From the blog

Save Outdoor Ed

Save Outdoor Ed

A campaign to save the UK’s Outdoor Education Centres from closure

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The outdoor learning sector delivers formative educational experiences to at least 5m students across the UK every year. The sector provides over 15,000 jobs and £700m to the UK economy.

However the Impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt across all areas of Outdoor learning with reports showing an estimated lost revenue of £275 million until mid March 2021 and each day over 70,000 under 18’s and 20,000 over 18’s missing out on valuable learning experiences.

Outdoor Learning Covid-19 Impact Survey

The report conducted by UK Outdoors paints a bleak picture of the devastating impact that Covid-19 is having on the Outdoor Education sector, regardless of the efforts made by many to diversify.

Over 80% of respondents rely on residential school visits for at least half of their income

Two thirds of 127 respondents expect their income to fall by over 80% year on year

30% of respondents have disposed of assets to generate income and half of all respondents are expecting their April 2021 reserves to be down 80% on February 2020 levels

In order for the sector to survive the pandemic we need the Government to step in and provide a support package for outdoor education centres, as they have in Scotland and Ireland.

We need to shout about the #SaveOutdoorEd campaign loud enough so that the Government hear us. We can do this through telling them about the amazing impact that outdoor education has on our countries young people, and the vital role outdoor centres will play in the recovery and learning of young people after the pandemic. **Information at the bottom of this post on how you can support the campaign**

 

The Impact of Our Outdoor Activity Centre

Bendrigg Trust is a specialist outdoor activity centre which provides residential opportunities for people of all abilities including profoundly disabled and disadvantaged people. We enable people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access adventure activities, the opportunity to do so and it is often life changing.

Our Principal Nick Liley has led the centre through an incredibly difficult time to maintain our stability as a charity, but this stability has been dependant on the Governments furlough leave scheme and significant internal fundraising efforts.

I am unwavering in my belief that Bendrigg Trust will be key to the recovery of people with disabilities following the pandemic. People with disabilities will be more isolated, have more anxiety, be less independent, be less active, have more severe health conditions and will have fewer life chances than ever before.

Bendrigg Trust will be part of the solution, renewing peoples self-confidence, independence and self-esteem. We will reconnect people with nature and with other people within the disabled community. We will have a very clear task ahead of us once things reopen and it is imperative that we receive the financial support from Government to do it.

– Nick Liley, Bendrigg Principal

 

 

Throughout the pandemic we have kept in touch with our visitors to find out their current needs and how Bendrigg can play a part in helping them through this difficult time. The truth is that most of our visitors are in a desperate situation. Many families with members who have additional needs are struggling through the pandemic a statement which is backed up by this report from the office for national statistics.

Of all the worries they had, more than 1 in 4 (27%) disabled people were most concerned about the impact on their well-being

Our research and communications showed that families are desperate for a safe outdoor space, to get away from the same 4 walls safely, reconnect with people and enable their family member with additional needs to build their independence again.

In order to support our visitors through the pandemic, we gained our Covid Good To Go badge and opened up our grounds for families to enjoy a safe accessible outdoor space with access to an accessible toilet. The demand for this was huge and peoples feedback showed how much of an impact this service had after shielding indoors for months on end. Once restrictions lifted further we applied for and secured funding to be able to offer accessible day activities for families, college groups and adults with a disability. We also ran our first ever “Winter Wonderland” trail with great success again, the feedback showed just what a huge difference having access to a safe outdoor space meant to them.

Despite the challenges faced, Bendrigg rose to the challenge and were able to welcome a total of 484 participants along with 413 carers/parents/family members since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Client Testimonial – The Whittingham’s

It has been a stressful & emotional time for anyone, but I can only share the impact on my son who has Autism & ADHD. Having to socially isolate has had a huge knock on effect on my son’s overall happiness, motivation and self esteem.

My son has major difficulties with social integration & social communication.  The importance of being included in groups in order to improve these skills, to feel included, to try new opportunities, to exercise, are so beneficial for his Autism & ADHD. Unfortunately any groups he attended, suddenly shut in March 2020 with very short notice including his school. Some groups have not been able to reopen, or have closed for good and 1-1 support with his carer stopped. My sons wellbeing has deteriorated because of the nature of the support which is aimed at increasing impendence and confidence through social, recreational & leisure activities within the local community.

The lockdown was sudden, there was no time to prepare for the disruption and change in routine. We were suddenly isolated.  Being autistic he finds social integration & communication very difficult – all the services & activities to help him with these skills stopped. He no longer was included, no longer able to develop and improve these key skills, and no longer able to feel empowered.

Every time the rules change it causes great confusion and conflict which results in fear, anxiety & frustration. We live in the countryside and normally see very few people, but when the restrictions lifted, suddenly there was an influx of people passing our home. No way were we able to go for a walk, he feared we would have to pass people in the narrow lanes and felt very vulnerable and anxious.

Being active in the outdoors has always aided in my son being able to re-focus and enjoy all of the benefits to wellbeing through being in the outdoors in the sunlight and fresh air.

Bendrigg rose to the challenge facing Covid 19 to create worthwhile outdoor experiences through creative problem solving and provided amazing opportunities that are very satisfying in meeting my sons needs.

Going to Bendrigg gave my son the opportunity to get outdoors again, somewhere he felt safe. It gave him a great sense of freedom not being controlled by the environment, virus & people around him. I believe it was a massive achievement in the face of adversity.

The activities seemed to have an immediate positive effect! Not only was it great for him to be active which helps us to have a healthier mind & body. His confidence was brimming, he was being more independent and was able to make choices with little prompting. He wasn’t clingy or hesitant, initiated conversation with the instructors  (he says the staff at Bendrigg are always friendly & supportive) & within our support  bubble we shared excitement and had lots to talk about regarding the activities, offering peer support  and encouragement and even a little bit of healthy competition.  The whole day had such a great sense of fun, I hadn’t seen my son laugh, smile,  have fun & be at total ease for months.

Through preparation, we felt safe and reassured in being able to give my son these new experiences and challenges. We were able to take part in a great range of activities in a safe & secure way – meeting the Covid 19 government requirements.

The activities at Bendrigg have had a lasting positive impact on my son, that will last a life time.  I’m sure many will remember their time at Bendrigg during the Pandemic.

What Can You Do To Support The Campaign?

There are many ways in which you can support the campaign to save outdoor education centres :

While Government restrictions make the normal operation of Residential Centres impossible, we implore them to provide financial assistance to help this viable & worthwhile industry survive this period of forced closure.

  • Write to your local MP

Once you’ve signed the petition above, you can find your local MP’s details here. Write to them to voice your support for the Save Outdoor Ed campaign sharing your personal experience of outdoor education and the impact it has had on you. Call upon them to provide financial support for the sector to ensure centres survive the pandemic.

  • Share this blog post on social media, via email or whatsapp to your friends and family asking them to take action. On social media use the hashtag #SaveOutdoorEd and tag @BendriggTrust so we can share/retweet your posts.

You could post about how outdoor education centres have impacted your life or someone you know add photos or a video telling people what you’ve done to help and why you think this campaign is so important.

  • Set up a fundraiser or make a donation to your local outdoor education centre

If the Government do not offer a package of support, we will be reliant on fundraising through trusts, foundations and the general public.

You could fundraise in aid of Bendrigg Trust to help ensure our survival so that we can be here after the pandemic to enable more disabled people to have life changing adventures.

If you’d like to make a donation to Bendrigg you can do so online here alternatively you can email Martha our fundraising and marketing officer or call our office Monday – Friday 9-5 and one of our team will be happy to help.

 

Thank you for your support together we can get through this