Blackburn with Darwen’s commitment to the improved health and well being of its residents will continue as a two year extension to the award winning re:fresh programme is announced.
The Council and the Care Trust Plus have agreed to invest £1.65 million to continue the scheme in 2011/12 and committed to investing again in 2012/13, following its the dramatic success in improving the health of residents through a programme of free leisure activities and community events.
re:fresh was initially launched in 2008 as a three year programme and has produced impressive results including producing the second highest increase nationally in people taking regular exercise.
Previously, Blackburn with Darwen had the third worst level of physical activity in the country.
The scheme, which will be re-launched on April 1, has also succeeded in attracting people who were less likely than others to exercise in the past, with some of the biggest increases in participation seen in non white ethic groups, women and people with disabilities.
While the initiative remains committed to the original aim of providing free leisure, some small charges may be introduced. However, to minimise the impact, activities which attract the largest number of people and those least likely to do exercise will remain free.
Evaluation has shown that activities like swimming, going to the gym and community based activities are the most successful in engaging large numbers of people, particularly those who have been found least likely to participate in physical activity and as a result these will remain free under re:fresh.
The Council’s executive member for leisure and culture, Councillor Damian Talbot, welcomed the renewed investment.
He said: “re:fresh has been a huge success and has been the envy of local authorities and PCTs throughout the country for its innovative approach to health and exercise.
“We realise that we are facing tough times and difficult decisions about what we spend have to be made, but the facts speak for themselves.
“By investing in the health of the local population through re:fresh now, we will save money in years to come: it makes economic sense. Low levels of activity cause ill health and cost the borough more than £3 million every year.”
Chair of the Care Trust Plus, Sir Bill Taylor, said: “I am delighted that re:fresh will continue.
"This demonstrates our ongoing mutual commitment to the health and well being of local people and our determination to address health inequality."
Director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen, Dominic Harrison, said: “Zero or low cost entry charges, enable residents to exercise more frequently, which we believe is much better value overall.
"It means that the activities that have proved most successful in encouraging people to become active, like swimming, going to the gym and community based classes, can continue to be provided free of charge to beeZ card holders."