Sally Phillips ‘so upset’ after son with Down’s syndrome rejected by trampoline park

by 24britishtvMarch 29, 2024, 7 p.m. 18
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Parents of children with special needs are being put under an “unbearable” strain to enable their kids to be able to do “normal things”, the actor Sally Phillips has said.

Phillips, known for creating and starring in the sketch show Smack The Pony, made the comments after her son, who has Down’s syndrome, was denied access to a trampoline park.

The actor, who also played the journalist Shazza in Bridget Jones’s Diary, said she was “so upset” when her son Olly was denied access to Oxygen Activeplay in Acton, west London. She said the company refused him entrance and told her someone with Down’s syndrome needs a letter from the GP.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Friday, Phillips said her son had gone with his younger brother and the younger brother’s friend to the trampoline park, and had been many times before. “The lady on the desk says, ‘Oh, sorry, can I have a word?’ and called the manager over ... I was so, so upset for Olly to be prevented.”

She added that “they’re weeding out people with visible disabilities” and “if you have an invisible disability, you’re not required to bring in a doctor’s letter.”

Oxygen Activeplay said it was “deeply sorry” Olly could not take part and was left disappointed, and said it was following safety guidance from British Gymnastics.

Phillips, who is a patron of the Down’s Syndrome Association, said this advice was out of date.

She said Olly, as a member of the British Gymnastics association, had previously had an X-ray to test for neck instability issues. But she added that neck instability issues can only be detected once symptoms are being experienced, so if there are no symptoms “you can participate like anyone else”.

She added: “It would be fine if there was a sort of genuine issue but it strikes me that the issues are, the neck thing is just misinformed and the insurers had found something they can ask for so they asked for it, without it actually being helpful.”

This meant parents were having to use NHS resources or pay for a doctor’s letter to satisfy the needs of a “private company and their insurance”, she said, adding that parents had to spend significant amounts of time “just filling in forms for our children to be able to do very, very normal things”.

She said: “This sort of admin burden on special needs parents, just to be part of the community … to do a normal thing, to take normal risks that everyone is allowed to take is just unbearable.”

In a statement, Oxygen Activeplay said: “The only reason a company like ours exists is to help everyone, but particularly children, enjoy active play.

“We would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the relevant parties to review the current guidance and enable as much active play as we can, safely.”

Responding, Phillips said she would talk to the company but felt it was not fair for the onus to be on parents to help make the changes.

“They will allow us to do the work for them to change, whereas actually, I think they need to educate themselves,” she said. “We’d really appreciate it if we didn’t have to and we could just get on with having a normal life.”

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