With COVID-19 still with us, 2021 could look a bit different at the Trust. We try to answer any questions you might have about what trips we could run and how we will do it safely.
"We’re as excited as you about the prospect of getting back on the water this year, but we also have to be realistic.
"The team has been exploring all the eventualities we could face this 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 activity days on the water could bring young people together if can't bring them to us."Read the full blog Find out about the trips
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 June so we have to do all our planning around what might be possible then, rather than what is happening around the country now. 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
It’s vital we can build the picture of how confident young people feel about coming on trips this year.
To do this Return Trip invites went out earlier than usual, at the start of October, and we’ve also given our hospital and charity partners their trip place allocations earlier too. The responses we get to these will indicate what the current appetite for trips is. Like everything else, this will be fluid as the first trip isn’t scheduled until June. But it needs to start now as it affects all the other plates we have spinning.
Young people returning have the advantage of knowing how seriously we take safety, those potentially coming on trips for the first time don’t have that luxury. 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. We will be in touch and publicise the date(s) of our next session when it's confirmed.
Coordinating and communicating with our hospital and charity partners is also more critical than ever. Over the winter, our operations team is usually on the road for the whole of January, meeting up with hospital and charity contacts across the UK. This year is going to be very different with all that going digital and on the phone from February.
For Return Trips, we have contacted everyone as normal and invited them to select their preferred trips. But have made it clear that if we do have to run socially distanced trips, places will be allocated on the number of trips a young person has been on before with preference given to those who have had fewer trips. If we’re unable to provide you with a trip in 2021, you will be placed on a waiting list.
In terms of first time trips, we’re going out to our hospital contacts and charity partners with the numbers they would have available for young people if we had to run socially distanced trips and their allocation if we run standard trips. We’re recommending they recruit to the socially distanced numbers initially until we’re able to provide further clarification in the new year.
If we had to run socially distanced yacht trips, we are talking to Medical Advisor, and Trustee, Dr Dave Hobin, and will update our eligibility criteria to reflect the current Government advice at that time.
Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) have conducted significant research and produced guidance around vulnerability to COVID and this will also be taken into account when finalizing our eligibility criteria for 2021.
Although current guidance is that children under 12 do not have to social distance outdoors, they would be mixing with adult volunteers, skippers and staff who must and so they would be expected to follow the same rules whilst on a trip.
We don’t think boat bubbles would work currently as everyone allocated to a boat would have self-isolate as a bubble before the trip. There would still have to be social distancing within bubbles too, like in schools. But this is the sort of thing we’re going to keep looking at.
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. If this means running regional activity days because we can’t have young people on public transport and/or more socially distanced outdoor adventure residential trips instead of yacht trips, for example, then that is what we will look to do. 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. If that means we can only run another Virtual Summer, we will run another Virtual Summer. If you have any further ideas and suggestions of anything else we could do to support young people in 2021, please let us know.
We have committed to use some of our reserves to deliver a full programme, if possible, in 2021. If we have to run socially distanced trips – on boats or outdoor activity – there is little cost difference between if we run at full or half capacity, because of the logistics and infrastructure required to put a trip on.
For that reason, the team is speaking to funders about supporting us to the same level, even if social distancing means we cannot have as many young people on trips. Whatever happens, we need to keep the fundraising wheel spinning to make sure the Trust is here in the long-term.
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 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 this summer as this is more relevant to the type of activity we run.
Testing could be a gamechanger, but we must not take tests away from people who need them most. The current issues with testing have been well reported. We will continue to work with our Medical Advisor and Paediatric Oncologist, Dr Dave Hobin, to look at what is possible and appropriate to ensure young people, volunteers and staff joining trips are not exposed to the risk of COVID.
Dates for skippers and medics went out in September and we were in touch with the rest of our volunteers in October. If you’ve not heard from us then please get in touch. Also, if you’re not a member of the Trust Volunteer Facebook Group, request to join as it’s a good way to stay up-to-date with the latest news.
If COVID is still with us, there will be different medical criteria drawn up for volunteers with our Medical Advisor, Dr Dave Hobin. We would not automatically exclude anyone but would have an honest two-way conversation with the volunteer.
We have an obligation to make all volunteers and skippers aware of what risks they could be taking by coming on a trip. We also have to consider the potential impact on our ability to run a trip(s) if a volunteer(s), who was initially comfortable about joining a trip and was allocated a place, later felt different and withdrew.
We absolutely respect each individual’s position and decision in assessing their risk and if they did decide they were not comfortable being on a trip next year it would not affect their future opportunities. There may also be other ways for a vulnerable volunteer(s) to get involved and support the Trust in a non-trip capacity during 2021.
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.
We need to remain agile in this constantly changing landscape, and while the vaccine roll-out and increasing availability and reliability of testing is cause for optimism, we must be realistic and pragmatic to enable us to plan to achieve the best possible outcomes for young people.
The impact our well-established first-time yachts trips and return programme have on young people is proven, so we want to have the best chance of being able to deliver trips as close to ‘normal’ as possible. This means making a decision as late as possible, while being fair and reasonable to young people and families and our team.
We’ve identified a number of key decision points between now and the spring and will be adjusting our thinking and plans based on the information available and the situation we’re in at those times. We continue to work with our Medical Advisor and Paediatric Oncologist, Dr Dave Hobin, to look at what is possible and appropriate to ensure young people, volunteers and staff joining trips are not exposed to the risk of COVID.
Because of the logistical and operational complexities of getting potentially 800+ young people from all over the country on to trips at multiple venues across the UK, there will come a point where we have to plot and stick to a chosen course of action. But in the same way we communicated our shift in thinking and plans throughout 2020, we will keep you informed into 2021.
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.
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]
As what’s possible becomes clearer, we will run more online information and Q&A sessions for parents/guardians, young people and volunteers. We have already successfully hosted two of these sessions and will update the website and publicise across our social media when new dates are confirmed. These sessions are your chance to ask questions and hear the latest thinking around the Trust's plans for 2021 and to hear about the measures being taken to ensure our 2021 trips would be COVID-safe. Young people under 18 may attend with their parents too.Contact the team