Tens of thousands of British children and young people attend summer camps each year. It was understandable that in 2020, without a vaccine or large-scale testing, they could not proceed.
But today, almost 3 in 4 Brits have been vaccinated against Covid, and very soon half will have had both jabs.
The rate of infection in Britain is low and relatively stable, with hospitalisations and deaths continuing to fall. We also have an abundance of lateral flow tests being widely used. So it is absolutely right that schools are open again, festivals and foreign holidays are returning.
Yet despite these successes, incredibly the Government is believed to be considering a cap of 30 for youth residentials, together with other restrictions which amount to a total prevention of all but a few youth residentials this summer.
Unless these restrictions are lifted from June 21st, the consequences will be devastating.
Firstly, youth residentials are usually run by charities, some of which are already on the brink having been stopped from running at all in 2020. Many will be unable to survive a second year of enforced legal shutdown and they risk losing both the volunteer effort and in many cases the venues needed to remain viable.
Secondly and more importantly, summer camps and residentials serve a constituency who have been deprived of a large part of their youth. The Government itself has acknowledged that Covid has sparked a severe mental health crisis among the young. Thousands of young people are looking forward to finally escaping their normal environment, meeting their peers and having fun together. To deny them that opportunity, when Covid metrics are all on the right trajectory and much of the country is being reopened, risks creating anger and despair among many young people who will understandably feel they are on the receiving end of unfair discrimination.
As one young person said, "I'm so looking forward to going to camp this summer and seeing all my friends after such a rubbish year. I'd be so devastated I don't know what I'd do if it was cancelled again".
The Government has insisted repeatedly that it will be led by data, not dates. In that case there can be no good justification for closing youth residentials for a further year, especially with the extensive precautions being planned in respect of testing and cleaning.
We are a campaign spearheaded by the Summer Camps Trust (www.summercampstrust.org) for the specific and sole purpose of ensuring that our children and young people are not discriminated against by the enforcement of over-zealous regulations which are both unnecessary and damaging to an entire generation.
Please sign our petition and donate whatever you can spare so that we can together fight the plans to prevent young people from resuming these important activities.