THE CHAIR OF a national organisation providing services for Autistic children and adults has written of her disappointment at the actions of management at the Moray Leisure Centre.
Last week it was revealed that swimming pool management in the Elgin-based centre had banned professional lifeguard and swimming instructor Kevin Anderson from their premises for three months.
Mr Anderson was accused of allowing autistic children in his charge to use the deeper end of the pool, insisting that was a breach of local health and safety rules. While Mr Anderson immediately complied when advised of the local rule, he later received a letter from the centre manager informing him that he was banned from the premises for three months.
That provoked anger from parents of the children involved, who pointed out that Mr Anderson was a highly qualified swim instructor who would never have placed his charges under any kind of risk.
It has now emerged that a request for a meeting to discuss the situation from local representatives of the National Autistic Society for Scotland has been refused by Moray Leisure management.
That sparked an open letter from Society chair Jenny Paterson, who described Mr Anderson as a “valued National Autistic Society Scotland supporter” who founded and runs Scotland’s first ever surf school for children with Autism.
Ms Paterson said: “The National Autistic Society Scotland fundraises to cover the costs of hiring the pool at Moray Leisure Centre and has done so for more than a year and a half.
“In light of this long standing relationship and our regular custom, I am surprised that you have not been in touch with me and my team directly to discuss the impact of Kevin’s ban on our charity.
“I am also surprised and dismayed that you are refusing to meet with our local volunteers who simply want to find a way to save our swim and surf lessons.
“We have every faith in Kevin as an experienced and caring lifeguard. I urge you to reconsider your position before we have to cancel our session on Saturday, November 21.”
Last night the man behind the ban insisted that Moray Leisure would not be moved on the issue. Steve Ash said: “This is purely about an individual who I believe breached a particular aspect of health and safety – we are not keeping groups out, I’m purely interested in the safety of the public. If necessary, we could find staff to continue these lessons in the pool.”
Further pressure is to be heaped on the Leisure Centre management this week through a ‘Peaceful Protest’ being planned for Friday.
Last night Mr Anderson said that he could not believe that it had come to the point where such an event was required, but insisted that he would “not lay down to bullying by those who are in a position within a publicly-funded local leisure facility”.
He added: “The objective is to protest against my ban and the affect it is having on our swimming lessons and charity surf project – so that we can lift the ban and carry on the essential swimming lessons and community work.
“It is also important to highlight the prejudiced involved where I am banned without good cause as my activities were run very safely, and to highlight that if what I have done is in any way considered hazardous then the supervision of the pool and swimming lessons are far more dangerous and putting local lives at risk.”
Mr Anderson added the view that there was “confusion within the Leisure Centre management regarding health and safety rules that in itself creates a hazard”.
People wishing to attend the protest are being invited to gather outside Moray Leisure Centre on Friday from 3.30pm until 4.30pm.