FRESH BOOST FOR FREE SWIMMING INITIATIVE
15 Oct 2009
Thousands more young people living in Berkshire, Devon, Hampshire, Greater London and Nottinghamshire can now take the plunge thanks to the Government’s £140m free swimming scheme.
Six councils have decided to give children and young people the chance to swim for free, on top of their existing schemes benefiting only older people.
And one council, Surrey Heath, is taking part for the first time, spreading benefits to both age groups, after the Government offered local authorities another opportunity to be part of the scheme in August, or to extend it to everyone aged 16 and under.
The initiative, which began in April, has been a big hit throughout England, with official figures showing more than 4.4 million free swims in the first quarter.
The councils extending free swimming to young people are Barnet, Broxtowe, East Hampshire, Mansfield, Plymouth and Reading. This brings the number of local authorities offering the scheme to 260 for people over sixty, and 197 for young people.
Their decision to take up the Government’s offer was welcomed by Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, one of the five Whitehall departments providing funding for the scheme.
“This is another huge vote of confidence in the free swimming initiative, which is proving to be a big success in pools in every corner of the country. It is attracting people, young and old, to have fun, and get active and healthy at the same time.
“The local councils that have taken up our offer deserve great credit – and many are putting their own money into the scheme as well, to ensure it reaches as many people as possible.
“Free swimming is a powerful initiative that was directly inspired by our success in winning the right to stage the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. It is having a big impact.”
In August the Government announced that up to £1m of unallocated funding from within the overall £140m package was being set aside to pay for new councils to join the scheme, and existing ones to extend it to young people.
In addition, all the councils taking up the offer were entitled to apply for a share of a capital modernisation fund of £25m to build new pools, or renovate existing ones, in 2010/11. Five applied – Barnet, East Hampshire, Plymouth, Reading and Surrey Heath.
Communities Secretary John Denham said:
'I'm delighted that even more councils can now offer free swimming to kids and teenagers as well as older people thanks to our funding.
'Swimming is a popular pastime for all ages and an excellent way for us to get fit.
'I want to congratulate councils across the country that are diving in to make the most of our free swimming scheme and encourage local residents to do the same.'
Schools Minister Iain Wright said:
“I am delighted that even more children and young people will now be able to swim for free in more areas across the country. Swimming is a great way for children to get fit and have fun, as well as build on the two hours of sport they must receive at school. This will also help us achieve our target for all children to get five hours of sport a week.”
Notes to Editors
1. Further information on the free swimming initiative, including councils participating and their funding allocations is available on the DCMS website at http://www.culture.gov.uk/freeswimming.
2. The free swimming initiative is jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
3. It is being delivered in conjunction with local authorities, the Local Government Association, ASA and Sport England.
4. Further information on the Free Swimming Capital Modernisation Programme, administered by Sport England.
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