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Plans for free iCards to continue every summer from 2020

PUBLISHED: 10:33 01 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:23 01 July 2019

Plans for the free summer iCards to continue every year have been voiced by David Ellesmere. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Plans for the free summer iCards to continue every year have been voiced by David Ellesmere. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Free iCards which give youngsters access to dozens of sports activities during the summer months will continue every summer, it has been announced.

Mr Ellesmere said the free iCards helped parents feel secure knowing their children could have something safe to do in the holidays. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNMr Ellesmere said the free iCards helped parents feel secure knowing their children could have something safe to do in the holidays. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere had already confirmed the free iCards rolled out last year would return once again this summer.

It gives all school-age pupils in Ipswich free access over the six-week holidays to the council's gyms, swimming pools and sports activities.

At Friday's Suffolk Public Sector Leaders gathering of all council leaders and chief executives, Mr Ellesmere confirmed plans to put in place a budget for free cards every summer going forward.

"In our budget we have made the funding for the free summer iCards permanent," he said.

Roller skating at Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich is among the sports on offer. Picture: ARCHANTRoller skating at Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich is among the sports on offer. Picture: ARCHANT

"Assuming there are not many cuts in funding from central government [to councils] then free summer iCards will be here to stay."

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The scheme was introduced last summer in the wake of the murder of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens, as part of measures to reassure communities and help keep youngsters out of gang activity by providing things to do.

It was organised through state schools last year because of the quick turnaround needed, but this year the process has been simplified.

Now all youngsters aged 5-16 living in Ipswich borough will get a card.

Mr Ellesmere added: "Parents are concerned those six weeks over the summer holidays are a dangerous time for children and they do need safe activities they can go to."

The council said there were more than 400 activities which the cards can be used for, including the council's gyms and swimming pools, and other sports activities like Jumpers for Goalposts in the council's parks, archery, basketball and roller-skating.

Figures published for last year's inaugural rollout revealed it cost the council £100,000.

That summer saw nearly 13,000 sign-ups for the cards, resulting in 18,501 visits to Crown Pools by youngsters over the six weeks, 2,481 visits to the park outreach programmes, 6,919 sports centre visits and 1,688 gym visits.

More than 20,000 cards are set to be dished out this summer, with sessions beginning from July 25, and online booking open July 18.

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