Children's health at risk

IT S disappointing that North Herts District Council has dismissed the idea of providing free swimming for over-60s and under-16s as too costly. The two-year Government initiative aimed at increasing attendances at swimming pools and improving health is s

IT'S disappointing that North Herts District Council has dismissed the idea of providing free swimming for over-60s and under-16s as too costly.

The two-year Government initiative aimed at increasing attendances at swimming pools and improving health is set to begin nationwide on April 1 next year, but North Herts district councillors have rejected the scheme because the gap between Government subsidies and overall costs was too great.

I know the council's money pot is not bottomless, but I'm certain it should be a top priority that swimming pools are made accessible to all and not just to those who can afford it.

It costs £5.70 for one adult to go swimming with their seven-year-old child at North Herts Leisure Centre in Letchworth GC. This, to me, seems very expensive and is sure to stop some families being able to make use of the swimming facilities.


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The council has said it is bucking the national trend for swimming, with capacity at a maximum, but those who cannot afford it are still missing out. In this day and age it shouldn't be the case that only those who can afford it stay healthy.

Understandably, the council is concerned about the revenue it will lose if it did offer free swimming to over-60s and under-16s. As I've already said, free swimming should be a top priority for the council because people's health is of paramount importance.

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A recent study by Glasgow and Newcastle university medics shows many six and seven-year-olds are dangerously underactive.

Many children get as little as 24 minutes of exercise a day - one sixth of the official Government figure of an average of 146 minutes. This is putting children's health at risk and creating an obesity epidemic.

These shocking findings show the amount of time children spend keeping active is at its lowest level ever.

Childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate with experts predicting that by 2010 half of all children will be overweight unless they get active.

I think the council needs to look again at its priorities and somehow find a way to accommodate this new initiative, perhaps by putting its resources together with those of the NHS. I'm not suggesting finding the money will be easy, but it is imperative.

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