Catherine McKinnell MP has warned that access to swimming facilities is being removed from deprived areas – highlighting the closure of the West Denton Pool – as part of a wider debate on water safety she led as Chair of the Petitions Committee.
The National Curriculum requires that pupils can swim 25 metres unaided by the time they leave primary school. But the Newcastle North MP highlighted concerns from expert groups about widening inequalities, pointing out that: “Data from Swim England forecasts that by 2025, just 35% of Year 7s in the most deprived areas of England will meet the statutory requirement.”
She went on to raise concerns about the unequal impact of the pandemic on sports and leisure facilities:
“And sadly, the emerging pattern is that it is in these very same areas that local swimming facilities are most under threat. West Denton Pool in my own constituency sadly closed during the first national lockdown and will not reopen due to the financial impact of the pandemic.
“It was located in a neighbourhood that already suffers from significant heath inequalities, falling in the top 10% in the country according to the 2019 Indices of Deprivation.
“I worry this will not only compound the problem of children from less affluent backgrounds disproportionately failing to meet the statutory requirements, but lack of high-quality swimming facilities may also lead to more children swimming in the open water, which we know is an infinitely more dangerous environment.”
Catherine has strongly backed Newcastle City Council’s bid to develop a £22mllion state of
the art, net-zero carbon Outer West Leisure Centre with funding from the Government’s Levelling up Fund. The new centre would include a swimming pool, sports hall and gym, as well as a café, library and community space.
Catherine has spoken in Parliament in support of the bid – including raising it directly with the Prime Minister.
information on Catherine’s contribution to the Water Safety Debate can be found –
Further details on Catherine’s campaign to secure swimming provision and in support of the Outer West Leisure Centre Levelling Up bid can be found: