Innovative new programme helps families experiencing barriers to sports participation


Friday, 8 March, 2024

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, in partnership with leisure operator and social enterprise GLL, has secured an award from Sport England, funded by the National Lottery, for an innovative new swimming programme which started in February. The scheme is aimed at residents experiencing barriers to sports and leisure participation, including families who have moved to the borough as refugees and families on low incomes.

50 people enrolled on the course which involved small, group swimming lessons at Rainbow Leisure Centre in Epsom. Participants were referred to the course by partners.

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council and GLL are contributing additional funds and resource so that participants aged four to eleven can continue weekly swimming lessons until 31 May 2024.

Families, including those taking part in the swimming programme and others, have also been offered three months of subsidised access to Rainbow Leisure Centre, to help them increase activity levels and build positive habits. 

Councillor Clive Woodbridge, Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Committee, said; “Swimming can be a lot of fun and is fantastic exercise; but it is also a vital and potentially even life-saving skill.

In addition to swimming, residents who take part in this scheme will be able to access facilities such as football pitches, basketball courts, badminton courts, and the gym, more easily.

Our vision at Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is that all our residents can keep healthy and active, with easy access to health and wellbeing services. We are delighted that this award will help us work towards fulfilling that vision, particularly for residents who may not have been able to access these leisure services before.”

David Hughes, GLL partnership manager for Epsom & Ewell GLL added: “The physical and mental health benefits that swimming can offer are well documented and this new programme has been designed to reach groups that may not otherwise have had access to local swimming provision.

“The feedback we have received from participating families has been phenomenal.  The tailored support our expert swimming teachers have offered, has helped participants to build confidence, improved their water skills and really enjoy their time in the water.”

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About Rainbow Leisure Centre

Rainbow Leisure Centre is run by GLL. Established in 1993, GLL is the largest UK-based charitable social enterprise delivering sport, leisure, health and cultural services. Under the consumer facing brand “Better”, the organisation operates more than 250 public sport and leisure centres and 100 libraries in partnership with 45 local councils, public agencies and sporting organisations. Its facilities have over 50 million visitors a year.

Alongside the organisation’s core leisure and library divisions, GLL runs sport development, health intervention and education, as well as offering the GLL Sport Foundation, the largest independent support programmes for talented young athletes in the UK.

About National Lottery

National Lottery players raise £30m every week for good causes, funding arts, heritage, sports, voluntary and charity projects around the UK. For more information on good causes in your area go to

About Sport England

Sport England is a public body and invests up to £300 million National Lottery and government money each year in projects and programmes that help people get active and play sport.

It wants everyone in England, regardless of age, background, or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity. That’s why a lot of its work is specifically focused on helping people who do no, or very little, physical activity and groups who are typically less active - like women, disabled people and people on lower incomes.