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YMCA, Scouts and Guides face funding crisis triggered by Covid pandemic

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John Peacock

John Peacock

John Peacock

The Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and YMCA have warned they may have to close their outdoor learning centres because of a cash crisis caused by Covid.

Venues are waiting on £1million from the Department of Finance to help them weather the storm, but the funds have yet to be released, leaving some groups weeks away from they describe as "decimation".

YMCA Ireland director John Peacock said the National Outdoor Centre at Greenhill in Newcastle was facing the worst crisis in its 100-year history.

He added that unless the Executive stepped in, difficult decision around job losses may have to be made.

The organisations affected, which welcome 40,000 young people through their doors annually, have banded together to form the Group of Outdoor Learning and Residential Centres in Northern Ireland.

Mr Peacock said Greenhill's position was similar to other centres, with income down 95 percent because of Covid.

"While we have been able to reduce our cost base significantly since March and avail of government support through the furlough scheme, we are now looking at the possibility of losing staff as we are rapidly running out of cash," he added.

"With around 80 percent of our annual income coming between April and September, we need clarity and certainty around our finances and staffing urgently, so that we can reassure groups that we are open for business and in a position to secure bookings for 2021.

"We, like many in the sector, receive bookings for spring and summer around now. As we stand today, we have virtually nothing booked for next year.

"We are fearful that unless we can provide reassurance around bookings and have our staff in place from spring, schools, youth groups and other potential users may simply choose to do nothing in 2021.

"If that ends up being the case, our centre, which caters for more than 10,000 children and young people every year, will find itself in serious difficulties. I am sure that will also be the case for our colleagues who run their centres at Lisnaskea, Lorne, Culcavy and Crawfordsburn."

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