AIM Newsletter 2024

We are excited to release the copy of our latest On Target Newsletter 2024 with contributions from AIM Members

UKCA Canyoning guidance gives detail of the national training body for the sport and how you can get involved in a training programme for canyoning.

Legal update is provided by our colleagues at HCR Law on a case hitting the headlines for a failure to risk assess.

Details of our online member sessions which started in January and will be held each month virtually.

Pharos Response provide a year review for critical incidents, trends and lessons and details of the free insights sessions that Pharos are providing for AIM Members.

AIM On Target Newsletter – January 2023

We are pleased to share the latest edition of our On Target Newsletter for 2023 packed with articles from the outdoor sector and providing updates on the Mutual, our supporting insurer QBE and Thomas Miller.  There is a legal update from our colleagues at Ince and we profile two fabulous Members Ourea Events and RAW Adventures & RAW Expeditions.

So do grab a cuppa and dive in we hope you enjoy it.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

On Target Autumn 2020 Newsletter

Each year we publish our Autumn Newsletter, we love putting it together, and this year we’ve given Members the chance to tell their stories and share what’s working for them. We’ve heard from The Climbing Hangar, The Outdoors People and BeVenturesome.

Sam Sutton from New Forest Activities has offered some great marketing expertise on how providers can improve their services. Ben at BXM Expeditions has also provided us with a really great piece on mental health awareness.

We’ve also heard from Save Your Outdoor Centres, Save Outdoor Ed and from the ABC on the Climbing the Walls campaigns and we hope that you can support these.

As we have been unable to hold any member events this year we’ve included a section on our Team and Directors of the Board so you can put faces to names.

Plexus Law have provided a update on safeguarding of children, young people and and vulnerable adults in organisations.  This feature also gives some case updates where vicarious liability is discussed.

We hope to see all of you soon at one of our Member Events when we can finally get together safely. In the meantime we will continue to offer the Zoom get togethers that many of you have enjoyed.

Please provide any feedback or questions you may have to [email protected]



On Target Newsletter 2019


It has been another  successful year for AIM and we are pleased to take this opportunity to share with you our latest news from our Chairman, Andrew Gardiner, as well as a selection of industry updates, lessons learned and contributions from industry insiders such as Martin Smith of Adventure UK and a profile of our member Rockcity.

Clyde & Co discuss the changes in place regarding health and safety fines in the activities industry.  How prepared you are in responding to a critical incident with our colleagues at Pharos Response and AIM’s position on the defensibility of claims,  all subjects we know members worry about.

Wellbeing in the workplace is covered by MS Amlin who look at staff turnover, sickness absence, resilience and the impact on claims. Plus LOTC explains how the LOtc Quality Badge is helping more children access great educational experiences.

Plus all the usual updates on Conferences and Member Events and news from the AIM team.



On Target Newsletter – Autumn 2018

AIM’s Autumn Newsletter On Target has now been published and hopefully most of you will have had a chance to peruse the pages.  This year’s edition includes some of the usual features such as the Message from our Chairman, a review of AIM claims and updates on events and industry events.

We have a new Mutual Manager, Sophia Reed and Account Executive, Ralph Doe who have joined us and we profile all of the AIM team in this edition so you know who you need to talk to when contacting us.

It also includes a piece written by Vertex on wintering your ropes course with hints and tips on what needs to be done over the winter months to keep your course in tip top condition.  We have profiled long standing AIM member Mendip this year, who have successfully combined snow sports and outdoor activities together to achieve growth.

Our relationship with IOL continues and Andy Robinson CEO has provided a round up of news for the outdoor learning sector and our supporting insurer MS Amlin look at how you manage risk in an ever changing leisure landscape.

We’ve also included details about AIM’s Membership Committee which is seeking new recruits, so if you are interested in hearing more about being on our committee then do please get in touch we’d love to hear from you.AIM-Newsletter-Autumn2018-WEB




Outdoor Learning Roundup

Andy Robinson CEO of the IOL reflects on some potential areas of common interest and developments in the past 6 months.

The Institute for Outdoor Learning works closely with AIM sharing our understanding of the developing adventurous activity sector and seeking to promote participation and standards. Though as a broader outdoor learning sector we have many different specialist groups, we have much more in common than that which differentiates us.

HSE’s review of the Adventurous Activity Licensing Scheme.

Back in the 1990’s there was some frustration when the sector had a legislation backed inspection regime and associated licensing thrust upon it. Two decades later I am clear that the sector has benefited hugely through the development of an intelligent approach to risk management and legislation compliance. As the HSE explores the future of AALA it is important we don’t lose the culture that it has brought to the sector and any new regime needs to continue to bring the same rigour and developmental benefits to the sector……on a UK wide basis !

At the moment one of the potential options for the future is a HSE endorsed and sector led inspection regime that encompasses and possibly goes beyond the scope of ALAA. If the HSE is to adopt a regime with a wider remit than AALA then there is a need for providers to have an opportunity to consider their options and understand the pros and cons of any potential change. Though a relatively small population of folk have already started on this journey I am clear that the majority of UK based providers have not. HSE’s review of AALA that started in 2016 was not a big surprise. A number of us have been working for a while to enable the UK wide sector to ‘pick up the pieces’ if the AALA were to be withdrawn. This sector wide group has become known as the UK Adventure Industry Group and is seeking to ensure that any new regime reflects the changing nature of adventurous activities and can be applied consistently across the UK.

I’m aware that there is some nervousness about expanding the reach of the current legislation or even withdrawing/changing the legislation and moving to a sector led inspection regime that is endorsed by the HSE. Whilst it is not possible to predict the outcome of the current review, I draw comfort from a number of factors. Firstly, the HSE has yet to bring a prosecution under the adventurous activity licensing legislation.

Instead any prosecutions involving adventurous activity provision have been brought under the Health &  Safety at Work Act, something that remains in force regardless of any changes to Licensing. Secondly, should we move from the legal requirement to hold a licence to a HSE endorsed licence that the sector expects a provider to hold, the legal implications of failure to comply should an incident occur remain prosecution under the HSWA. If that happens the  HSE will refer to the sector led scheme that they have formally endorsed.

Finally, I remain convinced that the majority of providers value the feedback provided by a regular external inspection; a source of objective management information.

We should know more about the HSE’s review by  the end of the year and if you wish to contribute to planning for a sector led regime you can contact me direct.

Developing new apprenticeships for The Outdoor sector

As described last year the Institute is working with the Department for Education to develop new apprenticeships for the sector in England. There have been wide levels of support for this work with a very healthy cross section of employers joining the group helping to produce new standards, a new approach to assessment as well as a new governance structure. The project has reached the stage of agreeing funding levels with DfE and expects to announce

the new ‘Outdoor Session Deliverer’, the first level apprenticeship standard, later this year. Further details of the standards can be found on the IOL website

or through contacting the Institute’s Professional Standards Manager, neal.anderson@outdoor- or the Employer’s Group chair [email protected]

Joining up Research, Policy & Practice

Any of you who have spent any time looking for research evidence to support the value proposition for what you do, will probably have experienced a degree of frustration in the level of co-ordination and clarity in research findings across the outdoor sector. Working with the Blagrave Trust the Institute commissioned a report in 2015, highlighting the need for better join- up between academics and practitioners and better co-ordination of research activity in the sector. As a result the Institute is supporting the establishment of regional research hubs through 2017 and funding a research co-ordinator role.

The regional hubs will draw together research that has been carried out to date and is ongoing, as well as identifying the current and future research needs of practitioners in Outdoor Learning. In addition to enabling more information to flow between academics and providers, the hubs will provide guidance to policy bodies such as Natural England and they are already working closely with NE’s Strategic Research Group and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

Building a Chartered Body for outdoor learning

Finally in my round up of the past 6 month’s developments in the sector I should mention the movement towards the creation of a Chartered Body for the Outdoor Learning profession. I’m sure many of you recognise the under valuing of many aspects of outdoor learning and hopefully also recognise the increasing cohesion in the sector with activity such as the AALA review, new apprenticeships and co-ordinated research.

In 2016 at the Institute’s annual conference a commitment was made to set up a Chartered Body for the sector. In addition to the activity outlined in this article a range of bodies across the sector are planning to develop a campaign aimed at increasing every child’s access to a progression of outdoor learning experiences through their school years. If you’re interested in the campaign or influencing the establishment of a Chartered Body contact me [email protected]



Celebrating 10 Years of AIM

It is now 10 years since the Activities Industry Mutual (AIM) first opened its doors for
business as a specialist provider of liability cover for the outdoor activity sector. It has grown from small beginnings to become one of the market leading providers in the sector with over 750 clients (or members) and an annual income in excess of £2.3M. Owned by its Members, it provides cover for both organisations and individuals providing activities, ranging from water sports and cycling to climbing and coasteering.

How It All Began

James Willis initially became involved with the outdoor activity sector as an insurance broker in 2004. Tasked with finding insurance for a residential activities operator that had been refused renewal terms by their regular insurance company and offered no alternative by their broker, James was surprised by the difficulties he faced in finding cover for them, due mainly to the fallout from an economic downturn and a world-wide insurance squeeze. The outdoors was being penalised by insurers for being, in their eyes, a “non-mainstream” economic activity and on the basis of perceived risk rather than actual risk.

“This is very common in the insurance industry at the end of a negative economic cycle. Insurers who, following worldwide losses, were under-capitalised in 2002-3, focussed on their “core business and moved to abandon their more specialist sectors such as the outdoor activity industry.”

So what was the real sector risk? Marcus Bailie of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) said that while he had a record of fatal accidents, he didn’t have more wide-ranging accident statistics. He would be prepared to assist in promoting an initiative to get more information: so arose an industry-wide risk assessment survey of over 800 AALA licensed providers. Over 400 responses provided evidence showing a relatively low level of overall accidents and claims, which indicated that the sector was a long way from the “perceived high risk view” held by insurers.

The survey result suggested that adventure activities was a potentially sustainable and profitable sector
for insurers and it formed the basis of a report that James presented to a number of London market liability underwriters, including a mutuality specialist, Paul Koronka. Mutuals have an impressive record of bringing value and stability to specialist and difficult insurance market sectors and it was considered that mutuality could provide the most appropriate solution for the outdoor sector. The AIM Project had the green light.

Later that year James presented both the survey findings and the AIM initiative at both the IOL and BAPA annual conferences and his talks sparked an interest in a number of providers, none more so than AIM’s current Chairman, Andrew Gardiner, at the BAPA conference. Andrew remembered being so inspired that he attended the talk twice in the same day:
“Being responsible for a number of centres, and therefore carrying personal and corporate risk for a variety of outdoor activities I was always interested in insurance. But I had never really understood precisely how liability insurance cover was provided by the numerous layers of insurance providers. I didn’t actually know who was standing behind our business and even less was I convinced that they understood the risks and realities of the outdoor sector! So what James proposed was just what I wanted to hear. He explained how we, as an industry,
could work towards forming a mutual which would provide the cover we needed and at premiums which would reflect more accurately the risks attaching. ”

A steering committee was formed and included Andrew and other interested operators, including current
AIM directors, Bob Edwards of Stubbers Adventure Centre and Tricia Rawlingson-Plant of the Mill On The Brue Activity Centre. Chris Bayliss, finance director of The Field Studies Council also made a very valuable contribution in the early years. The steering group evolved to become the Activities Industry Mutual board, and member enthusiasm and support enabled “critical mass” to be achieved and the AIM scheme became a mutual in 2007, with Andrew Gardiner becoming Chairman, a role he is still enjoying 10 years on:

“The growth of AIM has exceeded my expectations, indeed, I think it has surprised everyone. Working with my fellow board members and the team of very able executives has been very rewarding. We have replaced, for most members, the previous roller-coaster experience of insuring with unknown organisations often for the short term, and with consistent cover. Mutuality has proven to be ideal for the outdoor sector and has resulted in stable costs and cover backed by people and organisations who know the sector and their members’ businesses”

It was probably not coincidental that once the survey results and the mutual initiative became known, there was a sudden new interest in the sector. Commercial insurers that had previously abandoned it or imposed punitive premium increases, showed interest again, but a mutual is different from a conventional commercial insurer, and AIM has usually been able to offer providers better cover for less. As a company whose members pool risks of a similar nature to achieve long term and stable insurance protection at cost, the key distinguishing feature is the alignment of its interests with those of its members. Surpluses (i.e. profits) are utilised for the benefit of its members, either as increased retained reserves or distributions returned back to members, and the mutual has no outside shareholders requiring dividends, nor does it pay commissions to third party brokers or “business introducers”.

The Changing Face of the Outdoors

The last 10 years has seen a period of structural change for the outdoor sector and the role of AIM has evolved within this changing environment. James has witnessed significant changes in both the scope of providers and their approach to safety management:
“Following government cuts, the last decade has been marked by a decline in local authority outdoor education provision, but it has been encouraging to see the emergence of new independent operators, many of whom have taken on former local education authority centres. There is now a wider range of organisations within the outdoors arena, ranging from large and small commercial operators to “not for profit” charitable trusts and community interest companies (CICs).”

AIM has also seen a number of new areas of development beyond traditional outdoor centres. There has been a growth in indoor climbing all over the UK, a growth in non-residential provision and a growth in members providing newer outdoor activities such as canyoning, coasteering and downhill mountain biking.

Schools have become increasingly risk averse during this period but Andrew feels that AIM has helped operators face these challenges by supporting a professional approach to safety management amongst its members:
“By being part of the AIM community our members have access to best practice in risk management. AIM actively supports training programmes and industry-wide developments that enhance standards of professional practice.”

James feels that over the period the industry has continued to develop in its approach to risk and safety management.
“There has been an increasing recognition by operators that the risk assessment process is far more than a paper exercise; it is all about developing a culture of safety throughout an organisation. Despite legal reforms and a desire for change, the volume of unmeritorious personal injury claims continues, as does AIM’s pledge to work with members to evidence a strong defence.”

Membership of AIM isn’t just about “getting a quote”:

“We have always been selective in terms of the members that we accept, as the quality of delivery has a direct effect on both the volume of claims and our ability to deal with them and, of course, the mutual’s surpluses available to members. Independent inspection frameworks help enormously and are an important tool in making these decisions.”

James has also experienced something of a personal journey through his involvement with the sector over
the past 10 years:
“I have really enjoyed getting to know people within the sector, both board members and operator
members, and really do recognise the importance to society in introducing and enthusing young people in managing risks and responsibilities in the outdoors environment; and also the unique opportunities it
can bring to young people.”

Going Forwards Together

Andrew Gardiner sees AIM providing an increasingly valued service for the industry going forward:
“Operators cannot provide activities without solid reliable cover in place. As a member organisation, we can act in the interests of the sector as a whole and take a long term practical view. The sharing of technical knowledge and expertise makes sense and the community approach of AIM provides a platform that makes this possible for
organisations of all sizes. We will continue to support members through our programme of seminars and conferences – something that we have been doing since we started.

In addition to this there is a more obvious financial benefit for long term members in terms of the potential for rebates. Having been established for over 10 years AIM is now able to look back at previous years and, where possible, provides a distribution of surplus on contributions paid. This is unique to a mutual and a reflection on the good safety and claims record of AIM members.”

James Willis has a clear vision for AIM as it faces the opportunities and challenges of the next 10 years:
“We expect to see growth in the outdoor sector in terms of both new members and revenue, but we recognise that there may be some volatility in levels of provision as a function of economic cycles, particularly for independent operators who rely on external funding to support their operations. AIM has, from the outset, taken a long term view and providing the outdoor sector with a stable and reliable service will remain its top priority.”

Activities Industry Mutual On Target

On Target – Autumn 2015 Newsletter

Autumn 2014 Newsletter