10 September 2014

Low-income Leisure Card prompts 34,000 leisure centre visits

 Almost 1300 people in the Brighton & Hove area have signed up for a scheme offering cheaper access to local leisure facilities for those on low incomes.

Brighton & Hove City Council, in partnership with Freedom Leisure, introduced its Leisure Card in April 2013, targeting people claiming various benefits.  Its aim was to encourage less well-off residents to take exercise.  Traditionally, low-income families tend to have low participation rates and are more prone to obesity and poor health.

So far 1284 people have signed up – more than twice the first-year target of 500.  They have made over 34,000 visits to local leisure centres, with swimming and gym use the most popular activities.

Chair of the economic development and culture committee Councillor Geoffrey Bowden said: “The Leisure Card is proving a huge success. Not only could it improve the health of the city’s poorest residents, it could also save the city money in the longer term by reducing the cost of healthcare.
“Our public health colleagues are clear that sport and physical activity are beneficial in preventing many common diseases.  Local leisure centres have a role in promoting health alongside local doctors’ surgeries and the NHS.  Freedom Leisure has established itself as a pro-active and receptive partner in this.  We’re also continuing to offer free swimming for under-16s and have undertaken a multi-million-pound refurbishment of Withdean Sports Complex to create even better, affordable facilities.”

A Leisure Card offers a 40 per cent discount on various activities at six council-owned leisure facilities managed for the authority by Freedom Leisure - the King Alfred Leisure Centre, Prince Regent Sports Complex, Withdean Sports Complex, Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre, Stanley Deason Leisure Centre and St Luke’s swimming pool, which is due to re-open in mid-October following repairs to storm damage.

Discounts cover swimming, squash, badminton, tennis, table tennis, fitness suites and membership.  The means-tested cards are available at each of the above centres for those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Income Support, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Child Tax Credit.

Research has shown that about a third of card-holders had not previously used leisure centres.  Ninety per cent of respondents now visit at least once a week.  Before the card scheme, only 37 per cent of them visited once a week.

“We are delighted to see the Leisure Card scheme working so well and are encouraged by the strong uptake of the offer by local residents,” says Chris Lovelock, Freedom Leisure area manager.  “We pride ourselves on offering extensive and affordable facilities for everyone and welcome this initiative from the council to encourage more people to be active and healthy.  We are committed to its continued success and look forward to welcoming more new members at the special rate as the project develops.”

A report updating councillors on the scheme goes to the Economic Development and Culture Committee at Hove Town Hall on September 18.  A copy of the report can be viewed here among others on the meeting’s agenda.