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Covid rules force Girl Guides to cancel camps


Holywood’s Lorne Estate normally hosts summer camps for Girl Guides

Holywood’s Lorne Estate normally hosts summer camps for Girl Guides

Holywood’s Lorne Estate normally hosts summer camps for Girl Guides

Summer has been cancelled for hundreds of Girl Guides despite last week’s relaxation of restrictions on overnight stays for youth services.

The new regulations would have meant girls as young as seven having to sleep in a tent on their own overnight.

Girl Guiding Ulster said that safeguarding issues were a major concern and that a decision had been made that the summer camps were “unviable” this year.

The easing of restrictions last Thursday allowed for up to six young people to stay indoors overnight, with children not allowed to share rooms or tents.

Around 450 young girls regularly attend summer camps at the Lorne Estate in Holywood, Co Down.

Girl Guiding Ulster chief commissioner Debbie McDowell said the organisation would have been concerned about safeguarding had girls been left in tents alone overnight and that it was “extremely disappointed” it had to cancel the camps.

“Girls would be allowed to sit beside each other on the bus to the camp but not share a tent,” she added.

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“If you can imagine a seven-year-old sleeping overnight alone in a tent... the whole point of camping and going away is to be with your friends.

“I don’t think I would [be able to] sleep, knowing that every single one of my girls was in a tent on their own.”

According to the guidelines, each child must have a separate tent on their own unless they are sharing with a sibling from the same household.

“We can’t wait for a decision to be reversed in three weeks’ time. That will just be too late for us,” Ms McDowell added.

Scouts NI said it had not yet had to cancel any of its summer activities, but it was “disappointed” by the residential restrictions, which differ to those elsewhere in the UK.

The Department of Education said: “The safety of young people, their families and that of the wider community is paramount, particularly as we have evidence that the spread of the virus is increasing amongst younger age groups and with just over half of 18 to 30s here having had a first dose of the vaccine.

“Education Authority guidance will be kept under continual review in line with emerging evidence and occupancy limitations eased as appropriate.

“Moving too quickly risks the need to reverse the reopening of overnight residentials and could jeopardise other youth services.”

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