Swim England

A nation swimming

Looking back at the important diversity and inclusion work done so far in 2023

To celebrate International Day of Disabled People 2023, Swim England takes a look back at the year so far and the important diversity and inclusion work that has taken place.

In a year which has seen a successful Para-Swimming World Championships held on home soil, the national governing body has also seen progress in its work with National Disability Sports Organisations (NDSOs), as well as with projects such as the Ripple Effect and the implementation of a ‘Diversity Confident’ recruitment scheme – plus much more.

Mike Hawkes, Swim England head of diversity and inclusion, explained that the work in this area is a focus ‘all-year round’.

He said: “Days such as International Day of Disabled People are fantastic for highlighting the importance of inclusivity, accessibility and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

“Whilst celebrating this is essential, it is also important to note that at Swim England, we are committed to increasing access to all areas of aquatics to disabled people, all-year round.

“The progress updates showcase just some of the work we’re doing – from health and wellbeing through to our national events and our work surrounding the Para-Swimming World Championships.”

Here, Mike and Swim England para-swimming development manager, Martin Lees, have provided updates on a number of key projects.

Work with National Disability Sports Organisations (NDSOs)

Throughout 2023, Swim England has continued to work with NDSOs in a range of areas.

Some examples include attendance and support of national galas and events, the co-production of an impairment specific CPD and increasing the opportunities for disabled people to participate.

The NDSOs are valued partners and the national governing body is looking forward to continuing its work with them in 2024.

Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect project, which aims to break down the barriers that prevent disabled people from volunteering and encourage them to get involved in aquatic sports, has gone from strength to strength.

The project has seen volunteers move from complete novices to attending national and international events.

Nicola Hughes, Swim England Ripple Effect project officer, and other members recently shared their experiences following their time spent at the British Masters Championships and the Allianz Para-Swimming World Championships earlier this year.

The project will continue into early 2024 and will see disabled volunteers from across Swim England’s partners continue to develop into timekeepers, judges and swimming lesson helpers.

Start Para-Swimming

Start Para-Swimming has continued to grow and provide local opportunities for young people with eligible impairments to develop their aquatic skills.

The aim is to get more disabled youngsters in the pool to learn to swim, with the long-term vision of becoming a future para-swimmer.

This is an important programme that will no doubt continue to grow during 2024 and throughout many years to come.

Taster sessions and events

Ahead of the Para-Swimming World Championships, Swim England worked with Activity Alliance and LimbPower to deliver an inclusive swimming taster session for people with physical impairments.

The session was held at Manchester Aquatics Centre, the host venue for the championships, with the hopes of having an inspirational impact on para-swimming across the nation.

Changes have also been made across national events over recent years, with the Swim England National Winter Championships and the Masters National Championships integrating para-swimming into the event programmes.

Inclusive Recruitment Academy

Working in collaboration with the Institute of Swimming, the Inclusive Recruitment Academy was launched alongside the Allianz Para-Swimming World Championship in Manchester.

It focuses on providing a route into teaching for disabled people and enables applicants to train as teachers for a fraction of the cost, with the opportunity for paid employment upon completion.

In 2024, Swim England plans to build upon this, using this year’s learnings to enable more disabled people to access the academy.

Improving access to aquatics for rehabilitation

In 2023, the national governing body has delivered targeted work in London boroughs and in Manchester to improve access to aquatic activity.

The aim was for young people receiving community-based health interventions to continue to access water-based opportunities.

This covered a range of physical impairments and has seen young people join their local learn to swim programmes and clubs.

By developing this infrastructure at a local level, Swim England has been able to provide healthcare professionals with a referral pathway that is suitable for young people with physical impairments to continue receiving the benefits of accessing water.

Further health and wellbeing work

Swim England’s Water Wellbeing accreditation supports pools to be more accessible and inclusive for those with health conditions, with tailored aquatic opportunities and 158 accredited sites across the country so far.

The programme has engaged 3,500 participants and has the long-term aim to reach all public pools.

Good Boost, an integral part of Water Wellbeing, has extended personalised aquatic rehabilitation opportunities to more than 140 pools, targeting individuals with chronic pain, low mobility and poor function.

Both programmes are reaching diverse populations, with 45 per cent from low-income households.

Next year will see a focus on expanding further and continuing to demonstrate the impact of aquatics on health and wellbeing outcomes.

Diversity Confident

Organisationally, Swim England is also committed to increasing the representation of disabled people within its workforce.

This year, the national governing body has implemented its ‘Diversity Confident’ recruitment scheme.

This expands upon the well-known ‘Disability Confident’ and ensures that all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria receive an interview.

As part of the scheme, all hiring managers have received inclusive recruitment training and a new scorecard process has been implemented to minimise unconscious bias.