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ASSA raises concerns over future of swim schools
The Australian Swim Schools Association (ASSA) has warned of a potential rise in drownings if learn-to-swim programs remain closed because of the Coronavirus shutdown, sharing fears that one in five swim schools around the country will close their doors for good as a result of the crisis.
As reported today by the ABC, ASSA has advised that learn-to-swim industry has been hit hard by the forced closures, with the Association concerned that hundreds of centres set to shut permanently without any income to pay off their debts.
ASSA spokesperson, Ross Gage told the ABC “there is a concern if we can't get children back into the pool soon, we will see a tragic spike in drownings over summer.
"We estimate 20-25% of the privately owned swim schools may be unable to reopen. That could be up to 300 swim schools."
Despite businesses struggling, the ABC reported that the Victorian Government is refusing to waive or reduce license fees for swim schools on Crown land.
It advised that the family-run Heidelberg Learn to Swim Centre in suburban Melbourne had to lay off 30 staff after it was forced to close its doors.
Owner Pasquale Di lorio, who has run the centre for 16 years with his wife Joanne Love, advised “for us it's been quite dire … we are predicting we will be operating in the red for close to two years.
"At the moment, we are losing $4,000 a week in the overhead costs of keeping the pool running, bills and government fees, but we're receiving zero income - we expect to be in about $150,000 debt by the end of the year.”
Despite their dramatic downturn, Love advised that repeated pleas with the Victorian Government for financial relief were yet to produce results.
She told the ABC “we intend to fight and try to get up off the ground, but at the moment, we are on our knees and we aren't receiving any help and we know there are hundreds of other swim schools who are struggling in the same boat as us."
The impacts could be widespread, with the Royal Life Saving Society - Australia saying it is concerned about a drop-off in swimming enrolments even once restrictions are lifted, because parents will not be able to afford to send their children to lessons.
Expressing fears for the future of water safety education, Royal Life Saving Chief Executive, Justin Scarr explained “if children aged between five and eight years old don't re-enrol in swimming and water-safety activities, I'm worried about them in 10 years' time.
"When they turn 17, 18 or 19, we know their drowning risk will increase substantially and so the skills they should've learnt this year will save their lives in a decade."
Sharing the concern about small regional pools not reopening, Scarr stated “the impacts of a closure in a small country town would be significant.
"We're most concerned about the inequity - children in outer-urban areas or regional areas where people have larger budgetary impacts will be more at risk."
He advised that Royal Life Saving was aware that said 70,000 swimming instructors and lifeguards had been stood down in March, with the Federal Government's JobKeeper payments now set to assist 50,000 staff.
Looking forward, Royal Life Saving sees that there needs to be discussion about what governments could do to help stimulate swimming as an essential activity and make sure children did not miss out on a vital life-saving skill.
Scarr added “it's pretty clear, once the COVID measures are much clearer, we need a turnaround strategy or a fight-back strategy to make sure those children aren't lost, and they do grow up with water-safety skills.”
In a statement, a Victorian Government spokesperson said the closure of swimming pools as part of the measures to slow the spread of Coronavirus "clearly affects swim schools".
The spokesperson advised “we remain committed to ensuring all Victorians have the chance to learn important swimming skills and we look forward to continuing our work on programs like VICSWIM when swimming pools reopen."
Swim lesson image courtesy of the Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre.
29th April 2020 - ASCTA advocacy highlights the value of swim coaching and teaching
24th April 2020 - Coach calls for elite swimmers to be given access to pools
21st April 2020 - SwimDesk launches new swim schools podcast
20th April 2020 - Swimming Australia celebrates first year of iSwim
30th March 2020 - Ross Gage transitions to new advisory role with ASSA
24th March 2020 - ASCTA/Swim Australia release Coronavirus guidance for swim schools
7th February 2020 - ASSA reports highly successful Singapore International Swim School Spectacular
29th January 2020 - Swim schools concerned about Coronavirus
3rd December 2019 - VICSWIM partners with Paul Sadler Swimland for water safety education
21st October 2019 - Minister backs VICSWIM Summer Kidz Program launch
6th August 2019 - ASSA announces latest inductees to Australian Swim Schools Hall of Fame
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