Free Gym and Swim to Be Offered for People on Low Incomes

No charge for those on Universal Credit or receiving free school meals

The pool at Putney Leisure Centre. Picture: Places Leisure

February 3, 2023

Use of leisure centres in the borough of Wandsworth is to be made available for free this summer to people receiving Universal Credit and families receiving free school meals.

The council says the initiative is part of its efforts to help people struggling with the rising cost of living and there will be a broader review of fees across all council services with the aim of making them fairer.

The council has agreed with its leisure centre contractor Places Leisure that anyone receiving Universal Credit will be able to enjoy free off-peak adult gym and swim sessions (off peak is before 5.30pm on weekdays and all day at weekends).

Young people aged 15 and under who receive free school meals will be able to swim for free. A parent or guardian looking after one or two children will also be able to join them for free so that families can enjoy a swim together. The offer will include Tooting Bec Lido when it reopens this summer.

They will also be able to use the free junior gym, which is open to young people aged 11-15, and they can make a free sports booking, such as squash courts, during off peak hours.

The offer will be in place in time for the start of the summer holidays.

The council is now looking at a wider review of how fees for sports and leisure facilities can be made fairer so that they are more affordable for people on lower incomes.

Council leader Simon Hogg said, “ We are working hard to make Wandsworth a fairer borough. I am proud that, for the very first time in Wandsworth, residents who receive Universal Credit will be able to swim and use the gym for free during the daytime and at the weekend. Young people who receive Free School Meals will also be able to swim for free anytime – including at Tooting Bec Lido.

“We are clear in our determination to end the unacceptable gap between the health outcomes and life expectancy of people living in Wandsworth.

“Ensuring no-one is priced out of accessing our gyms and swimming pools is a key part of that. We will review all our policies so that this council serves our residents more fairly.”

The free gym and swim offer will be discussed by the council’s Environment Committee next week.

More details on how to access the free offer will be made available in the Spring and published on the council’s website.

Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter