20 March 2020
Dear Leaders and Adult Volunteers
I had planned to be writing to you today to commend you all for a terrific set of census results. As a county we were up nearly 3% over the last 12 months. Thank you all for your hard work, dedication and everything you do for the Young People across the County.
A special mention must be made to the leaders of North London Scout District who achieved a figure close to 8% this year (and 19.5% over the last 3 years). It’s a fitting testament to the strength of the District and the great tenure that John Cronin has led over the last 10 years. Thank you, John!
COVID19 Most importantly I hope that you are all staying safe and well. Please take the recommended precautions, these are uncertain times and we do not want to burden the National Health Service by taking unnecessary and potentially avoidable risk.
Scouts and its Leaders need to continue to remain calm at this time. Please do not expect everyone to have answers to a moving situation while it is still changing at pace. We have no idea how long this will last and seek your ongoing patience.
The Chief Exec, Matt Hyde, and other staff are in isolation with symptoms now and HQ is finding its feet working from home. So please be sensitive to our vital support resource finding its own sense of stability.
Many questions being raised don’t actually need an answer straight away.
I have been contacted by many of you, and you are welcome to keep doing so, and I set out here responses to some of the topics raised.
Face to Face Scouting
All face to face scouting is suspended. That does not mean any individual or Group is suspended. What it does mean is that there is NO option to run section meetings or camps until further notice. There is real concern that were there an incident at such an activity you would be unnecessarily burdening the health service. Further the insurance position with Unity remains uncertain and it is likely that you would not be covered if you were to go against this direction from HQ.
Scouting at Home
Whilst all face to face scouting has been suspended, there is nothing stopping people enjoying scouting from the comfort of their own home.
Specifically aimed at Section Leaders and their Assistants – linked at the bottom of this page you will find a series of resources that I have put together with the help of other CC’s around the country. You will find booklets that you can send to your young people and parents outlining what badges they could do at home as well as workbooks to help guide them through some of the activities. Note they need a little customising for you to include contact details such as leaders’ names, emails and phone numbers in the introduction.
In addition, you will find a further resource (with important points to note) about Online Section Meetings.
I’ve heard of some great other activity ideas too:
• Have YP ring an elderly member of the family every 2 or 3 days to check they are OK
• Have YP bring peoples wheelie bins in
• Have YP do extra chores at home as part of Health & Fitness or Home Help Activity badges
• Hold a virtual Campfire
• Learn the Scout Promise in Sign Language and/or Makaton
• JOTI (Jamboree on the Internet) takes place on April 3rd https://www.jotajoti.info/
But most of all, lets show the world how resilient Scouts can be and let’s find a way to share great programme ideas across sections, groups and Districts.
DBS Processing and Renewals Our excellent safeguarding record is the cornerstone of Scouts success and we must not compromise our position. In normal circumstances, and in order to maintain that integrity, there is a requirement for the person processing a DBS to be in physical possession of original ID documents.
However due to the unprecedented situation, and as from yesterday, this has been varied to now permit ID verification by weblink. You can read the detail of the change here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-changes-to-standard-and-enhanced-id-checking-guidelines
If you are a DBS processor then please refresh your knowledge about how to examine documents for authenticity. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dbs-identity-checking-guidelines/id-checking-guidelines-for-dbs-check-applications-from-3-september-2018#how-do-i-check-for-indicators-of-fraud
As most of you will know as you get close to the expiry of a current DBS you get email reminders at 90, 60, 30 and 7 days, after which you will be suspended. Those emails are copied to your GSL, your District Commissioner and to me here at the County office. With this new change to the ID examination process there is no planned added grace period.
These can take place remotely using skype, facetime or any other video conferencing alternative.
AGM’s AGM’s are required to be held within 6 months of the end of the financial year, so normally by end of September. There is some flexibility as to the way the meetings are held and guidelines for e-meetings is in Section 4 of CC48 via this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/charities-and-meetings-cc48
All adult county training courses in the next 2-3 months have been cancelled. We are looking into how we might be able to increase capacity for the more popular courses once the suspension on face to face scouting is lifted.
We are keen to point out that there is indeed plenty of adult training that can be done from home especially the mandatory training. Even if your training still has 12 months or more left, you can still renew it now. And validation of modules for your wood badge can take place remotely too!
Chris Nagle will be sending out a Training Updates with more information shortly.
Microsoft Teams is popular, especially as Skype for Business is phased out, however it is not particularly user friendly. It is well integrated with Office 365 and has the benefit that meetings can be recorded for non-attendees to watch at a later stage.
It is fair to say that none of the other competitor options are that much better even when they have instructional videos. Zoom seems to be the best of the other options (including standard Skype). It has a 40-50-person limit and a 45 min max meeting length (for the free version) Google Hangouts is effective for up to 25 users but requires everyone to be using google products (G-Suite).
The County has taken the decision to delay making any further payments to Eurojam, the next one is officially due by the end of March 2020. A few weeks ago, the Event Organisers publicly stated that there would be no refunds in the event of cancellation. Eurojam’s position may yet change and we will review the position regularly. With schools having been advised to cancel international trips for the rest of the school year I am sure parents just want to draw their YP close for a while.
County Cub Camp
This remains unchanged and ACC Cubs, Ross Paybody, and I are keen that it goes ahead if it all possible and remains viable. It would be helpful if you can let Ross know if any cub parents tell you they are withdrawing their child from the event. I plan to discuss the County’s position on refunds with the County Executive in due course.
Please do not ask if there will be a subscription reduction, all services at HQ need to be maintained throughout this time and at District and County Level we all have fixed costs and in some cases facing large abortive cost as planned events become cancelled. However, you might wish to consider offering a reduction or “holiday from subs” within your own Group if finances allow.
As we are all pretty much confined at home, it does open Groups and Districts up to malicious damage to our empty properties. In some cases, insurance policies have restrictions on how long a building can remain empty. It may be worth putting the word out that, if someone was venturing out and about, perhaps they could take a wander past and check all is in order.
Thank you for everything you have and continue to do for our young people during these uncertain times. HQ has branded virtual meetings and programmes as working on the “Great Indoors” and there are some great ideas being shared.
Let’s keep our young people engaged and focussed so that we can have a super time when we do restart and arrange great programmes so we don’t lose any members either and continue to grow Scouting in our part of North London.
Take care everyone and Be Prepared!
Yours in Scouting
County Commissioner Greater London North