14 September 2020

BLOG: CEO Frank looks ahead to 2021

September is normally the month our trips start winding down after an action-packed summer. But this September is all about looking ahead to 2021 and how, whatever happens, we will be here for every young person that needs support.

Trust us, we’re as excited as you about the prospect of getting back on the water next year, but we also have to be realistic. That’s why we wanted to share our thinking around 2021 with you now.

How might 2021 look?

Over the past month, the Trust team has been exploring all the eventualities we could face next year – from delivering trips as normal at one end of the spectrum, to the UK being in ‘lockdown’ and running another Virtual Summer at the other. Along that spectrum there are a number of possibilities.

These include what a vaccine and/or a robust testing programme might enable us to do; how we could run socially distanced yacht trips and/or outdoor adventure residential weeks; and if regional socially distanced activity days on the water could bring young people together if we’re not able to bring them to us.

We have also considered how we will manage if our capacity to offer places to everyone is impacted by social distancing and/or there are differences in, or changes to, local regulations, including between Scotland and England.

We have identified the risks and control measures for each possibility, and picked the brains of anyone who could offer expert insight or a fresh perspective on our plans. Thank you to everyone who has given their time; from medics and our cancer charity partners to sailing and outdoor adventure organisations/charities, who have been gradually getting people back doing activities in a COVID-safe way.

There’s still a lot of work to do, and clearly the safety of the young people and the comfort of the families, as well as our skippers, volunteers and staff, are our biggest consideration. We will need to remain agile in this constantly changing landscape. But whatever happens, we will be here for young people next year.

By anticipating the challenges, and doing this thinking now, we can make sure young people in recovery get the support we know they are going to need in 2021. Because COVID has amplified feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, anger and fear experienced in young people undergoing cancer treatment. They need us more than ever.

What happens now?

In the coming months, we will continue monitoring Government advice to determine what sort of activity it’s safe for us to run and how; from cleaning regimes, to managing trip travel and revising medical criteria to looking at online support.

There may be parents, young people and volunteers who also might not feel confident to join a trip. So, as what’s possible becomes clearer, we will share regular information and give everyone the chance to ask questions about the measures being taken to ensure trips would be COVID-safe.

The first Q&A session takes place for volunteers and skippers on Zoom tonight (Monday 14 September) – register here – and there is a session for parents (your child may attend too) and young people over 18 on Wednesday 14 October (register here). We will also be talking to our hospital and charity partners in the coming weeks to let them know how many places they provisionally have for young people on trips next year.

The response to our first Virtual Summer this year has been incredible. If you got involved in any of the live sessions, or have enjoyed our videos and podcasts, we hope you found them helpful. Thanks to all our skippers and volunteers for getting so involved too - we know young people have loved seeing familiar faces.

Virtual Summer 2020 will come to its natural conclusion at the end of September. But a number of activities are continuing. So if you haven’t yet signed up for our Pen Pals programme (under 18s), joined our Page Turners Book Club (over 18s) or taken advantage of discounted online RYA Training (volunteers only) it isn’t too late.

The monthly ‘In Conversation with…’ drop-in sessions are continuing too, with Teenage Cancer Trust Nurse Consultant, Sue Morgan MBE, running a session on survivor guilt next Monday (21 September) – sign up here – and sessions on body image and fertility coming up in October and November respectively.

We will also start exploring what activities young people might find helpful if we continue to run an online support programme next year, whether due to a national/regional ‘lockdown’ situation or running alongside trips because young people have found ongoing online support as valuable as in-person contact.

Weathering the storm

The pandemic has been costly for so many charities and with the country in recession things aren’t going to get any easier. Of course, the people hit hardest by this are the people who need the support. We still expect our income to be down by a third this year. So part of ‘what happens now’ includes continuing to monitor and diversify our income so we can support as many young people as possible in 2021.

I’m sure you’ve seen our Round Britain Your Way virtual event, running throughout September to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. There is still time to get involved and take on a challenge, either on your own or as part of a team. Whether you run, swim, walk, cycle or create your own challenge do get involved.

In our first COVID blog in March, we said no one had a crystal ball to predict the future. The future hasn’t got clearer since then. In the words of one of our biggest supporters, “It’s gone cloudy and lost its WiFi signal!” What we do have though is the knowledge and confidence to start thinking positively about what could be possible. That is what today is about and it feels exciting just to be sharing our thinking with you.

Thank you as ever for your support. We will see you in 2021 and we will be here to support young people after treatment.