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.
July has been quite a mixed month for several reasons. On a personal front I received some devastating news about a close family member, but also some exciting news from my children – including my daughter gaining an excellent degree result and also completing her Wood Badge as an ACSL at 71st Reading. The weather has been mixed too and I’m sure I’m not the only one who watched the rain and sun alternately beating down over a weekend and thought sadly “we should have been camping now”.
On 06 July our Scouting readiness level changed to Amber which meant that small groups could now meet outside – if leaders want to. I am aware that some sections are keen to take this up, some are content to carry on meeting virtually and some will be taking a break until at least September. It is important that you make the decision that is right for you and your fellow leaders.
At the start of the month The Scouts launched the process for the submission and approval of risk assessments with a number of webinars and pages of information on the national website. We had to quickly put in place our own strategy for managing the risk assessment approvals and have established a panel of experienced leaders with a wealth of Scouting and health and safety knowledge. In this way we can achieve a consistent approach and aim to turn around decisions within 5 days. More details can be found at www.solihullscouts.org.uk/coronavirus which includes some helpful tips. We are also planning to share some good examples soon.
I’d like to thank the panel members for agreeing to take on this additional role and all those who’ve submitted risk assessments for their enthusiasm. I know that there has been some teething issues at all stages of the process which has been frustrating for those involved, but given that it hasn’t even been three weeks yet since that change to Amber, I think we’ve done well. Earlier this week it was nice to see photos of 2nd Balsall Common Scouts on a hike and then being presented with the badges they had earned through lockdown.
It’s impossible to predict when we might move to Yellow, but we also need to be prepared that we might move back to Red at a local or national level. There is so much uncertainty still in our Scouting lives – for some this also includes not knowing if they can even return to their meeting place in the Autumn. But I know that Scouters are resourceful and flexible people and I remain incredibly grateful for everything you do for our young people.
I’m writing this at the end of Volunteers Week and my social media has been full of videos, images and messages celebrating the difference that volunteers make to our communities. This includes, of course, all of the amazing adults who give up their time so that young people in Solihull can be involved in Scouting.
Over the course of the last 12 weeks so many of our volunteers have risen to the challenge and kept Scouting going in some form or another. For some this has meant embracing video technology and for others it’s been about pouring over badge requirements to see what can be done from home. Resources such as www.scouts.org.uk/coronavirus, Online Scout Manager, the Scouts’ Zoom Pro licence offer and all of the Scouting-related Facebook groups have probably helped, but it’s been your determination to keep going for the sake of the young people that has inspired me the most.
On 17th March we were told we were suspending Scouting – I could never have imagined how wrong that would turn out to be! So thank you, thank you, thank you, for everything you are doing to keep Scouting going in Solihull.
Shirley Brookes, County Commissioner