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Scout groups at risk of closure due to pandemic restrictions

PUBLISHED: 14:55 29 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:55 29 October 2020

North East Norfolk Scouts during a previous St George's Day parade.
 Similar events had to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Antony Kelly

North East Norfolk Scouts during a previous St George's Day parade. Similar events had to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Antony Kelly

Archant Norfolk 2014

Scout groups in some of the poorest parts of Norfolk are at risk of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Norfolk Scouts at an activity camp at Eaton Vale in Norwich. Such activties have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Mark BullimoreNorfolk Scouts at an activity camp at Eaton Vale in Norwich. Such activties have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Mark Bullimore

The Scout Association said the groups were facing “severe financial difficulty” and a “bleak” future as social-distancing rules had left them unable to raise money through their usual methods.

Matthew Burrell, county commissioner for Norfolk Scouts, said groups in Norwich, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth were amongst those facing the biggest challenges.

He said: “We have got some groups in areas of deprivation that don’t have a great amount of reserves for a period like this.

Matthew Burrell, Norfolk Scouts county commissioner. Picture: Norfolk ScoutsMatthew Burrell, Norfolk Scouts county commissioner. Picture: Norfolk Scouts

“The impact of not meeting face-to-face affects things like the jumble sales, car boot sales, fete and quiz nights which as well as adding a real social element to those communities also bring in some really helpful funds to subside scouting.”

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Norfolk has a high number of scout groups that do not have their own premises and instead rely on meeting in village halls, schools or community buildings.

Mr Burrell said: “What quite a lot of them are finding is because of the extra coronavirus security needed some of these meeting places are not available. That is adding an extra cost burden and is certainly a worry for our volunteers.”

Chief scout Bear Grylls on a visit to Great Yarmouth. Picture: Bill SmithChief scout Bear Grylls on a visit to Great Yarmouth. Picture: Bill Smith

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The Scout Association has now launched a major fundraising campaign to try and save those most at risk, with a virtual race around the world. Scouts are being challenged to travel 172,000 miles collectively in their local areas.

Some 7,300 Scout groups across the UK have joined the effort so far in a bid to raise £300,000.

Scout groups have seen residential trips and summer camps cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Norfolk ScoutsScout groups have seen residential trips and summer camps cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Norfolk Scouts

Chief Scout Bear Grylls, said: “Scouting plays a fundamental role in the lives of thousands of young people, giving them skills and hope for the future.

“That is now more vital than ever. I am so proud of those doing their mile in support of those hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Norfolk Scouts switched to online activities after face-to-face meetings were suspended in March.

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Remote scouting has included young people camping in their gardens, a Scout in the House challenge and even an online talk from an astronaut.

With residential trips and summer camps cancelled, a digital jamboree Box-Jam in August saw 1,100 participants taking part in 100 different online activities.

Mr Burrell said: “The resilience of scouting is phenomenal. We have tried really hard to keep young people engaged. The volunteers have worked incredibly hard.

“Normality is a little way off and because we are a social group we have to apply the full social distancing rules. That is incredibly challenging. What you can deliver as a programme like that is quite limited.”


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