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The policy and politics of free swimming

Bolton, Nicola and Martin, Stephen James ORCID: 2013. The policy and politics of free swimming. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 5 (3) , pp. 445-463. 10.1080/19406940.2012.656689

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Like many sports policies and community-based interventions, the Free Swimming Initiative in Wales has multiple objectives. Targeting the 16 and under and the 60 plus populations, it is seen as both a means of promoting health improvement and social inclusion and an opportunity for sports development. Pool monitoring data, surveys of pool managers, young people and older swimmers and qualitative research in the form of interviews and focus groups with national policymakers and chief local authority leisure officers undertaken between 2004 and 2007 were used to evaluate the impacts of the pilot phase. The findings demonstrate that the provision of free swimming helped to increase mass participation among the two target groups and there is evidence that some participants progressed to other water-based activities. However, while cost is a consideration for some young people, there are other barriers to participation. As a result, achieving ambitious government targets for population-wide physical activity levels requires strategies which encompass a wide range of opportunities to exercise. Some in the sport development community argue that the substantial subsidies devoted to free swimming in Wales could have been used better in other ways and the case of free swimming highlights the tensions which exist between public health, social justice and sports development policy agendas. At a time of fiscal constraint there are difficult choices to be made between attempts to encourage mass participation in physical activities and more targeted investment in ‘sport for sport's sake’.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Uncontrolled Keywords: Free swimming ; Physical activity ; Health ; Sports development
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1940-6940
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 09:58

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