Beaches could be without lifeguards should lockdown be lifted

Siblings George, Emma, Laura and Jack Griffin were RNLI Lifeguards on duty at Sea Palling beach in 2

Siblings George, Emma, Laura and Jack Griffin were RNLI Lifeguards on duty at Sea Palling beach in 2017. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

Fears have been raised that Norfolk beaches could be left dangerously unprotected this summer should the lockdown be lifted.

The RNLI halted all lifeguard operations as part of the coronavirus lockdown on March 25 but the government has not included beach lifeguards in its job retention scheme.

This means that lifeguards who would usually be patrolling beaches this summer may be forced to find work elsewhere because the government furlough scheme doesn’t extend to them.

A group of over 430 seasonal lifeguards have launched a campaign to appeal for support from the government to tackle the problem.

The Government Treasury issued a statement on April 27 stating that any lifeguards affected by the current situation should apply for Universal Credit (UC) in the interim.

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But many lifeguards are seeking additional employment in an extremely challenging jobs market to provide for their households.

Tom Houghton, RNLI senior lifeguard in Newquay, said: “With the prospect of restrictions being lifted in the summer months, the worry is that the beaches will see record numbers of families and other visitors flocking to the coast - it will be a real struggle for lifeguards to provide any kind of lifesaving service without financial support for the staff now.

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“Training to be a lifeguard is tough – you have to understand the dangers of the sea and the coastline, be physically fit enough to rescue people in rough water, be competent in advanced first aid and, as a senior guard, I have to know how to plan and lead patrols and rescues. If experienced lifeguards have to get other work to make ends meet, they won’t be easy to replace.”

North Norfolk District Council leader Sarah Butikofer said: “The service provided by the RNLI Lifeguards is a key component of the Blue Flag Beach offer in North Norfolk.

“The issue of not having sufficient cover is a real one, and the RNLI have told us that they will prioritise those beaches that need safety cover the most. Therefore, given that we have six Blue Flag beaches, we are expecting that they would still cover those six locations as a priority.”

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