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Referee given priority over disabled children at Horsham leisure centre
Three children with severe learning difficulties had to be changed on a leisure centre floor – because specialist facilities were being used by a football referee.
Six children aged between six and 12 were visiting Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre near Horsham to use its specialist sensory room as part of a trip organised by Mid Sussex disability charity Kangaroos.
Lorna Herrett, the charity’s activities officer, said: “We ended up changing three very medically vulnerable young people on the floor of a changing room. It was drafty and not very clean.
“As carers we had to lift them down to the floor and then back up into their chairs, risking injury to ourselves.
“There were other rooms that could have been used for the football match changing, rather than this vital facility.
“It is a basic human right for everyone to be able to, and have access to a toilet, and I feel our children were badly let down."
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Parent Rachel Mason said: “Changing Places toilets ensure my child can be changed with the dignity and respect she deserves.
“However this was taken away from her when she was denied access to this facility.
“Having to change the children on the floor left my daughter and her friends at risk of infection and illness.”
Tim Bolton, contract manager for DC Leisure, said that the room was regularly used as a referee’s room for County FA games and he apologised for the double booking.
He added: “Over the last six years we have improved the facilities so much, especially with access and activities for disabled people, so it is a shame that this one incident which we didn’t get right has been picked up on.
“The manager has now put actions in place so that the area cannot be booked out when it is being used for referee’s room in the future.”
But his response has disappointed the charity.
Mrs Herrett said: “Changing places toilets have been put in place for disabled children and adults to use.
“Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre has been given the money for this changing facility to use for this use, not other uses.
“Anyone who needs that facility should be able to use it at any time, regardless if they are guests at the leisure centre.”
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