Swim England

A nation swimming

Karen Pickering and Mark Foster share message to Government on facilities

Increased investment in under-threat swimming pools is a ‘no brainer’, the Government has been told.

Former international swimmer Karen Pickering believes giving pools additional financial support to help cope with soaring energy costs is ‘worthwhile’ as they help save the NHS millions of pounds a year.

More than 10,000 people have so far signed a Swim England #SaveOurPools petition calling on ministers to extend the Energy Bill Relief Scheme beyond March 2023.

It is feared that 40 per cent of local authorities are likely to see closures or service reductions in the coming months – which could see more than 100 pools shut.

Pickering, who has been inducted in the Swim England Hall of Fame, has backed the campaign and urged Government to provide more financial support.

She said: “For pools to run, it takes maintenance and a lot of TLC.

“You can’t just switch the pool off, you can’t turn the lights off and it’s not costing anything.

“Our pools need investment but it’s worthwhile investment.

“What you get back in the physical and mental health benefits, it comes back in spades – it’s not lost money.

“So to be able to kind of pre-empt and prevent a lot of the physical and mental health problems that you can with swimming, it’s a good investment, it’s a solid investment.

“We’re not worrying about 10, 20, 30 years’ time but we need to. We need to start thinking about how we actually use activity and use sport to benefit the health service and take the burden off them.

“There are so many illnesses and injuries that can be prevented by sport and swimming is one of the main ones, particularly because of the age range of the people that can do it.

“If you do the maths [on investing in pools], it’s a no-brainer.”

We need the facilities

Her views were echoed by fellow Hall of Fame inductee Mark Foster, who said there was no other sport like swimming.

Foster said: “The sight and the feel of the water makes it a relaxing place to be… it’s therapeutic.

“Getting people active and doing something in the first place is a big win.

“Swimming is a big participation sport. You look at people that do swim, and did swim, and physiologically how they are now compared to other sports?

“I spent more time arguably in the water than any other British swimmer has done as I didn’t retire until I was 38 and I haven’t got anything [injuries].

“It’s got to be the best sport for people.

“So actually by investing over here, which I know there’s going to be a cost, but we’ll save the money in the long run.

“It doesn’t take any science to work out that people being fit and healthy is good for them – but we need the facilities. Without those, where are we going to go?

Along with the petition, Swim England has also created a downloadable letter which members can send to MPs along with suggested social posts.

They are available by clicking here.