MP for Clacton, Giles Watling has taken over as the new Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Water Safety.

The group was established to provide more accessible water safety education across the UK to prevent future drownings. The group primarily focusses on how information can better be integrated into the education system, especially to those with existing inequalities and barriers, and communities with geographical risk factors.

Taking over from MP Damien Moore who previously chaired the group, Giles Watling said, “As a yachtsman and someone who has grown up around water all my life, I fully understand and support the mission of the APPG for Water Safety. We have tragically lost three children in Solihull who were playing on ice this week - this could have been prevented through proper water safety education. In the meeting, I was able to hear from the Royal Life Saving Society UK and the Black Owned Swim School. The work they are doing to promote water safety education, especially in minority communities, is admirable. Through the APPG, I hope to be able to assist them with their efforts so we never have to read such a tragic story like the one we did earlier this week.”

The most recent APPG was held on Wednesday 14 December, which comes just days after three boys lost their lives in Solihull as they fell through the ice and into the water on a frozen lake.

Charity Director of the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), Lee Heard, and Founder of the Black Owned Swim School (B.O.S.S), Annalize Butler, spoke with MPs about the importance of water safety in the most vulnerable communities.

Lee Heard addressed MPs talking about the work of RLSS UK and how the charity is dedicated in reducing the amount of drownings seen in the UK every year by making water safety education available to all.

Lee commented, “The Royal Life Saving Society UK is the leading charity in lifesaving and lifeguarding in the UK and Ireland. Since 1891 we’ve been sharing our expertise in water safety, lifesaving and lifeguarding to enable families to enjoy water safely.

“Unfortunately we see an average of 312 UK and Irish Citizens lose their lives to drowning each year. We believe that by integrating class-based water safety education into the national curriculum in schools, we can give all children, no matter their background, the skills and knowledge they need, to not only be able to enjoy being in, on or near water, but potentially save lives too. Throughout the year we create various free resources which are available on our website to offer schools, parents, children and others the opportunity to learn about water safety.

“The APPG has come at a pivotal time as we, RLSS UK, call on the Government to do more to make water safety education accessible to all students after the tragic loss of three young boys just days ago. The APPG is vital in helping us to achieve these goals. We hope that meeting with MPs and speaking with them about water safety will inspire them to spread these messages back in their constituencies, as well as get key messages into Parliament. Together we can prevent future drownings, make classroom-based water safety advice available to all, and ensure no more families have to experience the heartache of losing a child to drowning.”

There are already a number of MPs engaged with the group, including RLSS UK Patron Lord Storey. The APPG fell just after Prime Minister’s Questions on 14 December and all involved were keen to engage with even more MPs to spread the importance of water safety education, and get them talking about the topic.

Annalize Butler also presented to MPs, focussing on her work with the Black Owned Swim School, the disparity between Black people accessing swimming compared with others and her work with RLSS UK and their brand-new National Lifesaving Academy programme.

Annalize said “B.O.S.S is a charitable organisation which aims to work to prevent drowning in the most vulnerable, at risk communities in aquatics. Water safety education will fundamentally improve the water safety bill. The number one rule in aquatics is to make sure that no one drowns. We have seen lifesavers, as mentioned, in Solihull, putting their own lives at risk to save others.

“By working with an ethnic group, who have deep rooted barriers to swimming and lifesaving education, we are improving conditions, education and safe exposure to inland and foreign waters. This includes rescue, school curriculum, sustainable water access through protected spaces for people of African/Caribbean descent, highest risk group, and working closely with the RLSS UK for the legacy and engagement that puts less lives at risk.

“We’re making a case with the RLSS UK’s NLA curriculum, B.O.S.S training and economical spaces that provide the basic foundations to increase water safety, as a means to level up the disparities in statistics and risks associated with the most vulnerable aquatic group(s). Our results will become a precedent for those who identify with the underlying factors that contribute to making water safety a priority, particularly for domestic cases that appear to increase in city dwelling populations, inland waterways.”

The next APPG will be held in March 2023 and RLSS UK will continue to provide water safety education resources to work towards a nation without drowning.

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