A nationally acclaimed campaign to make young people aware of the dangers of cold water shock has achieved a notable victory with the cause having been taken up by a prestigious national body.
The Safe Durham Partnership’s (SDP) Dying to be Cool campaign – which was created and is led by Durham County Council – seeks to educate ten to 16-year-olds on the potentially fatal risks of jumping into rivers, lakes and streams without acclimatising.
It recently helped the council win a national MJ Achievement Award for Excellence in Community Engagement.
The campaign has now prompted the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England and Wales, to call on the Government to make teaching children about cold water shock compulsory.
It is asking for youngsters to be taught the dangers in swimming lessons organised by their schools, or in their personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons.
The LGA’s involvement comes after the council raised the need to educate young people about cold water shock with the association’s safer and stronger communities board (SSCB), through Durham County Council Cabinet member Cllr Joy Allen, who sits on the SSCB.
Cllr Allen, who has been heavily involved with Dying to be Cool, said: “It is great news that the work we have done has made such a respected national body as the LGA sit up and take notice.
“We have reached so many young people in County Durham and further afield with information which will help them stay safe and it is excellent that the need to increase awareness of cold water shock is now being raised at national level.”
Launched last year, Dying to be Cool has seen the council work with County Durham resident Fiona Gosling, whose 14-year-old son Cameron died from cold water shock in
2015 and who runs Campaigning for Cam which is seeking to have water safety added to the national schools curriculum.
Mrs Gosling said: “I’m so pleased that all the work we’ve been doing to raise awareness of cold water shock has contributed to the LGA taking it up.
“Teaching children about cold water shock in schools is something I’ve been calling for since Cameron died and it’s great the LGA is now pushing for this.
“I will continue to take every opportunity to make young people aware of the dangers to try and prevent other families having to experience the heartache which will always be part of our lives.”
Dying to be Cool launched with a video featuring Mrs Gosling and Cameron’s friends returning to the spot where he died, which has reached one million people through one Facebook post alone.
The campaign has seen the council’s One Point service, Mrs Gosling and representatives from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service deliver assemblies to more than 10,000 schoolchildren on the dangers of cold water shock.
The council has also delivered water safety sessions to more than 160 children at an outdoor pool and last year attracted the support of County Durham Olympic silver medal winning rower Jess Eddie for the campaign.
In new developments this summer, the assemblies have been rolled out to schools in the Darlington area by the fire service – a member of the SDP – working with Mrs Gosling.
The council is also supporting partners to allow information about cold water shock to be given out elsewhere, including through workshops for young people in the Tees Valley.
It has also helped schools in County Durham to get messages to parents on the risks their children face, including via text message.
The campaign has contributed to a reduction in water related fatalities and injuries since it was launched, according to SDP figures.
In 2015/16, there were nine near misses, five injuries and two fatalities across County Durham. In 2016/17, following the launch of the campaign, there were just four near misses, two injuries and one fatality.
On the back of the MJ success, Dying to be Cool has just been shortlisted in the integrated communications campaign of the year category, in the UK Public Sector Communications Awards 2017.
Cllr Lucy Hovvels, the council’s Cabinet member for community safety, said: “We remain committed to joining forces with others to continue the awareness raising work we have done so far.
“With schools about to break up for the summer holidays, it is particularly important that young people know they should not jump into open water without acclimatising.
“On behalf of everyone at the council I’d like to thank Fiona Gosling for everything she has done to help us get this message out.”