Be active scheme to continue in Birmingham

By on 02/03/2011 in News

A groundbreaking and award winning Birmingham leisure project will continue into 2011/12 after a £2.5 million funding package was agreed.

Backed by the NHS and Birmingham City Council, Be active offers all Birmingham residents* free swimming, group exercise classes and gym sessions.

Over 300,000 people are now registered for the scheme, meaning one in three people across Birmingham enjoy free use of their council-run leisure facilities, attending gyms, swimming pools, walking groups, and fitness classes and reaping the health and wellbeing benefits it brings.

Be active has not only received national and international acclaim for its innovative and successful approach, it has most importantly delivered a scheme which has enormous benefits to residents in Birmingham.

Kevin McGee, Chief Executive of the Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust explains why they are continuing to support Be active:

“We are delighted that we are able to continue to financially support Be active across the city of Birmingham. Investment in this scheme provides immediate benefits to residents in the city in terms of their lifestyle, health and social network however we believe it will also have a long term positive gain on the health needs of the city over the next few years.

“The projected long term benefits include financial savings to the NHS as well as a healthier, happier population.”

Be active is offering a more flexible scheme in 2011, adapting to the needs of local communities, and offering a much wider range of activities which include provision for mums and toddlers, Nordic walking, indoor bowling sessions, family exercise and Tai Chi classes.

Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, Cllr Martin Mullaney added: “Be Active has been a fantastic success and demonstrates what can be achieved when we work closely with our NHS partners.

“The people of Birmingham have made this scheme a huge success and the results speak for themselves. We're now delighted with the news that this groundbreaking scheme can continue.”

Talks are already underway to secure funding from 2012/13 onwards, with organisers looking at potential commissioning through GPs and private finance deals.


For more information, please contact:

  •  Anna Donaldson, Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT.  Tel: 0121 255 0875 or 07595 088316
  • Geoff Coleman, Birmingham City Council Tel: 0121 303 3502 or 07920 750 004

Notes to editors

Be active is sponsored by the Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Partnership, made up of Birmingham City Council and the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts – Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust, NHS South Birmingham and NHS Birmingham East and North. It also supports the national 'Change 4 Life' programme.

The Be active scheme is part funded by Be Birmingham's Working Neighbourhoods fund and aims to get people to change their lifestyle, whilst improving their health.

* Be active is a free scheme available to all Birmingham residents who pay their council tax to Birmingham City Council. Be active participants can take part in free swimming, exercise classes or the gym at any Council-run leisure centre during off-peak hours, which may vary according to each centre. Please contact your local leisure centre for more information.

Be active aims:

  • Increase the number of people who regularly take part in active recreation and sport – Move from 17% to 20% of the adult population (an additional 23,000 people) being active at least three times a week
  • Improve the mental and physical health of those who take part in physical activity;
  • Promote healthy eating and enable more people to maintain a normal body weight;
  • Reduce early death and disability from chronic diseases by promoting physical activity and improving cardiovascular fitness among those who experience the most inequality in health;
  • Provide opportunities for employment, volunteering and youth inclusion;
  • Demonstrate effective partnership working to achieve better outcomes.

Be active achievements:

  • Over 300,000 people now on the scheme i.e. 1 in 3 Birmingham residents
  • Attendance at gym, fitness classes and swimming is up by 10% on the last year
  • Hardest to reach groups participating in large numbers including Bangladeshi and Pakistani women.
  • Lifestyle advice now being offered in leisure centres
  • A range of classes and additional activities now on offer to suit local needs
  • 38 FTE posts now created through its lifetime, primarily within leisure
  • 22 new full time leisure posts created from the increased demand
  • Over £500,000 of gym refurbishments including the city's first women's only gym


  • LGC Health & Wellbeing award 2009
  • AHC Social marketing award 2009
  • AHC overall award for best social  marketing 2009
  • Guardian health inequalities award 2009
  • Guardian overall winner award 2009
  • Health Service Journal Best Social Marketing award 2009
  • Health Service Journal secretary of state award for excellence in healthcare management 2009
  • LGC reputation award; social  marketing 2010
  • World Leisure Innovation Award
  • Equal split between men / women
  • Average of 1,200 new sign ups per week
  • When asked what the biggest barrier to exercise was, 40% of respondents said cost

Video case study:

Roselyn Mighty from Nechells weighed 22 stone when she signed up to the Be active scheme. She said ; “I was very heavy, very lazy. Didn't do much at home except eat, drink, sleep and watch TV. That's all I did. Joining the scheme has made me healthier. I've lost quite a bit of weight and I'm happier within myself. I lost over eight stone and that's thanks to being on the Be active scheme.”

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There Are 5 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Hugh Williams says:

    This report is disingenuous at best. Information received at Tiverton Road Pool this morning shows that the provision of free swimming has been cut by restricting it to times in term time only when schools are using part of the pool- in other words, no lane swimming and only in limited space in the pools. The reality is that this provides a severe limit to the ability of swimmers to engage in aerobic activity. It also prevents free swimming for all children. It would help if the publicly funded press officers kept to the facts and did not spin on behalf of the coalitions in Birmingham and their friends in London.

  2. rob says:

    fully agree with your comments. I have been trying to find out more information on the restriction of times as I only found out this week at my local centre.

    • geoffc says:

      Leisure centre bosses are finalising timetables for Be Active and the information will be online as soon as it has been confirmed.

      With free leisure provision across the UK coming to an end, we’ve worked closely with our partners in the NHS to fund Be Active for 2011/12.

      The funding is down from £4.9 million to £2.5 million but by funding constituencies based on health deprivation levels; we have safeguarded 80 per cent of the original offer. Some constituencies will actually have more hours of free provision than before.

      The PCTs have negotiated with Birmingham City Council a number of ‘activity hours’ (free access to physical activity sessions such as swimming, gym, fitness classes, bowls etc) in each constituency and the great news is that there will still be in total over 1615 hours per week offered through Be Active to people across the city.

      In addition to this, Birmingham City Council’s parks department are shortly to come on board with the scheme and will be offering a range of physical activity opportunities in parks and open spaces across Birmingham that will further complement the revised offer.

  3. Vincent says:

    Be active has been cut servely at my local pool/gym. What was free all day until 17:00, is now only available between 21:00 – 22:00. It’s cheaper to join a (better), private gym than pay for City facilities. Expect closures next year.

    • geoffc says:


      Yes Be Active has changed from last year but thanks to our NHS partners we are still able to enjoy free leisure access in Birmingham – this is not the case in other areas of the country.

      Be Active continues to be a huge success and for many people joining a private gym is simply not an option.