue its pioneering work with Swimming Buddies in Brooke Leisure Centre and explore ways to expand this across all 12 leisure centres in Belfast, to ensure the life skill of swimming lessons are readily accessible for children at a local level offering a supportive space for families and provided in an inclusive manner
· The Council will engage with BETTER to explore the permanent installation of a Sensory Room in one or more of our leisure centres in Belfast
· The Council will strive to better promote and advertise inclusive services in our leisure centres across all of our social media platforms and publications with the overall aim of being leaders in the area of inclusive leisure services.”
The proposer of the motion, Councillor Michael Collins, addressed the Committee and provided an overview of the motion, during which he requested that a deputation from Swimming Buddies be invited to a future meeting to hear more about its inventive work at the Brooke Leisure Centre.
A number of Members spoke in support of the Motion and reiterated the need to ensure that the Council’s leisure and park facilities were accessible and inclusive to all.
During discussion a Member stated that she felt that the a Children’s Champion role within the Council should be considered, this would be a role that would specifically advocate and champion the needs of all young people throughout the city.
The Chairperson of the recently established Council’s Disability Working Group, Councillor McMullan, advised that attendance at the inaugural meeting had been poor and he encouraged those nominated Members to attend to enable engagement to commence around the inclusivity of Council services to all.
· adopted the motion and agreed that a report on how this would be facilitated, resourced and managed would be submitted to a future meeting; and
· agreed that a deputation from Swimming Buddies be invited to present to the February meeting of the Committee in respect of its work in the Brooke Leisure Centre.