New Free Swimming Initiative Promises to Deliver Much Needed Change
New national objectives and an insight-led approach aims to get people across Wales swimming
A revised Free Swimming Initiative, funded by Welsh Government and delivered by Sport Wales in partnership with Local Authorities, will be introduced in public pools across Wales from October 2019 onwards.
Young people and people over the age of 60 from areas of deprivation will be the priority under the new national objectives. The aim is to attract people who face the most barriers in accessing a pool the chance to learn a life skill and to swim more frequently.
The revised initiative comes after an independent review of the current scheme found it to be no longer fit for purpose.
“The review made it very clear that change is needed”, says Graham Williams, Director of Community Engagement at Sport Wales. “There’s no denying the previous successes of free swimming, or the fact that it has helped to get thousands swimming since its inception in 2003. However, the review concluded that the current approach is not cost-effective, nor does it make the biggest contribution to increasing levels of activity. To highlight the extent of the current performance: The number of young people benefiting from the scheme is in significant decline and this has been the case since 2013-14. For the 60 plus age group, the review estimated that only 6% of the target population currently access the programme. It is against this very challenging backdrop that policy changes have been decided by The Welsh Government.”
From October, the changes will see a reduction in the overall budget available which will in turn impact on the number of sessions available. There will be a phased implementation depending on local circumstances, with all partners working towards all public pools offering free sessions at suitable times. For young people there will be free sessions every weekend throughout the year with additional sessions in the summer holidays. Pools will also be offering some free and possibly subsidised sessions for over 60s.
Graham Williams continued: “Using an insight-led and partnership approach to working with local organisations we can ensure free swimming continues to play a role in supporting people to swim. Not only is it a life skill but it can also be the start of a positive relationship with sport and being active for life which brings with it so many added physical and mental health benefits. We understand that change may not be positive for everyone and apologise to those who may find their normal sessions rescheduled or no longer free. We are working hard with our Local Authority colleagues to minimise impact and to ensure the funding that is available is used to maximum benefit.”
The new initiative will be delivered against a reduced budget of £1.5m per annum from April 2020. However, during 2019-20 Local Authorities will also have access to a share of £1m in capital investment allowing them to update swim facilities where needed.
People aged over 60 in Blaenau Gwent will be able to access free swimming during all Public and Adults Only sessions (in term time) on the following days at each of our Sports Centres:
- Abertillery: Every Monday
- Ebbw Vale: Every Tuesday
- Tredegar: Every Wednesday
- Abertillery: Saturday’s from 11am – 12pm
- Ebbw Vale: Friday’s from 5.30pm – 6.30pm
- Tredegar: Saturday’s from 3pm – 4.15pm
For those aged over 60 who would like to swim regularly outside of these free sessions, there is also the option to take out a Later Life membership at our Sports Centres which costs just £18.50 per month (direct debit), that’s as little as 61p per day. This membership not only gives people unlimited access to our swimming pools during public sessions at all 3 Sports Centres across Blaenau Gwent, but it also includes access to our gyms, health suite and group exercise classes - which include various gentle exercise options.
Students in full time education can also take out a Student Life membership for just £18.50 per month (direct debit) which provides unlimited access to our three Sports Centres, during public sessions, which includes use of the gym, free weights room, swimming pool and over 100 group exercise classes. Please note that students need to be aged 11+ to access the gym and group exercise classes (to access classes that use weights, participants must be aged 16+)
For more information on our Sports Centres and facilities visit www.bglife.co.uk
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