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Weardale Adventure Centre Ltd – New Member Profile

Member Profile

We are pleased to welcome Weardale Adventure Centre, a residential multi-activity centre, as a new member to AIM.

Weardale Adventure Centre is an 80 bedded residential centre based in the North Pennines offering high-quality, outdoor and adventure education activities. They were founded in 1978 and ever since has been an integral part of the local community. As a result there are groups that have been visiting the centre for over 20 years.

After working at Weardale Adventure Centre for a number of years, centre manager Kay Sheppard and head of outdoor activities, John Noble decided to take over the business at the beginning of 2016.

The centre is situated in 5 acres of grounds surrounded by beautiful scenery where participants can enjoy on-site activities as well as the use of local venues.

Weardale Adventure Centre focus on delivering high quality educational programmes to school groups between the ages of 8 and 18 as well as offering activities to individuals, families and corporate events.

The centre offers a range of activities including high ropes, bushcraft, climbing, archery, gorge walking, mine exploration, canoeing, kayaking, raft building, camping, hiking and orienteering. As well as the activities Weardale offers canoeing courses, climbing courses, corporate training, first aid courses and navigation and hill skills.

AIM was happy to welcome Weardale Adventure Centre to the Mutual and wish them the best of success for the future.

John Noble, Director of Weardale Adventure Centre has this to say;

“We have found AIM very professional, helpful and friendly. The seminar I attended in London was very informative. We look forward to working with them for many years to come.” 

For more information on Weardale Adventure Centre please contact them by visiting:-

http://www.weardaleadventurecentre.co.uk

Activities Industry Mutual On Target

On Target – Autumn 2015 Newsletter

AIM Staff Profile – Brad Mott

Meet the Team

While most of our readers will have dealt with members of our team on the telephone, many of you will not have met face to face. Have you ever wondered who we are and what we do? We sent our intrepid reporter to interview AIM underwriter, Brad Mott, for an insider view.

Q: How long have you been at AIM and what do you do?

B: I began working for AIM just over two years ago, joining as a customer service and sales advisor, as the first port of call for new business enquiries. Attending the AHOEC seminar in Northern Ireland helped to develop my understanding of the sector, our Membership and the cover AIM provides, and earlier this year I moved into underwriting to progress my career at AIM. Since I have been here we have grown enormously and the variety and volume of work has been great. During our peak renewals period of March and April things can be pretty hectic!

Q: How do you fill your spare time?

B: I’ve always had an interest in the outdoors and adventure, and I enjoy keeping fit, doing anything from weight training to cycling and football. My dad used to be a body builder so sport and fitness have always run in the family. I enjoy travelling, walking my dog and spending time outdoors with my other half. I also run the Regis Fantasy Football League!

Q: What is your greatest sporting achievement?

B: I’ve become something of a runner in the last few years, going from barely being able to manage 5km to completing four half marathons and the full London Marathon this year. I cramped at the 15-mile mark and was disappointed with my time but it was still a great sense of achievement to complete the course and do my part in raising £2,700 for Havens Hospice in Essex. I should say a special thanks to my mum for baking and donating a mountain of cakes in support, and to everyone at the Regis Tunbridge Wells office for buying and devouring them.

Q: What activities do you plan to try next?

B: I want to try my hand at stand-up paddle boarding next time I’m by the water. I also have something of a passion for flying so a sky dive is definitely on the list, along with wing walking which can be done at a small air field in Essex, close to where I’m from. Completing a marathon in a faster time is another challenge I’m looking forward to taking on. I would also like to pursue some PT and fitness qualifications. I’m certainly open to adventure so who knows what the future may hold?

Dukes Barn

Dukes Barn – New Member Profile

The Mutual is pleased to announce that Dukes Barn an educational trust based in Beeley, in the heart of the Peak District National Park has joined AIM.

Dukes Barn provides group accommodation and outdoor adventure activities to young people of all ages and abilities but its main focus is those children with special needs including Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, children with hearing or sight impairment and those with physical disabilities including wheelchair users.

It offers a wide range of activities and tailors a program to suit the needs of any group but this can include abseiling, rock climbing, canoeing and orienteering.  There is a comprehensive list of the activities offered under the website including details of the group accommodation available.

The managers of Dukes Barn Company are highly qualified in the delivery of outdoor adventure activities with many years experience of working with disadvantaged, disabled and special needs children and young adults and in the operational management of centres such as Dukes Barn and is also AALA licensed.

Dukes Barn were, like many centres, left without cover when JLT withdrew its activity provision from the market place and so AIM was happy to provide a quotation for this centre.  It welcomes Dukes Barn to the Mutual and wishes them a successful year ahead.

Graham Jones, Head of Centre commented:-

“When approaching the Mutual for a quotation on our insurance we found them to be very friendly, professional and efficient. Transferring insurance to a new company can always be hard work but the Mutual has helped us achieve a smooth transaction”

For more information on Dukes Barn please contact them http://www.dukesbarn.org/index.htm

How Stean Gorge – New Member Profile

How Stean Gorge is a unique natural attraction and presents an exciting opportunity for those looking to try some gorge walking, scrambling or other outdoor activity set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.  The gorge contains a maze of footpaths, caves and potholes which have been hollowed out of the limestone rock by the constant water flow over thousands of years.

Stan and his wife Ann Beer offer a range of activities including Via Ferrata (since 2009), gorge walking, caving and canoeing plus much more.  There are also camping facilities, a café and shop available to visitors on site.
The Mutual were happy to assist How Stean Gorge with cover for the public and employer’s liability element of the business, together with buildings, contents and activity equipment. They had been part of the JLT scheme that was unable to continue to offer cover and left many activity providers seeking an alternative at short notice.

The activities that How Stean Gorge provide are similar to those the Mutual is presented with regularly, but the location and setting are certainly something strikingly different.

How Stean truly look to utilize the natural environment to provide access to some amazing activities for groups and individuals alike.

Stan Beer, the owner of How Stean Gorge, requested the quotation from the Mutual and had this to say:

 “We were pleased with the knowledge and understanding of this industry by those dealing with our enquiry and are happy that our entire basket of cover is with this professional provider.”

For more information on How Stean Gorge please contact them by visiting:- www.howstean.co.uk

If like How Stean you are an activity provider who needs cover for a range of activities and is in a challenging or possibly unusual location then please don’t hesitate to contact us for a quote and discuss your requirements.

Thorpe Woodlands is a centre which joined the Mutual this September after they came out of local authority arrangement with Suffolk Council and became an independent company. The centre is set in the beautiful surroundings of Thetford Forest, and offers a fantastic range of adventurous and educational outdoor activities for primary schools, secondary schools, youth groups, FE colleges, universities, adults and corporate groups. They offer indoor accommodation for up to 46 people in a modern Cedar-clad building which blends perfectly with the surrounding forest and offers a warm and welcome retreat from the outdoors at the end of a busy day. There is also camping facilities for 100+. The catering team on site provide food for all visiting groups although self-catering options are available if required. The building is all on one level so they have no problem in accommodating people with disability or other additional needs. They also have state-of-the-art accessible shower room featuring hoists, changing bed and shower chair. Some of the activities offered at Thorpe Woodlands include, 6 High Ropes activities, climbing tower, caves, mountain bike trails, 2 orienteering courses, archery range, kayaks, canoes, zip wires and much more. Tim Edmonds, Head of Centre at Thorpe Woodlands commented:- “As a centre leaving the Local Authority we were faced with having to find our own insurance – luckily AIM came highly recommended and the transition was smoother than we could have ever expected. From the first enquiry to the actual placing of the policy, the AIM staff were extremely helpful and supportive.” AIM is very pleased to welcome Thorpe Woodlands to the Mutual. For more information on Thorpe Woodlands please contact them on www.thorpewoodlands.co.uk

Thorpe Woodlands – New Member Profile

Thorpe Woodlands is a centre which joined the Mutual this September after they came out of local authority arrangement with Suffolk Council and became an independent company.

The centre is set in the beautiful surroundings of Thetford Forest, and offers a fantastic range of adventurous and educational outdoor activities for primary schools, secondary schools, youth groups, FE colleges, universities, adults and corporate groups.

They offer indoor accommodation for up to 46 people in a modern Cedar-clad building which blends perfectly with the surrounding forest and offers a warm and welcome retreat from the outdoors at the end of a busy day. There is also camping facilities for 100+.

The catering team on site provide food for all visiting groups although self-catering options are available if required.  The building is all on one level so they have no problem in accommodating people with disability or other additional needs. They also have state-of-the-art accessible shower room featuring hoists, changing bed and shower chair.

Some of the activities offered at Thorpe Woodlands include, 6 High Ropes activities, climbing tower, caves, mountain bike trails, 2 orienteering courses, archery range, kayaks, canoes, zip wires and much more.

Tim Edmonds, Head of Centre at Thorpe Woodlands commented:

“As a centre leaving the Local Authority we were faced with having to find our own insurance – luckily AIM came highly recommended and the transition was smoother than we could have ever expected.  From the first enquiry to the actual placing of the policy, the AIM staff were extremely helpful and supportive.”

AIM is very pleased to welcome Thorpe Woodlands to the Mutual.

For more information on Thorpe Woodlands please contact them on www.thorpewoodlands.co.uk

Wolf Mountain

Wolf Mountain – New Member Profile

Wolf Mountain is an activity centre set in an urban area but with great access to mountain bike trails and water who joined the Mutual in October 2014.  Julian Porter, Director at Wolf Mountain tells us a bit about the set up of the company and what they offer to the community.

“We primarily set up as an indoor climbing wall making use of a closed down sports centre with the main wall actually built in what was a swimming pool. Since inception it was always the plan to add further outdoor activities so that local people can access outdoor activities without the expense of travelling too far. We now have a very large indoor caving system with hundreds of metres of sculptured tunnels and an indoor archery range but we also have the equipment to set up archery off site which is very popular with schools. The centre is set in green belt land, a little oasis in the urban jungle of Wolverhampton, with access on to a 10 mile long disused railway gifting us with an excellent mountain bike trail. Running next to the old railway line is the canal which again has allowed us to offer kayaking and canoeing to groups and schools.

With the addition of these activities it is great that we have found Activities Industry Mutual who understand fully what our company activities are and have been excellent in meeting our insurance needs!’

AIM is very pleased to welcome Wolf Mountain to the Mutual and for more information please contact them on http://www.wolfmountain.co.uk

Chairman’s Statement, Autumn 2013

AIM’s Chairman, Andrew Gardiner, shares his views on developments over the past year.

The weather plays a big part in the activities sector and, together with fruit farms and vineyards, we’ve gloried in the long hot summer, particularly so having endured a cold winter and spring and the wet conditions prevailing last year. Despite the continuing economic squeeze, most members of the mutual have enjoyed increased levels of turnover.

At AIM we continue our growth path, the number of members now being over 380, up from a figure of 340 last year. Many of the new members have been personally recommended to us by the current membership. Credit is due to my colleagues on the AIM board for their valuable input to the AIM success, for which I must express my gratitude. The presence of outdoors experts on the board within the mutual gives us an extra dimension that other insurance providers simply don’t have. My thanks are also due to the  managers at Regis who run AIM very efficiently indeed. They take a close interest in all areas of our sector, as well as the risks and liabilities within it.

Next AIM Seminar

Our next national seminar, which will be wide-ranging, informative and entertaining and will include the mutual’s AGM for members, is due to take place on Wednesday 5th February at the splendid Crewe Hall and I really hope to see you there.

Claims Experience

Despite the cold winter, no member reported major weather related damage to buildings and only a few minor claims were submitted, reflecting members’ high standards of stewardship. On the liability front, whilst there is no guarantee that the past is a reliable guide to the future, I can with caution report that the incidence of liability claims, for which we provide key cover, currently shows a downward trend. The work of people like David Ball, who contributes to this newsletter, and Tim Gill has served to highlight the importance of adventure activity and being less sedentary, especially for the young. Managing the risk is, of course, key for us and our members. On the legal front, Ministry of Justice reforms, which seek to curb legal costs and level the playing field in personal injury claims England and Wales, were introduced in August and should be helpful to the mutual on the legal costs front. However in Scotland a recent report from Sheriff Principal Taylor on civil litigation costs took a less encouraging view, seeing (unlike AIM) no evidence of a “compensation culture” there.

AIM has represented members in Court, successfully defending personal injury allegations on four occasions, the most expensive to the mutual being a case in Scotland. We’ve had one surprise adverse judgment too. The successes are largely due to the ability of the member to provide documents showing what actually happened: risk assessments; staff training; briefing and acknowledgement of risk; incident report and investigation documents and evidence of the exact location. This is the evidence that helped to demonstrate that the risk and benefits are balanced and proportionate.

Post Incident Investigations

The importance of post incident investigation and documentation for lessons learned purposes, as well as for providing evidence to rebut a claim if necessary, is a recurring theme of AIM seminars. It was also a key theme at the Crisis Management Conference we held in Birmingham last autumn. This led to the Crisis Management Service we offer to members in partnership with Pharos Response. Subscription to this service provides an on line audit and a follow up consultation. It’s worth noting that each member audit to date has led to the implementation of some risk improvement measures.

Over the past year, in addition to my role here, I’ve completed a period as chairman of the British Activity Providers Association (BAPA) and a member of the English Outdoor Council (EOC). Organisations like these play an important role in leading the outdoors sector and working to make it easier for providers to deliver the outdoor and adventurous experience in these challenging economic times.

Finally, I hope you will agree that it is vitally important for the outdoor and activities sector to have a degree of influence and control over our key insurance cover, especially with the probability of uncertain times ahead. AIM will continue to grow as a strong mutual, looking after its members and providing a voice for the sector and stability and support for its members.

 

 

 

AIM Member Profile – Adventure Plus

Adventure Plus is an interdenominational Christian Charity that works with over 5,000 young people per year in both residential and non-residential settings throughout the UK.

Adventure Plus is not a typical outdoor adventure provider. It is an interdenominational Christian Charity that works with over 5,000 young people per year in both residential and non-residential settings throughout the UK. Programmes combine adventure and education in order to instil positive values in young people, inspiring them and building their confidence to assist in other aspects of their lives.

Founded in 1990, the organisation currently offers a 100% mobile service from its base in Witney, Oxfordshire. Adventure Plus can bring the adventure to young people on their own premises, support them on adventures at one of its Associate Residential Centres, or take them to remote parts of the country for expeditions.

Adventure Plus offer “Total Adventure” activity holidays to individuals and activity programmes for school and youth groups. These programmes operate during term time for groups and for individuals during the school holidays. They even offer a February ski trip in Switzerland.

Their “Adventure Impact” programmes are designed to inspire and mentor vulnerable young people. Referrals can be made by Schools, Pupil Referral Units, Youth Offending Services, Social Services or Youth Organisations. The needs of the group are discussed with the leader and goals for the programme agreed. If possible a meeting with the group will also be held prior to the programme starting. Activities are selected based upon the needs of the group and the agreed programme goals. Outcomes are evaluated at the start and end of the programmes after which results are fed back to referrers/teachers/parents.

Adventure Plus is licensed by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and a DofE approved activity provider. They are also members of CCI, an association of more than 160 Christian residential centres and holiday organisations in the UK.

Operational Challenges

Adventure Plus Associate centres are located as far afield as Shropshire and Monmouthshire so there are a lot of logistical and transportation challenges in addition to the operational challenges of delivering activities such as abseiling, archery, climbing, kayaking and raft building. Executive Director, Jon Cox is keenly aware of the operational challenges of providing a 100% mobile adventure programme in so many different locations.

“From a risk management point of view we have to have an approach that is both robust and flexible. Our team have to be good at exercising judgement in the field as well as making sure that everything gets safely from store to activity base and back again. Our greatest asset, we are told, is our team of activity  instructors, both staff and volunteers, who are passionate about encouraging the young people we work with each year, through adventure & education in a positive Christian environment.”

Adventure Plus operate all activities with a minimum of 2 staff, usually on a 2:10 staff:child ratio. A full time team of 15 staff is complemented by a network of freelance specialists and over 200 volunteers. Adventure Plus also offers a unique gap year training programme that provides up to 6 trainee instructors with a comprehensive training programme working alongside their experienced permanent team.

Future Plans

Adventure Plus are currently seeking funding to develop their own permanent adventure base in Oxfordshire. They are in negotiations to take on a 50 acre site that could host a range of land-based adventure activities and offer bunk house or tented accommodation. The location is also within easy reach of a waterfront that could offer canoeing, kayaking and raft building.

 

A permanent location would allow Adventure Plus to increase their level of provision and improve efficiency by reducing costs on up to 60% of their operations. This would allow them to increase their range of services within SE England but they would still aim to offer a UK-wide operation via their associate residential centres.

Why AIM?

Jon Cox selected AIM as their insurance partner for a number of reasons:

“Adventure Plus was an early supporter of Activities Industry Mutual and we valued the idea of insuring with a mutual as this reflects our own approach and organisational structure. We also value the fact that we speak to informed people who really understand the practical needs of our organisation and take a positive approach to risk management.”

More info: www.adventureplus.org.uk

 

Adventurous Activity Licensing

It is reasonable to reflect back 2 years to the announcement in Lord Young’s report ‘Common sense common safety’, that Licensing was going to be withdrawn and ask the question ‘so what’s changed?’  On the face of it, very little.  Providers of certain adventurous activities to young people are still required by law to hold a license, which they can obtain from the Adventurous Activity Licensing Authority (AALA) following an inspection.

Further to a statement by the Health & Safety Executive in July 2012, I’d like to take the opportunity to outline what I think is likely to happen in the near future and to reflect on what has actually changed in the past two years.

The statement from the HSE in July 2012 was pretty clear.

“We have decided to pause with the proposal to abolish the AALA while we consider further how we develop a regulatory regime that reflects the level of risk whilst taking part in adventure activities, yet ensuring that users are reassured about a provider’s safety management arrangements.” 

The HSE went on to say that they will be consulting further on the two issues; how to reassure users of providers’ safety standards and inconsistencies arising from some activities requiring a license and some not.  Encouragingly there was also a commitment to work with the Scottish and Welsh Governments in developing future arrangements, as the legislation behind licensing is a devolved matter.

So what are the immediate known and likely implications of the HSE statement ?  It is clear that legislation requiring a provider to hold a license will not be substantially changed or withdrawn in the next 12 months.  Given the commitment to a consultation, which is likely to take place in 2013 it is reasonable to assume that by the time a bill has passed through parliament and received royal assent we will be well into 2014, possibly 2015 and in danger of becoming entangled in a change of government.  On a positive note it seems the sector is more likely to have a consistent regime across the UK, though it is difficult to predict what shape that will take.  It could be new legislation or a sector specified approach with the backing of the HSE.

So is there any point in looking for alternatives to Licensing now?  The answer has to be yes.  Representatives of the adventure activity sector have been working with the HSE over the past 18 months seeking to influence the UK Government’s approach to developing a post AALA regime.  Those representatives made it clear that the vast majority of providers and users wished to retain some form of 3rd party accreditation of safe practice and recommended to the HSE that any new regime must be consistent across all home nations in the UK.  Prior to July’s HSE statement a UK Government solution looked unlikely to contain these features.  As a result earlier this year a temporary group was established (the UK Accreditation Transition Group / UKATG) to keep working on a sector based solution.

UKATG has broadened its representative base since the work with HSE and is recommending the establishment of a register of adventurous activity providers who hold a recognised form of 3rd party accreditation.  Such a register would be designed to be open to all (not just providers of activities to young people), recognise a wide range of adventurous activities and provide a single point of reference for users.  The register would need to accommodate the differing 3rd party accreditations that may exist in different home nations. SkillsActive, the sector skills council, have secured funding from the UK Commission for Employment & Skills to help set up a register, the aim of which would be to increase participation and maintain safety in adventurous activities.  An annual registration fee will probably apply.

UKATG is recommending that AAIAC (Adventures Activities Industry Advisory Committee) evolves to become an appropriate organisation to run the register.  It is recommended that such an evolution would involve the formation of a Congress of significant bodies in the adventurous activity community to provide strategic guidance and accountability for AAIAC.  It would also require the formation of a new Accreditation Managing Forum to oversee the register and the associated standards of provision.

So the last two years have not been a standstill for Health & Safety in adventurous activities.  It is my personal opinion, given the potential need for all young people’s providers to hold a License for the next 2 – 3 years, that sector based solutions like a register will need to incorporate the Licensing inspection regime if they are to be commercially viable.

Note: the UKATG is continuing to meet.  If you wish to contribute to its work please contact me at andy.robinson@outdoor-learning.org.