VULNERABLE children at risk of substance abuse are set to receive a free six-month gym membership.
Swindon Borough Council has teamed up with Wiltshire Police and leisure operator GLL to provide the six-month free benefit to 400 children
The Council’s Youth Justice Service successfully applied for £20,000 from Wiltshire Police’s Drug Forfeiture Fund and has worked with GLL, operator of many of the Borough’s leisure centres, to offer gym memberships.
The fund will target the most vulnerable children in Swindon who are currently supported by council services, such as Early Help and Child Protection.
Children aged between 14 and 17 will initially receive a six-month membership and this can be extended if there is evidence of frequent use. Professionals will be able to attend with the child for free and support their engagement and attendance.
The impact of this initiative will be tracked during the programme and will be evaluated against various outcomes, including mental health and wellbeing, re-referral, re-offending and substance misuse.
Councillor Paul Dixon, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for children’s social care, said: “We are delighted to be part of this partnership with Wiltshire Police and GLL.
“The impact for some of the most vulnerable children in Swindon will be significant and we are looking forward to seeing how this project reduces issues related to substance misuse in the Borough.
“Our Youth Justice Service team has been doing amazing work for our children and young people and I look forward to seeing that continue into the future.”
Jenn Holton, head of neighbourhood harm reduction at Wiltshire Police, said: “As the Head of Harm Reduction Unit and the chair of the Drug Forfeiture Fund for Wiltshire Police we are always keen to hear of new ideas to help us reduce crime and divert young people away from drug use.
“We were delighted to support this initiative which we hope will make a real impact on the lives of young people across Swindon.”
Jason Curtis, GLL’s national membership manager, added: “GLL is delighted to be involved with such an innovative scheme – supporting local communities is a major part of our company ethos.
“Introducing troubled youngsters to the physical and emotional benefits of regular exercise is a fantastic way to help them turn their lives around.
“Our staff in Swindon’s leisure centres are happy to share their expertise and be part of this process.”