Restore the Free Swimming Programme
We the undersigned believe that the decision to end the national Free Swimming Programme for the over 60’s and under 16’s is wrong and should be reversed.
The Free Swimming Programme was launched as one of the major ways for the Government to deliver the objectives of the Legacy Action Plan for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the first year of the FSP 18 million swim sessions were undertaken by eligible people.
Many of the young FSP participants accompanied by paying swimmers offsetting the cost of the programme.
The Department of Health recommends that adults should undertake at least 30 minutes of physical activity and that children and young people should spend at least 60 minutes a day, every day of the week. Currently only 39% of men and 29% of women aged 16 and over reach the recommended level and only 32% of boys and 24% of girls aged between 2 and 15 achieve the Department’s recommended level of physical activity. The majority of indicators suggest that these figures are worsening.
The Free Swimming Programme is the first national initiative to seriously impact on people’s participation in health improvement programmes. Participation in low impact physical activity can have a marked improvement on obesity, lifestyle change, improved physical and mental well being. This approach is endorsed by informed medical opinion. Indeed many doctors recommend regular swimming as a first stage to a healthier lifestyle. The FSP could have been at least as significant in improving public health as the reduction in smoking.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for DCMS and Olympics referred to the PwC report to the effect that many people attracted by the programme would continue to swim irrespective of the availability of free swimming.
We believe that the majority of participants (under 16’s and over 60’s) would be excluded from regular swimming (4-5 times a week) by the cost.
The consequence of ending the Free Swimming Programme will inevitably be a net reduction in the number of swims = empty pools particularly in the most deprived parts of the country. Questions regarding the sustainability of swimming pools and likely closure removing a valued community facility even for those persons capable of paying for regular attendance. With the inevitable deleterious public health effects.
We recognise that economies are required across all Government departments but cutting the Free Swimming Programme represents a missed opportunity we therefore submit that the DCMS Secretary of State should consult with the Treasury, National Lottery, local Government and Sports partners to investigate affordable ways to reinstate this invaluable programme.