As a long time disability rights campaigner, (and person with Cerebral Palsy), it seems to me that the ‘Connections’ day centre pool is essential for the people who use it.
As you may be already aware, hydrotherapy is very important for people with a wide range of disabilities, as well as those battling mental health issues.
It helps to build confidence (in a relaxed and informal way) for those with learning difficulties and (as I said), mental illness.
It allows people to socialise and make friends, as well as teaching them other valuable skills.
A service like this, in a local (and familiar) environment, can be something of a lifeline for those who find interaction difficult, and who (as a result), may spend a lot of time isolated.
It is equally essential for those with physical disabilities. I have benefited from hydrotherapy myself in the past, finding that the warm water loosened my muscles, making it much easier to move, and therefore build up strength in my legs. It became a vital part of my weekly physiotherapy sessions.
It allowed me (at least while I was in the water), to be virtually free of pain. The weightless feeling, gave me a sense of freedom, which otherwise, I would not have had.
I found that I looked forward to my time in the pool, as it allowed me to relax and be with my friends, while at the same time, building strength and confidence.
I realise that (in these difficult economic times) we need to find a way of making the pool financially viable, in order to keep it open. We need to give something back to the parties involved in order that they maintain their involvement.
It seems to me that the key could be in forming some sort of partnership between Bath and North East Somerset Council, Sirona Health, Connections, Writhlington School, and of course the community as a whole.
Firstly, Writhlington School has the sports centre, which could benefit the pool by sharing clients between the two places. It is possible that they could charge a little extra for use of the pool, and in turn, pool users could use the gym and other facilities that the school offers.
It is also possible that the pool could be opened to the community as a whole, for things like swimming lessons, or even hired out for parties.
Any investment that BANES, Sirona, (possibly Writhlington School) and Connections put in would be paid back over time, and it would mean that any costs could be split between the concerned parties, which of course , would mean it would easier on stretched budgets!
It would also help reinforce a sense of community spirit, and forge valuable links between local businesses.
In terms of Public Relations, it would look for all parties involved to be sponsoring such a positive initiative.
I have given this a lot of thought and whilst I realise that there are other places where a pool is available, few of them would be able to offer the access to as many varied facilities that such a partnership could create.
It is even possible that package deals could be offered, which would help with promotion and maximise income for all concerned.
Also, people who needed rehabilitation as a result of accident, injury, or disability would have access to all facilities, which is excellent from a disability rights perspective, especially with such a strain on services, which have negatively on the lives of disabled and ill people.
We need people (and organisations) to keep putting disabled people first, and proving to us that we, (and the quality of our lives), are not becoming an afterthought.
Actually, when you think about it, the possibilities for the pool, and the place it has in the community, are almost endless. Issues such as ‘low occupancy’ would be solved as a result of a partnership, and we already know that local people would like to see the pool kept open.
I really do feel that it could benefit everyone.