I WISH to draw attention to the policies in place at Kirklees sports centres which, in my experience, unfairly favour those who have online and smart phone technology and discriminate against those who do not.
A few days ago, my husband called in to the newly opened and much lauded Spen Valley Leisure Centre to pick up a timetable of classes on offer. He was told the programme was available online only.
Alternatively, he was told he could take a photo with his phone of the timetable on the wall; he doesn’t have a mobile phone.
Enquiring about access to information for those not online, he was told he could go to the library and book a session on a computer. So, whilst physically standing in reception at the brand new leisure centre, one stated aim of which is to address health inequalities, he was told to go to the library to find out what’s on offer.
On Saturday I called in to the sports centre in Dewsbury to find out what’s available there. Again there were no timetables to be had. I was told I could have a look at the timetable on the wall, which was on the far side of the entrance barrier and not visible to anyone standing in reception. I was advised that the best way to find out about the different classes was via the KAL app.
Enquiring about the various forms of membership on offer, again there was no hard copy of information for me to take home and study, only a sheet in a folder behind the desk. I was referred online.
I was told about the KAL flexicard discount scheme for use with ‘pay as you go’ attendance. To buy the card online is £3.50; to buy in person at the desk it is 30 per cent more expensive: £5.
I asked for a name and address to which I could write to complain about what I consider to be unequal access. I was told that the only way to do this in writing is online via email.
The justification for not making hard copies of information available is Covid. I recognise that it is not appropriate to have such things on display where they could be handled by many people. This does not preclude having copies readily available behind the desk in reception to be handed out on request.
I see no justification for charging more for a flexicard purchased in person rather than online. I do not believe that reception staff would have to be paid any more or work longer hours to provide this service.
There is no justification for blocking access to management through the postal system.
I want to make clear that the assistant dealing with me last Saturday was as helpful as she could be: she offered to let me through the barrier to view the timetable on the wall; she printed out a copy of the timetable; she wrote down the different membership rates; she undertook to pass on my concerns through the relevant channels.
In addition, she advised that if I was happy to take along bank details and ID, I would be assisted in making an online application there at the centre. I commend her efforts.
However, the current situation whereby information and preferential rates are available only to those with internet access is completely unacceptable. It is certainly not inclusive.
If Kirklees Council and KAL are to be believed when they claim their sports and leisure centres are available to all and have a shared aim of addressing inequalities, they need to review their policies and practices as a matter of urgency and implement the necessary changes without delay.