Anger at short notice of ban on indoor summer camps for children

‘We just happened to hear it on the radio, that’s how we found out about it’

Summer camps like  this rugby one at at Clondalkin RFC in Dublin will still be permitted but there is some surprise that indoor ones have prohibited and anger over the lack of notice.  Photograph: Matt Browne/ Sportsfile

Summer camps like this rugby one at at Clondalkin RFC in Dublin will still be permitted but there is some surprise that indoor ones have prohibited and anger over the lack of notice. Photograph: Matt Browne/ Sportsfile

 

The lack of notice that indoor summer camps for children cannot go ahead has angered organisers and families. The announcement was made on Friday by Taoiseach Micheál Martin following “strong” advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), he said.

“It was like a bolt out of the blue,” said Derval Carroll of the Limerick-based Whizkids, which has been running indoor summer camps in digital skills for children at third level campuses nationwide since 2003.

“We just happened to hear it on the radio, that’s how we found out about it. It was being discussed on the radio on Saturday morning and then we went online and there we found a report that Micheál Martin had made the announcement on Friday evening in response to a query. So it wasn’t part of an official announcement. It just feels that we are really an afterthought,” she said.

“We have spent weeks and weeks preparing for the camps. We’ve also spent quite a bit of money on advertising the camps that we really can’t afford to after the year and a half that we’ve just put down. At the last minute we feel that the rug has been pulled out from under our feet again,” she said.

Contacting parents

“We were supposed to have indoor camps starting tomorrow (Monday) so we had to spend the weekend contacting parents and letting them know that, unfortunately, we now would not be able to go ahead with that camp.”

The indoor camps concerned, involving about 50 children aged 8 to 12, were to take place at Dublin City University and MIC Thurles.

“Many of the parents have asked if they could transfer to another week later in the summer in the hope that they may go ahead. So we have done that but, obviously, at this stage we are going week by week and we never really know what’s going to happen.”

They have indoor camps scheduled from July 19th, into next month. “We normally have camps in 11 university campuses. This year however many of those campuses said that they weren’t going to be open to summer camp providers. The places that we were given the green light were DCU in Dublin, LIT Limerick, Thurles and Clonmel, ” she said.

Taken by surprise

Alison Bosonnet of Bricks4Kidz, based in Dublin’s Fingal, said “our headquarters in Wexford had spent two days ringing around Government Departments looking for clarity and they couldn’t get it.” So they were “taken a little bit by surprise by the announcement.”

Bricks4Kidz programmes teach children from four to 12 principles of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) using Lego.

They had 14 indoor summer schools planned, with “up to 24 children in each camp,” and said that Friday’s announcement “will hit us financially”.

Last week they held “our first camp outdoors in Lusk. It went really, really well. So when we heard the announcement on Friday, we thought ‘fair enough’. So we went and bought a second gazebo, and we’re running our camp next week outdoors.”

Christine Campbell of Anyone4Science, which runs children’s summer camps in Cork, Dublin and Wicklow, has not had to cancel any. “We’ve moved outside,” she said. “We’ve had two fairly good weeks so far. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” she said. Their plan is for “two pods, of 12 children” in Dublin.

“We had thought we would be allowed have camps indoors from the 28th of June, when most of the schools were closed. That was our assumption, leading up to the summer and then it became clear, probably a month in advance, that wasn’t going to happen, that it was going to be the 5th (of July), so we cancelled two of our venues.”

It was one of the venues they work in which prompted Fianna Fáil Seán Hauughey TD to put down a parliamentary question last Wednesday as to whether indoor summer camps for children were going ahead, she said.