Amber is the colour of Autumn

It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog – that’s not because I didn’t have anything to say, more that everything kept changing and I am sure it was as unsettling for you as it was for me. When I last wrote at the end of July we had moved to Amber with the rest of the country and was full of excitement for the restart of face to face meetings. Whilst some started immediately for many of you there was an understandable decision to wait until the new school term. However with the announcement of local restrictions across Solihull, Birmingham and Sandwell in mid-September I made the decision jointly with the other two CCs to suspend face to face Scouting. This was not an easy decision as we knew that the impact was going to be felt most keenly within the sections which had already started F2F or were just about to. 

 

As ever your amazing resourcefulness and willingness to keep Scouting running for our young people shone through and my social media feed again filled with pictures and details of activities being undertaken at home. Over the next four weeks we watched the case numbers grow whilst carefully considering the advice of the National Youth Agency and of HQ about running Covid-safe Scouting. The Government’s new Tier structure gave us the clearest indication yet that structured youth activities should continue and it was on this basis that we decided to return to Amber. I understand the concerns though – case numbers in Solihull are still high, the clocks have gone back and the nights are dark and cold, many meeting places are not available to use.

 

I would like to make it really clear that there is no compulsion to meet F2F just because we can. It’s a decision for you all to make together with your fellow leaders. If you want to restart F2F then don’t forget the details of the restart risk assessment process can be found at www.solihullscouts.org.uk/coronavirus. If you’re staying on-line or blending both, then there’s a wealth of programme ideas on the Scouts website, Facebook groups such as 1st Virtual Scout Group, and so many more. Please keep sharing ideas as well and linking up with other Groups if you can. That’s another thing we are good at – supporting each other. 

 

It’s now the start of the half term holiday and for many groups that traditionally means a week of no section meetings. If you’re having a break or even managing to get away, then I hope you have a restful week. For those of you who have taken the opportunity to run hikes or activities then I hope the weather is kind! This next half term will see us run up to the strangest Christmas ever and I can’t wait to see what resourceful ideas you come up with next.

 

Thank you for all continuing to be amazing at what you do.

 

Shirley

shirley@solihullscouts.org.uk


Changes to Solihull’s Covid-19 Readiness Level

Dear leaders,

Effective 19th October 2020


Following the decision we took on 11th September to move Solihull, Birmingham and parts of West Mercia Scout Counties to the Red readiness level, I’m pleased to be able to advise that, in conjunction with the County Commissioners for Birmingham and West Mercia, we have today decided to move back all three Counties back to the Amber readiness level. This means that, where sections have an approved risk assessment in place, they can now resume restricted size group sessions indoors and outdoors with immediate effect.

I’d like to take the opportunity to explain the rationale behind our decision:

  • When the additional restrictions were imposed on the Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell areas in early September, the infection levels in these areas were significantly higher than in many parts of England and we wanted to ensure that Scouting was able to play it’s part in reducing infection levels in the affected areas.  Recent reports show that, while still higher than many other areas of the country, infection levels across the areas in question are no longer outliers and relative to many areas their rate of increase in infections has slowed.
  • The new three tier system of alert levels introduced in England by the Government last week brings greater clarity to the guidance that should be followed within each tier, and specifically calls out that youth services such as Scouting are felt to be critical for young people from a health and well-being perspective. Public Health England has also confirmed that where Scout Groups are running meetings in the Covid-safe manner specified by The Scout Association, the risk of cross-contamination between young people and adults participating is low – to the extent where in the event of an individual testing positive for Covid-19 there may be no requirement for other members of the section to self-isolate.
  • We’re aware from our leaders that the lack of consistency in approach across youth organisations is confusing, and that our leaders are in many cases suffering ‘Zoom fatigue’ and are keen to revert to face to face meetings – a change from the sentiment we picked up when the additional restrictions were first introduced.

While we hope that you will support our decision to resume face to face Scouting, I’d like to reiterate that the decision to hold face to face meetings absolutely sits with each Group and section and where leaders don’t feel it safe to do so they are under no obligation to resume face to face meetings, and we will support them 100% in their decision to continue to hold virtual meetings.

So, to confirm next steps:

  1. Sections who have had risk assessments previously approved may recommence face to face meetings (either indoors or outdoors based on the approved risk assessments) provided that (a) they reconfirm with their leaders and parents that they are happy to do so, and (b) they review their risk assessment and where any risks or mitigating actions need to be amended they update the risk assessment and resubmit it for approval.  Where amendments are needed, the updated risk assessment must be approved before meetings can recommence.
  2. Sections who would like to start meeting face to face but do not have a previously approved risk assessment must ensure they have this in place before they are permitted to start meeting.  We have previously communicated the process for you to submit risk assessments for approval which should continue to be followed and can be seen at www.solihullscouts.org.uk/coronavirus.

Please also remember that leaders must also have completed the appropriate mandatory training required for their role in order to be able to attend any face to face meetings or activities.

Where leaders don’t feel that now is the right time for them to start meeting face to face, you are encouraged to provide virtual meetings / activities for your members – this can be within your own Group or Unit or buddying up with others.

Lastly, I need to reiterate that our ability to meet face to face and to be able to demonstrate we can do so in a Covid-safe manner needs everybody to stay vigilant, follow the guidance, and above all, ensure that you run activities in accordance with the approved risk assessments that you’ve developed – please don’t be complacent and deviate away from the standards you’ve set for your sections. 


If you have any questions following this communication please don’t hesitate to contact me, Paul, Liz or Alison.

Kind regards,

Shirley


Your Vote Counts

Solihull District AGMs will take place next week Blythe on Tuesday, Cole on Wednesday and County on Thursday.
This will be an online meeting –
7:15pm for 7:30pm start
In accordance with Scout POR the District Scout Councils vote for nominees put forward as district trustees & executive committee members.
Membership of the District Scout Councils consists of the below. All are eligible to vote –
All adult members & associate members of the district
All Explorer scouts
All Explorer scouts parents
All District Network members
Voting is now open using the link below & will close at 10pm Monday 21st September.
GSLs/ESLs/Network Commissioners – please forward this note to all leaders, explorers, explorer parents & network members – thank you.
Please take a moment to use your vote.

Scouting Readiness Level – RED

Dear leaders,

Effective 13th September 2020

Following the announcement on Friday 11th September of additional restrictions being placed upon the Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell areas in respect of Covid-19, we’ve made the decision to move Birmingham and Solihull Scout Counties and a number of Districts within West Mercia County back to the Red readiness level, meaning that no face to face activities, meetings or residential activities can take place at this time. We are releasing this information on our website and Facebook pages at 5pm today.

This change takes effect from tomorrow, Sunday 13th September and covers all of the groups in Blythe and Cole Districts, plus 1st Meriden and 1st Salter Street from Warwickshire County, and 53rd Coventry and Rough Close Campsite from Coventry County.

The decision to change our readiness level hasn’t been taken lightly. The County Commissioners and their teams from all three Counties have met and discussed how to best respond to the worsening situation in the Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell areas, and have consulted with The Scouts National Restart Team before reaching a final decision.  The safety of our members and adult volunteers has been at the forefront of our discussions in considering the impact of the increasing risk of infection in the areas concerned, and the need to play our part in helping bring the spread of the disease back within acceptable levels.

For those Groups who have previously had risk assessments approved to be able to start meeting either outdoors or indoors following the national move to an Amber readiness level, approval for these risk assessments is currently suspended.  If the restrictions currently being introduced change and we’re able to move back to Amber within the next 4 weeks without any significant change to our risk profile, then approval for these risk assessments will be reinstated. However, in line with The Scouts national guidance, if we remain at a Red readiness level for more than 4 weeks then all previously approved risk assessments will need to be reviewed and re-approved.

Where Groups are currently drafting risk assessments to enable them to restart face to face Scouting (either outdoors or indoors) we would encourage them to continue to do so in order for them to be reviewed and any feedback provided before being submitted for formal approval once we’re able to confirm we’ve returned to an Amber readiness level.

While it’s disappointing that we have to return to a Red readiness level, we would strongly encourage all Groups to look at how they continue to support their members through virtual meetings and activities. There is a wealth of information available through scouts.org.uk, OSM and 1st Virtual Scout Group on Facebook that can help you in designing and running a virtual programme.

Guidance on Coronavirus Risk assessments can be found here: https://solihullscouts.org.uk/coronavirus/

If you have any questions following this communication please contact myself, Paul Webb, Liz Rashvand or Alison Lowe.

Regards

Shirley Brookes
County Commissioner, Solihull