Free swimming and ice skating on the cards for children at leisure centres where drinks tax has cut Sheffield's sugar intake by 30 per cent

A children's swimming lesson
A children's swimming lesson
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Sheffield's sugar intake has been cut by nearly a third through a 'tax' on unhealthy drinks at the city's leisure centres - which are offering free swimming and ice skating lessons to children as part of a £40,000 fund.

SIV - formerly Sheffield International Venues - will run more than 100 hours of complimentary swimming classes throughout the summer at Concord Sports Centre, in Shiregreen, while the iceSheffield facility in Attercliffe is hosting six days of free lessons for 180 people.

iceSheffield

iceSheffield

The aim is to get more children playing sports, complementing a separate pledge to invest at least another £25,000 in programmes to curb rising rates of obesity and diabetes among young people, using the proceeds of a 20p levy on drinks with added sugar sold in cafés and vending machines at SIV's 11 sites.

Independent research by Sheffield University has pointed to a 30 per cent reduction in sugar intake across the city since the charge - the first of its kind at UK leisure centres - was introduced a year ago.

The venues group is pressing ahead with its work on nutrition by launching a holiday camp alongside the Children's Food Trust called Eat Well, Move More, which will feature practical advice on how to prepare healthy meals.

Through the swimming lessons, SIV hopes to help as many participants as possible swim 25 metres, increasing their confidence and reducing drowning, one of the most common causes of accidental deaths in children.

A sugary drink

A sugary drink

Meanwhile iceSheffield has teamed up with Sheffield Futures, TimeBuilders and Street Leagues to offer the free skating. Pupils from four different schools - Phillimore, Wybourn, Oasis Don Valley and Netherthorpe - have already completed a four-week, nationally-accredited Learn to Skate initiative.

Paul Hudson, general manager at iceSheffield, said: “Ice skating is really popular with older children, particularly teenage girls. It’s a fun activity and provides a high level of exercise without the participant realising how much work they’re putting in.”

Andrew Snelling, deputy chief executive at SIV, added: “Encouraging children to be active from a young age and educating them about nutrition will help them grow into healthier adults.

“Providing youngsters with ice skating and swimming lessons will boost their confidence as they develop their skills and provide the building blocks for an active future.

“We’ve always tried to be bold in the choices we make and the move from high-sugar to low-sugar alternatives, combined with innovative ways to get young people active takes us one step closer to tackling obesity across the city.”

In April it was revealed that SIV was on course to remove 1.3 tonnes of sugar from people's diets in Sheffield through the levy, which has raised more than £10,000.

The figures came a month after the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced two separate taxes on sugary drinks of 18p and 24p per litre in the Government's budget.