DORSET beaches could be left unprotected this summer unless the government provides support to beach lifeguards.

The UK Lifeguard Solidarity Group (ULSG), a community of over 430 seasonal lifeguards calling for the government to extend the furlough scheme to include seasonal workers.

The worry is, with no financial guarantee, summer lifeguards may be forced to look elsewhere for work. If lockdown restrictions are lifted in time for summer, this could lead to beaches across the country being left unguarded.

Lifeguards across the country are currently lobbying their respective MPs to request an extension to the furlough scheme to include returning, seasonal workers like themselves who provide a vital service.

Tom Houghton, RNLI senior lifeguard, 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.”

‘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. So if experienced lifeguards have to get other work to make ends meet and then aren’t available when the service is needed in the summer, they won’t be easy to replace.”

The RNLI has offered to provide some support to those lifeguards who had begun early season work. However, as a charity it is unable to match the 80 percent pay package the furlough scheme provides or extend this support to the number of peak season lifeguards who had not yet begun work.

Arron Evans, RNLI senior lifeguard, said: “The Lifeguard service relies on its returning lifeguards to impart the experience and skills required to do the job, it can take years to be trained on the rescue crafts and there is no substitute for experience."