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Organisations join forces and make urgent plea to Government for extra support

A failure to offer bespoke support to the leisure sector as part of the new Energy Bills Discount Scheme will be the ‘final straw’ for swimming provision and other services.

That is the stark warning from a coalition of leading organisations who have made an urgent plea to the Government ‘not to take for granted the role and importance of sport, recreation and physical activity in our country’.

Swim England has teamed up with ukactive, Active Partnerships, Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), Local Government Association, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport for Development Coalition, and Youth Sport Trust who all make up the National Sectors Partners Group (NSPG).

A statement jointly signed by Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson and leaders from the organisations within the NSPG says ‘communities will see the loss of essential local services, including swimming lessons for children’ unless the Government act swiftly with three key measures.

These include classifying swimming pools as energy intensive so they receive a higher level of discount on energy bills, set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector and create a plan for growth.

Without this, there would be ‘facility closures on a national level’ throughout 2023, which will ‘damage further our national health, our NHS and our economy’.

Urgent plea

The statement in full reads: “Today we make an urgent plea with the Government not to take for granted the role and importance of sport, recreation, and physical activity in our country.

“As lead organisations from the sector and local government, we are acutely aware of the significant, and in some cases, unreconcilable pressure facilities are facing as a result of both the pandemic and now the energy crisis.

“The failure to identify bespoke support for the sector (and schools operating sports facilities) as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme will be the final straw for certain facilities and services – especially swimming provision – across the UK.

“Unless changed, communities will see the loss of essential local services, including swimming lessons for children, multi-sport offerings, mental health services, bespoke programmes for older citizens, ethnically diverse communities and disabled people, and long-term health programmes including cancer rehabilitation, musculoskeletal support, and type 2 diabetes.

“This will impact millions of people, of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

“As more facilities close, this will create even more challenges for the NHS, which is already under unimaginable pressure, and impact economic productivity by hampering efforts to get people healthy for  work.

Grave situation

“We urge the Government to act swiftly with three key measures.

“One, reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive as part of Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they have access to the higher level of discount on energy prices.

“Two, set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms and sports facilities – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised.

“Three, set out a ‘plan for the growth’ for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health and social wellbeing of the nation.

“Failure to do this will lead to facility closures on a national level across 2023 and these closures will damage further our national health, our NHS and our economy.

“The evidence we have provided to the Government is unequivocal, so we implore it to work with the sector and local government to find urgent solutions to this grave situation.”

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