The crisis facing our swimming pools – why more people could drown The energy crisis is hurting swimming pool operators up and down the country, with many fearing for their future, seriously impacting their ability to help their community enjoy water safely. Soaring fuel costs could herald a reduction in pool programmes and even threaten the closure of much loved and needed community pools. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the sector. The lasting impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), staff shortages and now sharp and severe price hikes are putting operators under extraordinary pressure and presenting real threats to the nation’s stock of swimming pools. Our friends at some of the most influential groups in the industry have written to Michael Gove and Nadine Dorries – Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Secretary of State for Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, respectively. The letter voices their concerns and calls for urgent support to save leisure facilities from closure. Read more here. At the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), we foresee the impact of swimming pools closing as an increase in drownings. In 2020 swimming pools were closed due to COVID-19, and people flocked to beaches, rivers, lakes, and other waters to have fun. Many children hadn’t had swimming lessons for some time and had missed out on their regular visits to the pool with friends or family. This resulted in a drop in water confidence and swimming ability and has unfortunately ultimately resulted in a year on year increase in UK accidental drownings through 2020 and 2021. We know swimming pools are one of the safest places to enjoy water. Many pools have lifeguards and staff trained to educate users to enjoy the facilities in a safe and fun manner. Swimming pools are such an important part of a community. It is unthinkable that pool closures will mean more children potentially losing out on the life skills of learning to swim and how to enjoy water safely - simply because they do not have a pool to learn and swim in! We are working with the sector to help navigate these challenging times, particularly by supporting operators to keep their pools open by ensuring they have highly qualified lifeguards in post. A shortage of lifeguards is an additional challenge that pools are facing. Lifeguards are critical to the safe operation of swimming pools and providing a secure environment for people to enjoy the water and learn to swim. Our National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) ensures the highest of standards and is the most awarded lifeguard qualification in the UK and Ireland (95% of all UK pool lifeguards). In recent RLSS UK surveys, 99 per cent* of RLSS UK candidates told us they felt proud to hold a RLSS UK regulated qualification, and almost three-quarters (71 per cent**) of lifeguards told us they felt proud to know how to save a person’s life, and 60 per cent** gained satisfaction from being part of a highly respected profession. Rightly so, as a recent consumer survey revealed five in six UK adults*** think that it is important that an indoor pool has trained lifeguards present. Any swimmer aged 16-years or older can become a NPLQ lifeguard in just five days, and there are currently 350 lifeguard courses advertised throughout the country in June and July. A lifeguard qualification is a fantastic springboard for a range of careers, from the emergency services and the military to the leisure sector. #IStartedAsALifeguard Lifeguards and public swimming pools play a unique role in our society. They provide affordable access to one of the most universally accessible forms of exercise, offering huge benefits for mental and physical health. They are also places where both children and adults learn the skills that could one day save their life. We cannot afford to lose them. That is why we will continue to lend our support to the sector and raise awareness in government of the challenges facing pool operators to help prevent the loss of these valuable assets. At RLSS UK, we work tirelessly to educate people to enjoy water safely. Click here to download our free water safety education resources Click here for information on RLSS UK’s Drowning Prevention Week * Regulated Qualifications Feedback Survey (n=147). ** Lifeguard Survey (n=3,498). ***Consumer Survey adults in the UK aged 18-65 (n= 561).