Popular Kidzone scheme extended to prevent missing children

A campaign aimed at preventing children from going missing at busy beaches has been re-launched following a surge in demand on emergency resources.

The LV=Kidzone scheme aims to educate parents and children on what to do if a child or vulnerable person becomes separated from their parents or guardian. Now in its 15th year, the scheme is backed by Dorset Police and the RNLI in a bid to spread the word far and wide.

Operating now for an extended ten weeks in Bournemouth, it is run by specially trained members of BCP Council seafront staff, with support from the multi-agency command control centre, until the 5 September. The LV= sponsored scheme will run for six weeks at Alum Chine, Durley Chine and Boscombe, from 19 July to 5 September, as it has in previous years.

Since the scheme began in 2007, the LV= KidZone team has successfully reunited hundreds of missing children. More than 400,000 visitors chose Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole during the hottest weekend of 2021 so far, resulting in BCP Council and partners having to reunite over 40 missing children with their parents and guardians.

With visitor levels expected to remain high for the summer, all visitors are encouraged to collect a free wristband for their children, available from LV= KidZone/seafront staff and RNLI Lifeguard towers, ensuring they have a safe and enjoyable day at one of the many award-winning beaches.

Cllr Mohan Iyengar, Portfolio Holder for Tourism, Leisure and Culture, said:

“We want to ensure that everyone who comes to our shores feels secure, armed with the necessary knowledge to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. We urge everyone to be vigilant and behave responsibly while enjoying their visit.”

Inspector Darren Harris, of BCP Local Policing Area, said:

“When a child or vulnerable adult goes missing on a packed beach it can be a very frightening experience for everyone involved.

“It is important that reports of missing children and adults are reported early to allow the police, council officials and other emergency colleagues to begin searching for them. Thankfully in the overwhelming majority of cases the search is successful and we can reunite friends and family.

“We would ask residents and visitors to follow these simple tips to ensure that lost children or vulnerable adults know where to go to ask for help and those involved in the search are provided with as much information as possible from the outset.”

Parents will be encouraged to write a contact mobile number on the wristband and are urged to supervise their children at all times. In the event that a child gets lost reiterate STOP: Stay where they are, don’t walk off; Tell a staff member (in a blue or yellow polo shirt); Observe, look carefully: if you see the person you were with, go and hold their hand; Pop to the nearest RNLI tower or find someone in a blue/yellow polo shirt.

For parents trying to find a child, remember TRIP: Tell a staff member (either in blue/yellow polo shirt or a member of the RNLI); Remain calm and stay with the staff member; Identify your child (please take a photo of your children on the day so staff can easily identify them); Please let us know if you find your child before we do so we can call off the search.

Kester Sheppard, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor for East Dorset, added:

“Our lifeguards are very happy to have this scheme on our beaches in the area. On a busy day, we know that children can disappear from sight very quickly and much of our lifeguards’ work involves reuniting children with their parents or carers. If you’re coming to one of our beaches for the day, please show your children where our lifeguard unit is as soon you arrive so that they know where to go for help.”

Samantha Preece, Director of Brand and Marketing at LV= said:

“As one of the largest employers in Bournemouth, it is a privilege to once again support families in our local community through the annual Kidzone scheme.

“We anticipate an even busier summer season at Bournemouth Beach after months of restrictions, so picking up a free wristband can limit further distress in the event that families get separated.”