Millions across England to enjoy free swimming - 82 per cent of Councils sign up in a major drive to get England more active

More than twenty million people aged 16 and under and over 60 will be able to swim for free from next April as Culture Secretary Andy Burnham today 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 (82 per cent) are to offer free swimming to the over 60s while 211 (60 per cent) 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 £10 million 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 £25 million capital challenge fund in both 2009/10 and 2010/11 to spend on improving pool provision.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham said:

"Getting people more active is vital to the health of the nation and to tackling obesity. 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!"

Children's Minister Baroness Morgan said:

“This is a major step toward every child being able to swim, where they want, when they want. Swimming is one of the easiest ways of getting fit and being a strong swimmer is potentially life saving. Free provision builds on our successful £5.5m programme to get every 11-year-old swimming at least 25 metres unaided and means they can carry on growing in confidence for life.”

James Purnell, Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions said:

“Last year, for the first time there were more people aged over 65 than children in the UK. Old age should be enjoyed and not endured so it is more important than ever to encourage a more active and vibrant ageing society. Free swimming for people over 60 is great initiative which is why my Department has contributed £22million over three years towards making it happen."

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: 
 "I am delighted that so many councils have signed up to this scheme.  It is a great step, making it possible for millions of people to participate in a fun form of exercise. 
 "Tackling obesity and promoting healthier lifestyles are key concerns for many in our communities, and councils are responding to this - 90 councils have committed to reducing obesity among primary school children, and 80 have agreed to increase adult participation in sport. 
 "This scheme will go a long way to help councils achieve this."

Notes to Editors

  1. A list of Local Authorities who will offer free swimming PDF (42kb) to the over 60s and those aged 16 and under, and Local Authorities who will offer free swimming to the over 60s only.
  2. Further information on the free swimming initiative and other Olympic legacy schemes is available on the  DCMS website .
  3. The swimming scheme is jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
  4. Further information on the Free Swimming Capital Modernisation Programme is available on the Sport England website .
  5. For more information please contact José Riera or Kirsty McCaskill at the DCMS Press Office on 020 7211 6971 or 020 7211 6263.

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