Cuts to free swimming for young people and elderly as budget is halved

The Free Swimming Initiative in Wales for those over 60 and under 16 will have its Welsh Government funding halved.

It means that those eligible will be able to access pools for free much less often - most only in one or two designated sessions each week.

The changes come after an independent review found that the current free swimming scheme was "not as effective as it should be".

Graham Williams, Director of Community Engagement at Sports Wales who manage the programme, said they "understand that change may not be positive for everyone and apologise to those who may find their normal sessions rescheduled or no longer free."

The funding changes will mean new timetables coming into force in October. Credit: Jeppe Gustafsson/PA Images

Currently in Wales, anyone over 60 or under 16 can access their local authority run swimming pool during public swim sessions without having to pay.

This is all set to change in October, with local authorities cutting back to one or two designated free swim sessions and some offering subsidised alternatives.

The Welsh Government funding is being reduced from £3 million to £1.5 million, leaving it up to individual local authorities who deliver the initiative to decide how to offer free swimming with half as much money.

Under the new system, local authorities will still have to provide free sessions every weekend for under 16s with extra sessions in the summer holidays. For those over 60, pools must offer some free and possibly subsidised sessions.

Sport Wales say their new strategy will focus less on the number of people using the initiative and more on targeting under-represented groups who have less opportunities to access sports facilities.

Graham Williams from Sports Wales says the review was "very clear that change is needed".

A Welsh Government spokesperson said the current Free Swimming Initiative was "no longer fit for purpose" and was not "value for money" which is what prompted the changes.

What does this mean for me?

If you are 60-years-old or above or under 16 you will still be able to access free swimming but at a reduced timetable.

This timetable will depend on the local authority who manage the pool you swim at.

Not all local authorities know exactly what the new free swimming timetable will look like yet but check with your leisure centre to see how the new changes will affect you.