Fermanagh parents, hoping to bring their babies and toddlers to swimming classes in the Lakeland Forum, are being asked to pay four times more than they were after it has emerged that there are no qualified staff in the Lakeland Forum to run the classes “in-house”.

“Baby Splash” was a popular baby and toddler swim class that was run by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in the Lakeland Forum but it has now been replaced by a privately run class.

Baby Splash cost £30 for six weeks while the privately-run classes range from £104 to £120. The classes will run from November 29 to February 22.

Grace Kelly whose son Ethan has enjoyed ‘Baby Splash’ spoke to The Impartial Reporter to express her frustration at the situation that Fermanagh parents are now faced with:

“I think it is a huge increase in cost and very unfair. The prices are extortionate, and the Council should be offering services that are financially accessible to the public,” Ms. Kelly said, continuing:

“Baby splash was a great class and at £5 a class for six weeks was good value. But the jump in price and the fact that the Council cannot provide the service at all is just not good enough.”

Baby and toddler swim classes are available at Omagh Leisure Centre at a cost of just under £50 for eight weeks but Fermanagh and Omagh District Council stated that at present this could not be provided at the Lakeland Forum.

“The Baby Splash programme is not being delivered at present as the Council does not have a coach available. The coach who had taken the class has left the Council’s employment,” a Council spokesman explained before adding that the replacement programme is being delivered by a private individual who has “taken a booking out with the Lakeland Forum.”

“This is on a trial basis as the Council is unable to offer the service in-house at present,” the spokesman stated. It has also emerged that the members of staff of the Fermanagh Lakeland Forum have been calling members of the public to see if they want to avail of the new programme:

“We were telephoned about the new programme and asked if we wanted to take up a place with it. It was a staff member of the Forum who phoned, and it has also been advertised via the Forum’s Facebook page. I’m not sure that a privately-run class should be getting advertised like this and I don’t think staff from the Forum should be actively ringing people to get the class filled up,” Ms Kelly argued.

The Council explained that it was hopeful of being able to deliver classes to babies and toddlers “as soon as possible”. “The Council is currently identifying staff interested in gaining the required qualification and we hope to deliver this activity in-house as soon as possible.”