Case study: Pete at the pool
Pete has cerebral palsy and attends a specialist unit within a mainstream school. He needs a hoist to assist with his mobility. The school operates a 'suspended timetable week' once a year, when children can choose their own activities managed by the school. There weren't many choices for Pete so he opted to visit his local leisure pool for one of his outings, as he felt this would be an accessible place for him.
However there was no hoist in the leisure pool changing room and the school's hoist was too big to be taken off-site. Therefore the school told Pete he couldn't go because school staff would not be able to lift him.
Pete's mum was disappointed about this and complained to the school. The school realised that they should do all they could to try to help Pete and contacted the leisure centre to see if there were any alternatives to support Pete to go swimming. They were competent to undertake a risk assessment and to use the transfer boards and handling slings available at the leisure centre.
The leisure centre manager said the pool staff would meet with Pete and the workers supporting him to complete a risk assessment around Pete's use of the changing facilities and pool at the leisure centre. They would require more information about Pete including his degree of mobility, risk of uncontrolled movements, his weight, height and his individual needs.
The school ensured they had Pete's consent to share the information with the relevant pool staff.
On completion of the risk assessment process the pool staff found that their skills and training would make it possible for them to support Pete with his moving and handling needs. The process identified that Pete could be transferred by two pool staff onto a height–adjustable plinth in the changing room using a transfer board and handling sling to allow him to get changed by his workers for swimming.
Pete could then be transferred onto a wheeled shower chair and brought into the pool along the ramped access by the pool staff. The buoyancy of the water would be used by the pool staff to transfer Pete into and out of the water on the shower chair.
Being able to go swimming would help Pete improve his well-being (for example: allowing him to be more active, healthier, and more included). This enabled the school to change their stance, and Pete was able to go to the pool.
Pete's story shows that it is possible to strike the right balance between the rights of the young person and those of his workers, and the employer's duties. The school staff shared the relevant information about Pete's abilities, needs, height and weight with the leisure centre staff. After working through the risk management process with Pete and the school, leisure centre staff identified the actual risks and how those risks could be managed and reduced.
The case study demonstrates a barrier children and young people with moving and handling needs and their families frequently face – the risk management process only started after Pete's mother's intervention. Starting this process from the moment Pete opted to visit the pool from school would have been the desirable scenario in this case study and would have resulted in a win-win outcome for all.