Keeping young people safe in 2021 - FAQs

With COVID-19 still with us, 2021 will look a bit different at the Trust. We try to answer any questions you might have about the trips we plan to run and how we will do it safely.

Ready to get back on the water

A message from our CEO, Frank Fletcher...

"Nothing would make me happier than the Trust supporting young people in person again this summer. We now believe we can safely make that happen.

"Thanks to the vaccine rollout, advances in testing and the feedback of so many young people, families, hospitals, charity partners and colleagues in the sailing and outdoor sectors we have a best-case scenario; a plan for 2021 that takes the Trust on tour across the UK.

"We’ve said it so many times in the past year; young people living through and beyond cancer need us more than ever. Bringing them back together is the best way we can make a difference. But it must be safe.

"That’s why I’m so happy to share this with you; our hopes for a summer that will look a bit different to usual, but which gives young people the support they need right now."

Read the full blog Find out about the trips

Staying safe in 2021 - FAQs

I’m holding back from signing up until there’s more certainty around COVID.

Don’t! Trust us, we won’t do anything that isn’t safe. Put safety in our hands, we showed last year that safety is our number one priority for young people. We’re already hearing from young people and parents/guardians of under 18s who have signed up for 2021 return trips, that they are really looking forward to getting back to the Trust and why.

We don’t want you to hold back from signing up and then miss the chance to be considered. The 2021 trips are not scheduled to start until July so if you want to join a Trust trip this year, sign up and let us worry about the safety side. If we don't believe it’s safe, the trip(s) won’t run

Do young people and their families feel confident about going on trips in 2021?

It was vital we could build the picture of how confident young people felt about coming on trips this year.

To do this Return Trip invites went out earlier than usual, at the start of October, and we also gave our hospital and charity partners their trip place allocations earlier too. The responses we got to these indicated what the appetite for trips was and it helped us shape our thinking as to what types of trips each group would want.

During February, the team had calls with all 37 of our hospital and charity partners to understand if we ran our traditional four-day sailing trips in Cowes or Largs, would young people (and/or their parents/guardians) feel confident enough to commit to coming. The message was clear; while COVID is still here, four days away from home on a boat would be a tough sell and we would struggle to convince them it would be safe.

But we also took that the need for the support and activity was still there, we just needed to make it easier to access, so taking away some of the travel and risks associated with COVID to make that more feasible.

The team also had some really in-depth conversations with over 30 young people who were due to come back on a return trip and our Youth Board, and that feedback was really clear; that young people wanted to start returning to normal life and having a Trust trip to look forward to was a really important factor in that.

Young people returning have the advantage of knowing how seriously we take safety and what to expect, those potentially coming on trips for the first time don’t have that luxury. Conversations we had with parents as well very clearly said that if their children were being asked to go back to school or college then they felt confident enough to come on a Trust trip.

The overwhelming feedback from those conversations were young people and parents all had confidence in the Trust, that we would prioritise safety and wouldn't take any unnecessary risks and all our activities would be following COVID-safe measures.

If you/your child is considering joining us for the first time in 2021, we can put you in touch with other young people/families who can answer questions and give you the reassurance you need.

We’re still learning a lot about COVID and how it behaves. But, there is recognition within paediatric oncology professional groups internationally that the increased risk to children with cancer is not as significant as originally thought to be (CCLG, 2020). You can find the full advice and guidance here - COVID-19 guidance for children and young people with cancer undergoing treatment.

To provide further information, and to reassure young people and parents about our latest thinking, we will be regularly updating these FAQs and hosting regular online information and Q&A sessions. You can find the latest dates for these at the bottom of this page.

Why have we amended the Eligibility Criteria for 2021 and what does that mean for me?

In consultation with our medical advisor and Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, Dr Dave Hobin, we’ve had to make some hard but necessary decisions for this year. This includes an amendment to our Eligibility Criteria that unfortunately anyone - young person, volunteer, skipper or team member - who is in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable category, as per the Government and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) guidelines, won’t be able to join a trip this summer.

The whole ethos is about reducing the COVID risk to the smallest possible risk we can. But, we have to accept we can't reduce that risk to completely zero. So as a result of that in addition to all the other safety safety standards and risk management procedures we will be following, we have to look at the young people, volunteers, skippers and staff that usually come on the activities with us.

To minimise that risk, we have to agree that anybody who's on any form of active treatment at the moment is not going to be able to join activities this year. We accept cancer treatment looks so different now from when the Trust started in 2003 and we accept that historically, each year, we've allowed some people to come on trips that have still be on some form of active treatment. But we've had to curtail that concept as we emerge out of lockdown. It's young people who are well off of treatment, who are generally well, who we can support this year.

It's completely right that we try to minimise any risk to anybody to as small as we can possibly get and we have had to compromise in terms of the young people we would normally take on trips. You can view the full list of amendments here - ADDITIONAL AMENDMENTS TO STANDARD ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

I'm medically exempt this year. What does that mean for me?

We’re so sorry this will exclude some young people who need us this summer but we’re exploring other ways to support them and there will be more detail on that soon. Amending the eligibility criteria is the right decision, but it was also a really difficult decision. It affects anyone who can’t join us on medical grounds or chooses not to come as they/their families don’t feel confident enough yet in two groups of people.

It will affect some of the young people who were either going to return or who might have been thinking about coming with us for the first time. For those who were returning, we will see you back in 2022, and we will just add a year on to how many times you can return. For young people who might have joined us for the first time, we really look forward to welcoming you next year.

For those young people who feel a bit frustrated that they will miss out this year, please do not worry about how this will affect your chances to come on future trips. You're on our radar; we know you're there.

It's going also going to affect some of our volunteers and we will look at ways we can get those volunteers involved in other ways to them involved with the Trust this year and will be in contact with those volunteers to talk to them about that. There will people who want to discuss this further and our operations managers, Laura and James, are really happy to talk to anyone who's got any concerns or questions around this and you can contact them at [email protected]

We will emerge fully from this situation, we will get back to full functionality in due course and we will be back working with you as soon as we can.

How confident are we that we will be able to get on the water this year?

We have to accept we're all still juggling a bit with the unknown. Despite the roadmap that's come out of central Government, there is still a bit of an unknown quantity to all this. The past year has taught us all it’s impossible to be 100% certain about anything. We can plan, but there are still things out of our control that could ultimately decide if or which trips will be able to go ahead.

We want to be back supporting young people in person so much and really hope we can. But things could change between now and the end of September, and we may have to make some difficult decisions because fundamentally keeping everyone safe is all that matters.

Our plans are based on three assumptions and if any of these change, we may have to look at things again. ...

  • Vaccine deployment continues being rolled out in line with Government targets.
  • The UK continues seeing a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths and no further waves and/or social distancing measures aren’t extended/reintroduced
  • Our risks and control measures aren’t fundamentally impacted by new COVID variants.

We will be open and honest with people if things change, but rest assured, everybody who knows the Trust knows we will do is what's best for young people. Every decision we've made has not been about commercial pressure, or fundraising, or what any individual wants to do, it's been made on what is best for the young people and that's what will continue to guide any decisions we might have to make.

What is our position on vaccinations?

Nothing matters more than keeping young people, our volunteers, skippers and team safe, and while we can’t eliminate all COVID-risk we can minimise. So anyone aged 18+ who will come into contact with young people – whether a young person, volunteer, skipper or team member - must be three weeks’ post first vaccination unless medically exempt.

If you're 18 or over and not had your first vaccination yet and/or are nervous about having it, have a read of our Vaccinations Q&A - lowdown from the experts and/or listen to our medical advisor, Dr Dave Hobin, and Trust volunteer and pharmacist, Anniela Etheridge, discuss vaccinations on our Sound Waves podcast.

We understand under 18s won't be vaccinated by the summer, but are confident the extra safety and risk management controls we will implement across all our trips in 2021 will enable us to keep young people safe.

What is our policy on testing?

Everyone taking part in a trip will need to report a negative lateral flow test result to the Trust before they join the rest of their travel party or arrive on site if travelling directly there. The Trust is supplying all test kits and the test must be done no more than 72 hours before the start of the trip. There will be further testing throughout the week on residential return trips. Temperature checks will also take place before travelling and daily throughout the week on return trips.

What other extra safety measures are we taking?

All activities will be subject to rigorous sanitisation standards - personal and equipment - including hand washing, antibacterial cleaning, use of anti-viral fogging machines where appropriate, etc. Equipment, including waterproofs and lifejackets, will be sanitised between activity groups with deeper COVID-cleaning procedures between Taste of the Trust days.

Hand washing and sterilising will form part of briefings and will be as much as part of the day as putting on suncream and making sure everyone is drinking enough. Antiseptic wipes to be used regularly on all well-used touch points on sailing and outdoor activity Taste of the Trust days. Protocols on distancing and mask wearing in confined spaces in line with current advice at the time.

All activities, including briefings and lunch, will take place outdoors so there is good ventilation, considerably reducing the chance of COVID transmission.

What will happen if our plans have to change?

If we can get on the water, we will try. It is absolutely all of our aim. We’re a charity that uses the outdoors to empower and inspire young people and we will try to replicate as much of the magic of Trust trips as possible within the restrictions.

Two factors - safety first and young people getting the outcomes they need from Trust support - will set the framework of what we can or can’t do in 2021. It has to be safe, first and foremost for young people, volunteers and staff, and secondly, because if we get this wrong, and we have a COVID case/outbreak, the reputation and trust it’s taken years to build will disappear overnight.

2020 was all about pivoting our activities and we proved we can still support young people off the water. We’ve learned a huge amount about what young people and their families are looking for from the Trust and how we can achieve that across different activities, formats and platforms.

We’re also working closely with CLIC Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust to make sure there are no gaps in post-treatment support available. The really important thing is we will be here for those who need us in whatever way we can be.

How will we deal with devolved decision making across the home nations and regulations being different across the UK?

We might be in a situation where we can’t do the same activity in our bases in Cowes in England and Largs in Scotland. In the same way we might be able to run regional activity in one part of England but not in another. It’s complex and it’s going to be a fluid situation for some time yet, so we have to be flexible and adaptable.

Are we still able to run one-off day trips for young people on palliative care and their families?

We continue to support young people who are in palliative care and their families. During COVID we have offered support on a case-by-case basis, including through our outdoor activity partners, so families could share a COVID-secure experience to help create memories. When it is safe to do so, we will revert to hosting our traditional day sails for young people in palliative care and their families from our Cowes and Largs bases. If you have a family who needs support, please get in touch.

Can we model what we do on other youth organisations?

As the Government has a priority to get and keep young people back in the classroom, the rules for schools/college don’t apply to other youth organisations. Likewise, Scouts and Guides currently have exceptions that sail training organisations, like ourselves, don’t.

But we’re likely to continue to see multiple changes in these rules and regulations between now and the summer, so we will be monitoring and responding to all changes accordingly as and when they are published.

We have been talking to and visiting other sail training organisations, such as UKSA, Sunsail and other RYA Training Centres, to learn about how they have managed to get people sailing last summer as this is more relevant to the type of activity we run.

Have your Trustees supported this plan?

Our medical advisor and Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, Dr Dave Hobin, is a Trustee too. When asked on the '2021 season - it's a go!' episode of our Sound Waves podcast, if the Board of Trustees were feeling reassured about the plans that have been put in place to keep young people safe on trips.

"Absolutely, 100 per cent. That the Board have been very impressed, is an understatement, by the amount of work, the amount of thought, the juggling of all the scenarios and different options, by all of the team. We see very clearly how complex and challenging this has been, but everyone has done an amazing job and should be proud of what we've done to get to this point. We've been able to talk with Frank (CEO), and the team and ask the challenging questions, pose the what ifs, the hows and the wherefores, and I think this is as about as watertight as it can be.

"This has not been an easy undertaking. You only have to look around at other charitable organisations to see how there's been struggle to deliver what their charitable aims are. The Trust pulled it out of the hat last year when we did Virtual Summer and you only have to look at how successful that was. And I'm conscious that we're dealing with some unknown quantities as we go forwards, but I think this will work.

"Everything that's been done to me is very robust, very safe, it's as safe as we can get it, and so the Board of Trustees are fully behind all of the team and we have no concerns or anxieties that things have been missed. The amount of focus on this is absolutely top notch."

I have an idea for 2021 that I’ve not heard you talk about. Should I tell you?

Yes! We would love to hear any ideas you have, whether that’s around the type(s) of activity – from on-the-water to online – to ways you have seen other organisations keeping young people in recovery safe during the pandemic in 2020. Drop the team an email to [email protected]

Ask another question Find out about the trips

More detailed trip information

We are planning to run three different types of trips this summer. Here is more information on those trips and the specific COVID safety measures we will be taking on each.