First UK Drowning Prevention Strategy launched

1 March 2016

The UK’s first national drowning prevention strategy has been launched today (1 March) to reduce the number of accidental drownings.

Created by members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), including the ASA, RLSS and RNLI, the 10-year strategy aims to halve the number of fatalities on or near water by 2026.

About 400 people drown and a further 200 take their own lives in waters around the UK every year, equating to one accidental drowning every 20 hours. While activities in and around water are safer now than ever, 44 per cent of drowning fatalities happen to people who had no intention of entering the water. 

The UK strategy highlights the areas that organisations need to focus on to make a difference, and asks for support in contributing towards the national plan. 

The NWSF, which includes a core group of 40 organisations and a network of a further 300 groups, is calling on individuals and organisations to sign up to a pledge to reduce drownings. 

Minister for Transport, Robert Goodwill MP, hosted a Parliamentary reception to mark the  launch of the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy. He commented: “The number of people drowning each year is shocking and must be cut. As an island nation the water plays an integral part of our lives. But the sea, rivers, lakes and canals are all too frequently killers and action needs to be taken.

“That is why I fully support the launch of this drowning prevention strategy. Working together we can significantly reduce the number of tragic deaths and prevent the families of hundreds of people each year going through unbearable pain and suffering.”

ASA CEO, Adam Paker, added: “This is an absolutely vital strategy which the ASA is fully committed to supporting. 

“Too few primary school children are being given the opportunity to learn how to swim and to learn about water safety. We are pleased that the government is committed to changing this, but we also need to ensure ongoing education so that children and families can continue to enjoy our rivers, lakes and seas safely. 

“This year’s Swim Safe initiative, which is run in partnership with the RNLI, is even bigger than before, with more locations across the UK. Our long-term ambition is to provide free outdoor water safety sessions to every child in the country so they have practical knowledge about how to stay safe in and around water.”  

George Rawlinson, Chair of the National Water Safety Forum, said: “The organisations represented through the National Water Safety Forum have united in a common aim – to use our resources in the most effective way to halve accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 2026.  

“It’s an ambitious target but well worth striving for. Ultimately, we hope to save every life – one life lost is one too many.”  

The strategy was created in response to the World Health Organisation’s report on global drowning, which recommended that every nation should have a drowning prevention strategy. 

The first five key aims of the strategy are:

  • Every child should have the opportunity to learn to swim and receive water safety education at primary school and where required at Key Stage 3
  • Every community with water risks should have a community-level risk assessment and water safety plan
  • To better understand water-related self-harm
  • Increase awareness of everyday risks in, on and around the water
  • All recreational activity organisations should have a clear strategic risk assessment and plans that address key risks.

View the Drowning Prevention Strategy and pledge your support.

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