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CHANGES to the way free swimming is allocated across Carmarthenshire and Wales comes into force next month following a reduction in funding from the Welsh Government.

Cuts in the overall budget will affect the number of free sessions available at council owned leisure centres across Wales including Llanelli, Ammanford, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn and Llandovery Pool.

Carmarthenshire County Council is currently reviewing its timetables, along with Sport Wales who distribute the funding on behalf of the Welsh Government.

There will still be free sessions for young people every weekend with additional ones in the summer holidays. Pools will also be offering some free and possibly subsidised sessions for over 60s.

According to Sport Wales young people and people over the age of 60 from areas of deprivation will be the priority under new national objectives.

The revised free swimming initiative’s aim is to attract people who face the most barriers in accessing a pool the chance to learn a life skill and to swim more frequently.

The changes follow an independent review, commissioned by the Welsh Government, after findings showed the current scheme was no longer fit for purpose. The report concluded that the current approach was not cost-effective, nor did it make the biggest contribution to increasing levels of activity. It noted that the number of young people benefiting from the scheme had been in significant decline since 2013-14. The report also mentioned that only 6% of the target population of over 60s age group currently access the programme.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s executive board member for leisure, tourism and culture, Cllr Peter Hughes-Griffiths said: “These nationwide changes are disappointing, however, we recognise the benefits that swimming can play as part of a healthy lifestyle and remain committed to providing free swim sessions. As a county we are still delivering more swimming sessions than what is required nationally.”

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