Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) has denied it has a policy of dumping or removing beach wheelchairs for disabled people following the leaking yesterday of a series of emails encouraging them to do so.
Emails apparently sent from a senior consultant with Jardine Lloyd Thompson Pty Ltd (JLT) urged surf lifesaving clubs that ‘to avoid any problems I recommend that the wheelchairs be returned immediately to the organisation that donated/left them at the club or, failing that, have them destroyed or dumped at council waste transfer station’.
The ‘problems’ apparently refer to the insurance risk placed on clubs from the use of the wheelchairs.
JLT describes itself as ‘an international group of insurance brokers, risk consultants and employee benefits specialists and one of the largest companies of its type in the world’.
Disabled Surfers Association of Australia spokesperson Jim Bradley said yesterday that SLSA ‘can insure jetskis, rubber ducks, helicopters, four-wheel-drive vehicles and even dangerous national surf carnivals. It would be laughable to suggest that beach wheelchairs present anywhere near the same level of insurance risk.’
But chief executive of SLSA, Peter George, has told the media that ‘as far as SLSA is aware, no wheelchairs have been destroyed.
‘All beach wheelchairs currently operated by our clubs are covered under SLSA’s insurance.
‘SLSA is now working to ensure national operational procedures are in place for the safe use of beach wheelchairs.’
Disabled wheelchairs at are available Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay and Ballina but they are not stored at surf life saving clubs.