OTS Wellbeing and Safeguarding
Statement of Understanding and Purpose
1. OTS is a vibrant and diverse community reflecting the different ages, sexualities, gender identities, backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds that make up the LGBT+ Community. Our aims are to promote physical and mental wellbeing, social inclusion, equality and diversity in aquatic sport for the LGBT+ Community.
2. People join OTS for a variety of reasons, including making new friends, keeping fit, love of travel, swimming/participating in sport with other LGBT+ people and for a sense of community. Lots of our members have been with the Club for years, if not decades, and, for many, it is a place where they have a strong sense of their place in a special family. We want this to continue. We also recognise that even in gay-friendly cities like London and Brighton, loneliness and life’s challenges can be a real issue for those in the LGBT+ Community and the Club can provide a significant source of stability and emotional support.
3. As a safe space for LGBT+ people, OTS aims to make everyone feel welcome and we want members to feel included and valued, irrespective of their swimming ability, background, race, gender or on any other grounds. We are aware that issues of body image and body shaming are very real and present in the LGBT+ Community and we want everyone to feel they belong irrespective of their physical appearance or how they might feel they appear to others.
4. We believe that all “Adults at Risk”, regardless of age, ability or disability, gender, race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, marital or gender status have the right to be protected from abuse and poor practice and to participate in an enjoyable and safe environment. An Adult at Risk is a person aged 18 or over who is in need of care and support regardless of whether they are receiving them, and because of those needs are unable to protect themselves against abuse or neglect. Our approach for safeguarding Adults at Risk applies equally to everyone at all levels across Out to Swim.
5. We acknowledge that many of our members are living with HIV and we celebrate them. We note that 4 in 10 gay men are living with HIV and we are keen to fight any stigma they may face. Positive Strokes was created in 2015 as a swimming club for HIV-positive women and men who want to compete as openly HIV positive swimmers and train and improve their technique in an accepting and welcoming environment. Positive Strokes swimmers train with Out to Swim and compete under their ASA membership.
6. We also recognise that mental health issues disproportionately affect LGBT+ teenagers and adults; and that rates of depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation are higher in the LGBT+ Community. We acknowledge the challenges and struggles that our members have overcome to be who they are in this present moment.
7. We support the call to destigmatise mental health issues.
8. We acknowledge research that regular exercise is beneficial for good physical and mental health for all people and the role that aquatics can play in providing this benefit.
9. By acknowledging the issues that LGBT+ people sometimes face, OTS aims to dispel the notion that there is any shame in experiencing challenges at any point in one’s life and working through them.
10. We will investigate any allegations of abuse, including bullying or discrimination.
11. However, OTS is NOT a mental health resource or specialist and is not responsible for monitoring or supporting the mental health of its members. Below we give links to specialist organisations for members to reach out to in the event that they are struggling with their mental health or other issues. We also encourage members - particularly those who are not UK citizens – to register with a GP as the gateway to health services and not to pay unnecessarily for services that are free at the point of need.
12. To underpin this approach, OTS already has a number of mechanisms in place.
A clear and friendly system for welcoming those who want to trial the Club and clear instructions for those wanting to become members.
A weekly newsletter, minutes of Committee meetings, Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep members informed about what’s going on in the Club and to make members feel involved.
Regular and one-off social events where members get the chance to meet each other.
Representatives on the main OTS Committee for each Discipline with whom members can raise concerns.
A women-only session on Thursdays at the Oasis and a women’s team in waterpolo.
A range of competitions and events in the UK and abroad for those members who wish to participate.
A discounted system of membership fees for those on a low wage and a Scholarship Fund for members requiring financial support to attend swim camps, competitions in the UK and abroad.
Our coaches and teachers work with members facing physical and mental health issues to ensure that appropriate adjustments are made, where necessary, to accommodate the issue in question.
A partnership with TAGS (trans and non-gender specific swimming group) to provide a safe space for trans and non-gender specific swimmers at Swiss Cottage.
In addition, we will:
Establish a buddy system for Swimming. This can help new members settle into the club, but it's also open to longer-standing members, who might want to work with a mentor to help develop their swimming skills, to overcome competition anxiety or to help them socialise more. New (inexperienced) members of Waterpolo join as part of a cadre and are supported as a group, however additional support will also be available from more experienced players. Each new Synchro member is introduced to a mentor who supports them during their first months with the group.
Encourage swimmers to introduce themselves to those in their lane and especially to welcome any new members.
Conduct regular surveys to gauge members’ views about different issues, including the coaching.
Develop initiatives to further support access and participation by trans and non-gender specific swimmers.
Explore the scope to arrange discussions for members on issues that raise awareness and challenge ignorance, e.g. on HIV and trans issues.
Keep under review and adapt as necessary our instructions to those wanting to trial or join the club to ensure they are as clear and welcoming as possible.
Continue to provide opportunities for members to mix and make friends with other members through a range of social events, including events that are not just party-focussed.
Seek to share stories in our communications that celebrate the Club’s community approach and members’ experience of facing challenges.
Provide ad hoc mental health first aid training to members of OTS from a Consultant Psychiatrist.
Links to organisations:
Safeguarding Adults at Risk Policy
Mental Health general resources
LGBTQ branch of MIND
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Mental Health Foundation
Rethink Mental Illness
Time To Change
Campaign Against Living Miserably
Mental Health UK
Beat Easting Disorder
Body confidence theatre-based workshops
Mindful Theraputic Community in Northern Thailand
New Life Foundation
Approved by OTS Committee - 14 May 2019