Young carers in line for free access to Sheffield leisure centres

Ponds Forge is among the leisure centres at which young carers could soon be able to enjoy free and discounted activities
Ponds Forge is among the leisure centres at which young carers could soon be able to enjoy free and discounted activities
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Young carers in Sheffield could soon get free access to leisure centres in the city, after campaigners secured a breakthrough in their battle for the richly-deserved perk.

Sheffield Council has revealed it is working with its leisure operators to develop free and cut-price activities for the city's many young people who devote countless hours to caring for loved ones.

Louise Haigh described the announcement as 'great news'

Louise Haigh described the announcement as 'great news'

It hopes to roll out the discounts, which it says will help recipients look after themselves as well as those they care for, soon.

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The announcement follows a campaign by Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, who launched a petition to secure the benefit as a token of 'gratitude' for young carers' contribution to the city.

Ms Haigh is also pressing transport chiefs in the region to provide free and discounted travel for young carers.

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She said: "This is great news from the council and a big help for Sheffield’s 7,000 young carers. They have as much right to social and leisure activities as anyone else, and with the amount of support they provide for our communities they deserve our gratitude.

"Having free access to leisure facilities will be great – but carers need to be able to travel to them too. That's why South Yorkshire's transport bosses need to look seriously at giving free and discounted bus travel to young carers."

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There are an estimated 50,000 carers in Sheffield, around 7,000 of whom are aged under 25, looking after family members with long-term physical illnesses, disabilities, mental health problems or substance and alcohol misuse issues.

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said she was 'delighted' to be working with the council's leisure providers, SIV and Places for People, on the initiative.

"Young carers give up so much of their time to support others and often suffer from financial hardship. It's important that we offer them some support to access sport and leisure provision in our city," she said.

"Exercise is directly linked to our physical and mental wellbeing and our young carers must look after themselves as well as those they care for. I look forward to introducing this support across venues in the city very soon."

Ms Haigh has been working with local carers groups, including Sheffield Young Carers, to improve support for those looking after relatives.

Sheffield Young Carers managing director Sara Gowen thanked the MP for her support, adding: "Children who are carers often miss out on the chances to get out and do exercise or have fun like other children their age and this has massive impacts on their own health and wellbeing."