Learning to swim can save lives, says RoSPA during Family Safety Week

24/03/2014

Teaching older children to learn to swim is a skill for life that can help to prevent drowning accidents.   

This is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) call to action for parents, schools and the Government during day two of its Family Safety Week - the first of its kind in the UK - which runs until Friday (March 28).   

With just a few months to go until the summer holidays, when millions of families will be heading to beaches, inland waters or swimming pools at home and abroad, there has never been a better to time to teach your children how to swim.

According to 2012 drowning figures from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID), children and young people aged 0-19 accounted for 12 per cent of deaths (43), of which more than half were teenagers aged 15 to 19 (25) who predominantly got into difficulties in rivers or at the coast or beach. Eleven of the drownings involved children aged 5-14, while a further seven drownings involved children aged four and under.   

Meanwhile, recent research has shown that more than 1.1million primary schoolchildren in England - 51 per cent of children aged seven to eleven - cannot swim the 25metre length of a typical swimming pool unaided.     

Parents and carers can find advice and information on water safety, as well as details of local providers of swimming lessons at www.familysafetyweek.org.uk/diary.htm.     

RoSPA is urging people to get involved during Family Safety Week by taking part in its online National Accident Survey, making a safety pledge or sharing safety advice with friends, family and colleagues via social media, as well as downloading a Twibbon to show support on Twitter.   

David Walker, RoSPA’s leisure safety manager, said: “Every child should be given the opportunity to learn to swim; it is a skill which will benefit children for the rest of their lives.   

“Accidental drowning deaths in all water have remained around the 400 mark for the past decade and 10 per cent of these fatalities are children, who were swimming or playing in open water.   

“Swimming pools, lifeguarded beaches and lidos are by far the safest places to swim, which is why children should have access to a high quality swimming pool and lessons.   

“If you are not able to get to these locations, and instead choose to go to an unsupervised site, think through the dangers first and ensure you know what to do if something goes wrong. Even on a hot day, the water can be a lot colder and deeper than expected, and there may be strong currents and underwater debris.   

“Above all, make time to discuss water safety with your children and do not leave them to swim alone.”   

Family Safety Week was launched by RoSPA in a bid to help millions of people protect their loved ones from accidents - the top cause of preventable death. Other themes during the event include under-5s’ safety in the home, helping learner drivers, becoming safer drivers at work and preventing falls.   

Martin Roberts, the star of BBC1's Homes Under the Hammer, helped to launch the week at Allens Croft Children's Centre, in Birmingham, on Monday.   

RoSPA has been at the heart of accident prevention for almost 100 years. It exists to save lives and reduce injuries in the home, on the roads, during leisure, at work and in schools and colleges.   

This year’s Family Safety Week is sponsored by Royal Mail.  

Click here for the Scotland release.

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