Our Organisation page image

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) is the Drowning Prevention Charity and the UK’s leading provider of water safety and drowning prevention education.

Around 400 people needlessly die from drowning in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life-changing, through near-drowning experiences. Putting these figures into context one person dies every 20 hours in the UK and drowning is a leading cause of accidental death of children in the UK.

We have a huge challenge facing us to help save lives and reduce the number of UK and Irish citizens drowning.

Here at the RLSS UK we have an impressive heritage. We have built up years of experience and we are proud to boast a strong force of loyal members and volunteers who work with us to promote water safety and educate in lifesaving skills. Our roots were established back in 1891 as the Life Saving Society, and in the early 1900s, with support from the Royal family, we were granted permission to adopt the ‘Royal’ to our title – a badge that we are still immensely proud of today.

We have used our extensive knowledge of water safety and training to develop a comprehensive range of vocational qualifications and a series of awards and programmes which have the ultimate aim of preventing drowning and stopping unnecessary loss of life – including the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ), the premier lifeguard training programme.

Our core purpose is to prevent drowning and we want to deliver a year-on-year reduction in the rate of British and Irish citizens drowning through the identification of seven challenging ambitions which we intend to focus our attentions on, having the maximum impact possible on these facets of the work we undertake.

View the RLSS UK Business Plan

View our Awards Fees

Di Steer - RLSS UK CEO


Di is CEO of the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the Drowning Prevention Charity, and was previously its Corporate Director. Organisational Development is Di’s key area of expertise, this was developed in the early part of her career in Central Government, working for then then Department of the Environment and latterly the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.  During this period she led many transformational projects some of which won awards for innovation.  Many of the projects were designed to bring about reform and culture change and therefore Di has a wealth of experience in guiding and leading people through difficult organisational journeys.  The RLSS UK journey to becoming the UK’s Drowning Prevention Charity has been one such journey, which has required a change in public perception and engagement with Government through lobbying and campaigning.

It was Di’s fascination with organisational dynamics that drew her to the Charity sector.  She believes in ‘whole workforce’ approach to organisational success. A great ambassador for team work and empowerment; Di is passionate about providing an environment for people. Previously a freelance Management Consultant, Di has an MSc in Strategic Personnel and Development and is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


RLSS UK President Ian Hutchings

Ian has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to lifesaving, having started teaching it voluntarily with his local swimming club at just 14. Ian went on to become a qualified lifesaving instructor two years later and continues to deliver these essential skills.

Ian spent 30 years with the police force, during which he was involved with front line policing as well as specialising as a firearms officer. Throughout this time, Ian competed in a host of lifesaving competitions on the beach and in the pool, winning many National titles in both the police and civilian arena. He also coached and managed a number of police lifesaving teams.

After his retirement from the force, Ian set up his own business delivering lifeguard and first aid training which has been very successful. 

Ian has also coached and managed the GBR lifesaving team and youth team.

 Ian has served on the charity’s development commission as well as taking on the role of Chair of the sports development group which he held for six years. He was elected Deputy President of RLSS UK in 2013 and in June 2016, took up the mantle of President.



RLSS UK Deputy President Mark Smith

Mark is believed to have become the youngest Deputy President the society has ever seen when he was elected to the post in 2016.

Mark has been involved in lifesaving and lifeguarding for most of his life, with much of that time spent developing safer open water environments for organised events, specialising in music festivals across the UK, as part of a team based in the Midlands.

As Deputy President, Mark wants to concentrate on reversing the trend, seen over the last few decades, of lifesaving clubs closing down. He is keen to develop ways to make current clubs thrive and strategies to bring about the formation of new ones. Mark also wants to keep a clear focus on how the Society’s drowning prevention message can really hone in on open water issues.

Having been a pool lifeguard himself, Mark knows the merit of our highly trained members and is keen to explore how lifeguards can be further developed to extend our message – as the Drowning Prevention charity – deeper into communities.

Mark has a degree in Business, a Masters degree in Event Management and currently works in leisure & tourism. He is familiar with the changing economy and how this may affect the charity.


Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dawn Whittaker

Dawn dedicates a significant amount of time to volunteering and fundraising, having being involved with; Riding for the Disabled, the British Heart Foundation, Kidney Research, RAFT, Red Cross, Cancer UK, the Firefighters Charity, RNLI and of course RLSS UK.

After graduating in 1988, Dawn worked professionally as a manager in the John Lewis Partnership for 14 years. She then moved into the public sector and worked for Northamptonshire County Council, before moving into Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service where she completed an MBA in Business Administration. Dawn then spent a year in Central Government as a Professional Ministerial Adviser. Dawn’s current role is Chief Executive and Chief Fire Officer for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

Her relationship with RLSS UK began when she was appointed as the UK national lead for drowning prevention and water safety for the Chief Fire and Rescue Officers Association in 2013, working closely with the society as part of the National Water Safety Forum

Dawn was appointed as Chair of the Board of Trustees of RLSS UK in July 2016, having previously been a trustee for two local voluntary infrastructure organisations, as well as chairing the Board of Northampton Volunteering Centre through a significant period of change.


Cavell Burchell, Governance Advisor

After graduating in Economics, Cavell went on to complete a PGCE and embarked on a career in education which has lasted more than 35 years.

Cavell splits his community work between his two main passions, the Scouting Association and RLSS UK.  He is currently Trustee and Vice Chairman of the Bexley District Scouts.

Currently the Governance Advisor for RLSS UK, Cavell has enjoyed two extended periods on the Board of Trustees since being inaugurated in 1995. Previous roles he has undertaken within the Society include Chair of two former National Standing Committees, Branch Chair, RLSS UK Senior Tutor, Staff National Trainer Assessor for Lifesaving, Pool and Beach Lifeguarding and Boat Handling.

In the early 1990s he was joint lead on the development of the RLSS UK’s National Beach Lifeguard Qualification and was honoured to be nominated by the RLSS Commonwealth to be part of a British Council funded project for two people to visit Sierra Leone to develop and train a Lifeguard Service for Lumley Beach.

In 2016 his contribution to the RLSS was recognised by the Commonwealth body with his nomination as one of the 125 recipients of the HRH Prince Michael of Kent 125th Anniversary Certificate of Merit.


Deborah Hunt, Trustee

Deborah has been a member of RLSS UK for over 43 years and is involved in the society’s community outreach programmes and Lifesaving Sport.

She is well versed in the role requirements for trustee having previously been a trustee of two other charities.  Deborah has vast experience in safeguarding and has assisted in writing the current policy for the society. She helped two large charities with the writing and implementation of their safeguarding policies, both on a voluntary basis.

Deborah joined the police force and enjoyed a career spanning 34 years as a police officer. She spent the last 12 years dealing with the trafficking of children and adults into the UK.

She currently works for the UK Anti-doping organisation as a member of the doping control team, a job Debbie describes as ideal as she gets to watch amazing sportsmen and women compete and then spend time with them.

In addition, she carries out fraud investigations and has just become an observer for the Cross Channel and Pilot federation having successfully completed a cross channel relay in July with six other female Past Presidents of the Kent Branch

Deborah is a keen technical official for lifesaving sport competitions and recently officiated at her fifth World Lifesaving Championships in The Netherlands


Bryan Finlay, Trustee

Bryan has been involved with RLSS UK since he was 13-years-of-age when he joined his local lifesaving club. He has since become one of the society’s most dedicated volunteers, giving up his spare time to support both its training and charitable initiatives.

A passionate and proactive volunteer, Bryan is currently responsible for leading and managing over 500 volunteers and spends hours every week delivering lifesaving and water safety training to a whole host of different organisations and communities.

He has been a trustee for RLSS UK for seven years and was involved in many of the national standing committees. He is also Scottish regional chair, a position he is proud to have held for three years.

In addition, Bryan is a great supporter of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Austin Charity and dedicates what little spare time he has to these two deserving causes.

Bryan has worked in social care and child care for a number of years, in addition to the leisure industry. Bryan works in the Scottish Ambulance Services National Risk and Resilience Department, developing community resuscitation initiatives within communities within the east side of Scotland.


Emma Davids, Trustee

Based in Yorkshire, Emma has been a leading volunteer at Bingley Life Saving Club for over 10 years and, professionally, is the IT Programme Manager at Leeds Beckett University.

Having studied at the University of Manchester, Emma graduated with BSc (Hons) in Computer Science, which has proved to be a solid foundation for her IT career. Over the past decade Emma has held various technical, analyst and managerial roles and currently leads a team of IT Project Managers & Business Analysts.

Volunteering is big part of Emma’s life as she extensively volunteers for RLSS UK at club, branch and national level. Emma is both a Lifesaving & Lifeguarding Trainer Assessor for Bingley Life Saving Club and sits on the committee for the Bradford & Airedale Branch. Away from the water Emma is also a volunteer for the BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT, of which she holds MBCS status.


Shivaji Shiva, Legal Advisor

As the RLSS UK’s Legal Advisor, lawyer Shivaji has the task of helping the Board of Trustees and the Senior Management Team identify and manage all the legal risks that face the charity.

This includes a range of guidance from advising on the constitution of the charity, helping the fundraising team manage partnerships with donors or commercial partners and advising on commercial issues such as contracts with suppliers or the trademarks of the charity.

With over ten years experience in the charitable sector Shivaji works with a broad client base ranging from campaign groups and national children’s charities to healthcare and sustainable transport charities. He is also an active member and former Secretary of the Charity Law Association.

In addition, Shivaji advises staff and board members of social enterprises, charities and other not-for-profit organisations on the creation of such organisations, their dissolution and most of the issues they encounter during their lifespan. This work sees him offer counsel on the restructuring and re-organisation of charities including merger, and the development of complex collaboration arrangements.


Rhyan Barry, Honorary Treasurer

Rhyan qualified as a chartered accountant eight years ago and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Management Accountants. Rhyan has worked in finance for over 15 years within the private and public sector. At Warwickshire County Council she assessed the financial viability of organisations bidding for grants and their financial strength, strategy and past perfomance.

Currently she works in the private sector as the Finance Director for a group of companies within the motor industry  where she is responsible for financial strategy, project work as well as the smooth running of day-to-day finances and supplying robust financial information to the Board.

Rhyan is now studying for an MBA in Global Finance at the University of Derby in order to develop vital attributes for business success such as problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, leadership and managing risk.

Rhyan has also taken up various volunteering roles throughout her career which include being a financial mentor for Sported, a charity set up by Sir Keith Mills  to support community groups that use sport to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people.

As the mother of a keen sailor it was this that spurred her interest and support of the RLSS UK.


Suzanne Gabb, Trustee

Suzanne Gabb moved to the UK from Vancouver, Canada 5 years ago.  She has been involved with the UK RLSS for the past 2 years and the Commonwealth RLSS for the past 16.

She previously studied Business and Sports Science at Trinity Western University, and has worked  within the Leisure Industry for 18 years within 5 Countries.  Suzanne has a diverse experience teaching and managing multiple sports programmes such as adaptive snowsports, football, gymnastics and children’s activities but her main focus over the years has been within the Swimming World.  Swimming has always been a part of Suzanne’s life, as a competitive swimmer, water polo player and synchronized swimmer it was a natural fit to begin teaching swimming at 16.  She has Lifeguarded, Coached, and Managed multiple outdoor pools within three Countries (Canada, United States and Australia).  Suzanne has introduced a Water Safety Focused Swimming programme to complement the already well established ASA framework.  Suzanne believes that operators have an obligation to the children and families within the local area to teach as many individuals how to swim safely in all bodies of water.  Swimming is a life-skill and every child deserves the right to learn how to survive in water.


James Cossons, Youth Advisor

James started Life Saving at the age of 14 at a local Life Saving Club. Having developed his own skills he moved on to be an instructor passing when he was 18 and has since trained numerous young people in both Survive & Save and Rookie Awards. In the past four years he has held various Committee roles, during which James organised multiple school presentations, promotional stands and Save a Life workshops. In 2017, James won the Stanley Peck Trophy for being area organiser of the year.

Having left college with A-Levels in Business Studies, Computing and Electronics he joined his current employer, Aon through their Apprenticeship programme as a Reinsurance Account Manager. Through his work James holds a Certificate in Insurance from the Chartered Insurance Institute.

Our Ambitions