Column by Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall.

As a father to two young children, I know how important it is to feel you are doing everything possible to give your family the best start in life.

In the summer, I teamed up with local mums, dads and families to push the Council to create a new scheme, offering free swimming to local expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy.

After months of campaigning, I am delighted that from February 1st this year, pregnant women living in South Gloucestershire will now have access to free swimming. This free service will now be offered in every single Active Leisure Centre across South Gloucestershire in; Yate, Bradley Stoke, Kingswood, Longwell Green and Thornbury.

To take part, expecting mums must simply present their Maternity Exemption Certificate, which is supplied by their doctor or midwife.

Delivering this promise of free swimming has been an incredibly important objective in my Positive Plan for Schools and Family Life here in South Gloucestershire.

It has numerous benefits specifically for pregnant women, such as preventing diabetes during pregnancy, improved fitness and reducing high blood pressure.

Swimming can also have a long-term effect on a child’s development beyond birth, with further research suggesting that it has a potential for improving the mental and physical health of children.

The news is a great step forward in achieving the first stage of my Positive Plan, to improve Family Life. I will now push for ensuring that other aspects of this plan see the same success for our Schools, by building two new primary schools in Yate, rebuilding Castle School and upgrading schools throughout South Gloucestershire and improving special educational needs and disabilities provision.