Free leisure use for drug addicts?

DRUG addicts could be given free use of Argyll and Bute Council leisure facilities if plans being debated by the authority this week are approved.

A proposal which would allow people receiving treatment for drug and alcohol misuse to have free, supported use of council leisure facilities during their recovery will be considered by the full council today (Thursday, August 23).

A report by the authority’s executive director of community services, Cleland Sneddon, recommends a formal partnership with support services wishing to use council leisure facilities.

Mr Sneddon’s report states that feedback from the only two drug and alcohol exercise schemes currently running in Argyll and Bute – both in the Cowal area – has been “extremely positive” overall.

But one regular user of Rothesay Leisure Centre, former Buteman reporter Mike Blair, questioned the signals sent out by the move.

Mr Blair said: “I see many young people - some unemployed and some on basic wage - making use of Rothesay’s swimming pool and super new gym at a not insignificant cost to them and I worry about the message this policy is sending out.

“While I think it is laudable that proper exercise is part of drug rehabilitation, I am concerned that it should not be paid for from the public purse, with the perceived message that goodies are free if you go off the rails but have to be paid for if you stay on them.”

A council spokesperson said: “Drug and alcohol addictions are medical conditions which can cause significant harm to individuals, their families and communities.

“Often these addictions are accompanied by poor physical health and taking part in exercise can substantially help those in a formal programme of recovery.

“This is not a reward for people suffering these medical conditions but is part of their treatment which can help them turn their lives around and help them play a positive part in the community.”