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Cooperation across boroughs and boundaries helped keep Wales active

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More cooperation across the boroughs and boundaries that divide Wales will ensure a fitter and healthier nation, according to Newport Live chief executive Steve Ward.

As various lockdowns and restrictions brought on by Covid-19 continue to effect the lives of everyone, local authorities have had to act quickly to ensure people can still have access to facilities.

Across Gwent, local government and leisure providers decided to pool their resources in a bid to ensure locked down did not mean locked out.

Newport Live – a charitable trust which provides, sport, leisure and cultural services across the city – decided to work with other providers to offer a single pass across the area so that local restrictions did not leave people prevented from using their nearest venue.

The result was Gwent Live – an umbrella organisation consisting of Aneurin Leisure (Blaenau Gwent), Caerphilly County Borough Council Sport & Leisure Services, MonLife (Monmouth), Newport Live and Torfaen Leisure Trust.

Customers who had a membership with one leisure provider were able to attend their local gyms or leisure centre whilst the local lockdown remained in place.

Active Gwent

“The challenge was to keep customers active, who, through no fault of their own, found that their local area had gone into lockdown and so they couldn’t use the facilities that they normally use,” says Ward.

“Or, they might have been working in one area and living in another, with facilities having closed. This co-operation meant they could use their local facility, even if their membership was for a facility further afield, say near their workplace.”

Active Gwent was initially intended to run until October 31, but it was extended to cover the firebreak period – even though facilities were closed and the help and advice was virtual through online offerings.

But such has been the success in keeping people able to do some kind of activity on their doorstep, the concept is likely to stay.

“Active Gwent will continue because we as partners have talked for a while about having an Active Gwent card, and membership, and about having customers able to move across borders,” adds Ward.

There will not though, says Ward, be a single unified pass across the region that enables access to all facilities - simply because of variations in what authorities can offer and capacity limits.

 

Newport know-how 

“The commitment is to work together and to find a unified way of working where you've got capacity. So it doesn't displace people and it doesn't undermine the operations because they still will be unique.

“So, we are not combining separate entities, but we’re working together to allow customers to be able to access services in their local community. That will stay, but we just have to work through the detail.”

The Active Gwent scheme was not the first time Newport has been at the forefront during the pandemic.

For grass roots sport, elite athletes and recovering Covid-19 sufferers, the city and region has been playing a prominent role.

When elite swimmers returned to the pool it was to Newport that the dozen or so of Wales’ leading swimmers headed as a deal was struck that made more financial sense to open Newport Leisure Centre than the Olympic-size pool in Swansea.

The Newport Velodrome was quickly made available to Wales’ leading cyclists once the early lockdown was lifted, while the venue has also hosted a coronavirus recovery programme.

Health Is Wealth

Patients have been using the state-of-the-art facility as part of their recovery plan and valuable research has been detailed.

Ward adds: “The important thing has been that we have a really good relationship with the Health Board, so we were able to facilitate what they required.”

The Newport Live CEO admits there are still plenty of challenges ahead for all local authorities and leisure providers, though, not least financial ones.

His organisation are themselves having to make some redundancies but he concedes: “Times are going to be very difficult, but we have an obligation as a sector to make sure that price is not a barrier to participation.

“Most in the public sector have very good concessionary policies, and I think those concessionary policies are now going to be pivotal in Wales as we go forward.

“Everyone knows the true value of physical activity. Our health is our wealth.”

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