The mass withdrawal of UK summer camps for children has left parents concerned for their children’s mental health and their own careers, with some even sending children to residential camps abroad that are able to operate under more relaxed guidelines than in the UK.
Other parents, who say they have struggled to home school their children since schools closed in March, say they have no idea how they will look after their children during the summer holidays while still working.
One scientist working full-time on Covid-19 solutions said she was worried about the mental health of her young children, who would usually spend the summer at camps.
“I will be continuing the impossible task of managing the emotional and developmental needs of my son while working 50-hour weeks on the development of medical devices to help with Covid,” said the Cambridge-based scientist, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I feel very let down by the government failing to provide an outlet for isolated and increasingly distressed children.”
Eleanor Clarke, a charity manager in Brighton, said: “We are panicking. We are worn out from working full-time at home and part-time home schooling. I am heartbroken that my nine-year-old son will have much of his holiday to fill by himself while his parents are expected to commit their time to work.
“I don’t understand how holiday clubs can’t open when pubs and restaurants can, and schools have taken some year groups back,” she added.
No residential, UK summer camps have been able to open this year after government guidelines released in early July stipulated that “holiday providers should not be offering overnight or residential provision for children”.
Activity day-camps have either not opened or have cut the number of places they offer by more than a half to adhere to government guidance that they keep children in “small consistent groups of no more than 15 children”. Where consistent groups of 15 cannot be maintained, groups must only be outside and with a 1:5 staff ratio.
World-camps.org, a directory of more than 100 camps in the UK, said not a single camp that advertises with them has opened this summer. “They all blame government restrictions and/or global travel restrictions, which mean it’s just not financially viable for them to open this year,” said Alex Peipers, the co-founder of the site.
“Some parents are even sending their children abroad to camps because the UK ones aren’t open,” he said. “We’ve had lots of requests from UK parents about camps in countries where the measures are less strict, such as Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Austria.”
SuperCamps, an Ofsted-registered provider of more than 40 day-camps across the UK, has not opened a single camp this year. Nor has the YMCA, Camp Indy or Barracuda, which owns 48 sites across the UK.
A Barracuda spokesperson said: “These guidelines are not practical for holiday clubs who accept children for differing time frames dependent on parental needs.”
Some day-camps have managed to open, however: Camp Beaumont has reduced its capacity by about 50% but said it “pushed hard” to open because of “unprecedented demand” from parents.
Some sports clubs that operate in the open are managing to run classes but clubs that are technology-based have experienced a boon: “We’ve moved entirely online and are now able to reach double the number of children we usually would,” said Kirien Sangha of Fire Tech Camp.
What can I do with my children this summer?
Circomedia has created a directory of free, online circus tutorials and activities teaching children circus skills including juggling, acrobatics, how to make their own equipment, and performance.
Fire Tech has online courses for children of all ages, from week-long to part-time and tasters
Funtech virtual camps offer real-time, interactive classes.
Art-k is offering pre-recorded art tutorials and weekly Zoom art classes
Scouts pulled together indoors activities for “the great indoor badge”
The website eparenting.co.uk offers free activity ideas that can be done with children anywhere in the UK.