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30 Sep 2019

Budget of 'not fit for purpose' Welsh free swimming initiative cut by £1.5m
BY Tom Walker

The current Free Swimming Initiative will be replaced by a slimmed-down and

The current Free Swimming Initiative will be replaced by a slimmed-down and "more focused" version, which looks to target those facing the most barriers to accessing a swimming pool

A scheme to offer free swimming across Wales has had its budget slashed by £1.5m.

The cut in funding is one of a number of changes made to the Free Swimming Initiative, after an independent review of the scheme found it to be "no longer fit for purpose".

It has been replaced by a slimmed-down and "more focused" version, which looks to target those facing the most barriers to accessing a swimming pool.

Funded by the Welsh government and delivered by Sport Wales – in partnership with local authorities – the scheme will relaunch in October and concentrate on getting young people and those aged 60+ living in areas of deprivation into the pool.

"The review made it very clear that change is needed", said 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."

While the programme's budget has bee cut, a capital investment of £1m has been made to offer local authorities the opportunity to apply for funding to update their swim facilities.



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