In 2006/07 Blackburn with Darwen had one of the lowest levels of adult participation in physical activity in the whole country, measured through the Sport England Active People Survey. As a result Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the Care Trust Plus entered into a unique partnership, investing £6m over three years in the re:fresh initiative.
Following the success of this three year initiative and the proven health outcomes it achieved, the Council and Care Trust Plus pledged to re-invest in re:fresh for another two years from 1st April 2011 & since then has now become an established part of Public Health improvement initiatives and is embedded within the health and Well-being Strategy.
In 2010/11 the Council had to find £30m of efficiency savings and both re:fresh and leisure services took proportionate cuts resulting in a significant review of services and programmes, including re:fresh. This review resulted in reduced opening hours, programme changes including the introduction of some charges and also adaptations to the re:fresh model of delivery.
Subsequently 2011/12 was a challenging, transitional year which resulted in a drop in participation. Throughout that year and into 2012/13 the project team worked hard to build and maintain positive momentum as well as diversifying to better engage with the voluntary and community sector which resulted in once again increasing participation levels, despite the changes which were required to be made. The project continued to build on that success over the next couple of years and levels of participation were at the highest ever recorded levels!
Recent reductions in Government funding mean that the Council faced many difficult financial challenges but still remained committed to making leisure services as affordable to the public as possible. Although no longer free as of August 2016, the charges remain heavily subsidised.
Established in 2008, re:fresh provided a programme of free leisure for 8 years to a wide range of the borough’s population, helping to turn around poor local health statistics, many of which were linked to physical inactivity.
Our main focus is still to improve the health and well-being within the borough by:
- increasing levels of participation by adults
- decreasing the number of adults doing no physical activity
The programme will also contribute to the overall aim of improving all age cause mortality statistics and reducing the death rate from all circulatory diseases. Through the commitment to enhance family activity provision and expand junior swimming, the project will also contribute to tackling the incidence of childhood obesity.