Gradual reopening of Residential Outdoor Education Centres may be too late for some, says North Wales MS
A North Wales MS has called on the Welsh Government to engage with Residential Outdoor Education Centres who are on their knees because of “inconsistent, and, frankly, flawed” Covid rules in Wales.
Speaking in Tuesday’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament, Welsh Conservative MS Mark Isherwood warned that although the Welsh Government announced on Monday that Residential Outdoor Education Centres can start reopening with primary school-age children, the changes may have been too little, too late for some Centres.
He said: “I wish to comment on your reference to residential outdoor education centres, some of whom contacted me yesterday, which was how I found out about the Welsh Government statement, as we hadn’t been notified directly as Members.
“I first raised concerns, expressed by Residential Outdoor Education Centres regarding Welsh Government Coronavirus guidance, with the Welsh Government here in March, after the sector had stated they had ‘reached a critical point’, unable to trade for 12 months, yet the Welsh Government, they said, had failed to provide the financial support and constructive dialogue they needed to survive.
“Last week, I received e-mails from Residential Outdoor Education Centres stating, for example, ‘This industry is being permanently decimated. The result of this is creating a huge deficit in the local economy, both in the long and short term’, ‘Currently, outdoor education residentials are being managed safely in England, and money that should be coming into the Welsh economy is being lost’, ‘The rules are inconsistent, and, frankly, flawed’, ‘Put simply, Wales is about to lose one of the most joyful ways in which its heritage and culture is shared with young people’, and a final quote: ‘The loss of Welsh Centres is a disaster for Wales from a financial and cultural perspective, but can be easily dealt with’.
“Now, although you announced yesterday that overnight stays in Residential Outdoor Education Centres are now allowed for primary school children, Centres have responded stating, for example, ‘If only these advised changes had been just a few weeks back, the chances of some Centres being saved would have been much improved’, and ‘it seems to many of us who provide residential school outdoor education, that crisis has only been responded to with crisis’.
“How will you now engage in the constructive dialogue with them that they have long been calling for?”
In her response Health Minister Eluend Morgan said that the Welsh Government has provided support for the sector and said their decisions have been made according to the data.
She added: “We are very aware of the importance of this sector to Wales.
“I think it’s one of the areas, in particular in parts of north Wales and the Brecon Beacons, where, actually, people can have life-changing experiences—taking people outside of their normal environment and exposing them to life outdoors.
“Of course, we understand how important it is in particular for mental health and well-being as well. We have actually provided support for this sector. It’s all very well saying, ‘If only we knew a few weeks before’.
“Well, if only we knew about the virus a few months before. It’s a very strange way of suggesting that we make decisions. We have always followed the data.
“We will continue to follow the data. We know that transmission within residential areas where adults are mixing over a long period of time is likely to spread the virus. We are not going to be pushed around on this. We will stand our ground. Our role is to protect the people of Wales, and that’s where we will stand.
“But, of course, we will continue to give support to sectors that are experiencing a difficult time.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Isherwood said “Instead of answering my very specific question, the Minister gave me a recycled lecture. This critical sector deserves better”. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com