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:
- 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.
- 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.