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Council to explore ‘viability’ of free swims for residents living on key benefits

Armagh swimming pool Orchard Leisure centre

Residents on key social security benefits across the borough could be given free ‘peak daytime’ access to all of the borough’s swimming pools in the future.

The first step towards making the move a reality at all swimming pools came at a meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council last night (Monday).

It passed a Sinn Fein notice of motion which will now give the go-ahead for officers to look at the viability of such a course of action.

It would apply to those on ‘key benefits’ and, according to SF, is essentially ‘rolling out’ of a policy which had operated in the city’s Orchard Leisure Centre.

The notice of motion, which was proposed by Councillor Garath Keating, seconded by Councillor Maire Cairns, read: “We hereby request that officers do research and bring back a report, in due course, to the leisure and services committee detailing the viability of providing complimentary swimming facilities to patrons in receipt of any key benefits (e.g. ESA, ISA and DLA) between opening to 4.30pm Monday – Friday, where and when public swimming is available.

“This is in effect the rolling out of a policy in that regard which has been operated successfully in Armagh OLC doe many years.”

The motion provides the necessary go-ahead for officers now to examine and detail the viability of such a course of action across the new council area .

Forwarding the policy initiative Councillor Garath Keating spoke of the positive health and social benefits that could be realised by such a move.

He commented: “Whilst not huge, the price of using the facilities can be an effective barrier preventing more regular use of the pools by some members of our community. This initiative will hopefully help facilitate greater access to swimming and its many physical health benefits across the area.

“Public swimming pools are generally very under-utilised during the day time and it therefore makes sense to find ways to encourage people into making use of the facilities at those times, especially people who might otherwise not have the means to partake of regular swimming.

“If this helps to increase the general health of our local population and helps to increase opportunities for social inclusion and wellbeing then I think it is a very positive direction of travel.

“We have provided this facility in the Orchard Leisure Centre for some time and have seen the positive benefit this has had for many people and believe this is key complimentary strategy to assist the Health Service’s primary goal of promoting prevention of illness.”

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