Foster families and children on free school meals to benefit from free swimming

Children in care as well as the birth-children of foster carers are to benefit from a free-swimming initiative in Bath and North East Somerset, it has been announced. The new scheme will also be available to all children in the area eligible for free school meals.

It was confirmed at a recent meeting of Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet that money allocated to the free swimming scheme will be used to extend the initiative to cover all foster families in addition to those on free school meals. The funding for the scheme was included in Conservative budget proposals, passed by B&NES Council last month.

The scheme, targeted at the poorest families in the area, is being introduced after the Government failed to fully-fund a scheme which would have seen all children in the area benefit from free swimming. The Government offered less than half the cash needed to fully implement the under-16’s scheme. B&NES Council had requested using the limited money on offer from the Government to target free swimming at those in greatest need of financial support, but this request was not accepted by Government.

Discussions with the Council’s leisure providers on implementing the scheme are still continuing and a firm date for introducing the initiative is yet to be confirmed, but the Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Chris Watt, has said he wants to see it implemented as soon as possible.

Cllr Watt (Cons, Midsomer Norton Redfield), said:

“Foster parents do such a fantastic and important job we felt it was right to recognise this and include their families in the free swimming scheme. It’s important that the Council does all it can to help and support foster families, and this is just one more small way in which we can do this.

“All children entitled to free school meals will also be able to take advantage of free swimming in B&NES. With the budgets of local authorities facing a major squeeze in coming years we will have to target resources carefully at those in greatest need, and this is an example of how the Council can do this. Further details on when the scheme will be introduced will be confirmed soon, but we want to see it in operation as soon as possible”