More than 20million people aged 16 and under and over 60 will be able to swim for free from next April, a move confirmed today by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham who has announced that 82 per cent of local authorities in England have signed up to take part in a £140-million government scheme.
The initiative is a key part of plans to leave a lasting legacy from London 2012, giving people up and down the country more opportunities to get active. In total, 291 councils are to offer free swimming to the over 60s, while 211 will open their pools for free to both the over-60s and those aged 16 and under. The local authorities that have opted in to offer the scheme to both age groups have also received a share of a £10million capital fund to spend on modernising or improving pool provision in time for the start of the two-year scheme in 2009. Those local authorities that will offer free swimming to both age groups also stand to benefit from a further £25million capital challenge fund in both 2009/10 and 2010/11 to spend on improving pool provision.
“Getting people more active is vital to the health of the nation and to tackling obesity,” says Burnham. “With 2012 approaching, now is the time for big ideas to help people make a change in their lifestyle. Swimming is fun and has universal appeal, and yet charges can deter people. 2009 is the year to get your trunks on.”