2021: the good - the challenges - and what we've achieved
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2021: the good - the challenges - and what we've achieved

Nick Barrett, Chief Executive

My last update to you was in December 2020. Since then, every time I started a message of where we were at, another plot twist appeared. Fingers crossed I can get to the end of this update today…

When the pandemic first hit we set ourselves a number of objectives. Faced with the unknown, having to cancel our programmes, close our centres and furlough our staff – we were determined to do whatever we could to protect Outward Bound’s future, to:

  • Get Outward Bound busy again as soon as was possible
  • Find a way of using the talents of our staff to best benefit young people
  • Run at a financial loss (if this is what we need to do to continue supporting young people)
  • Learn and adapt throughout to support young people as best we could.

The longer the pandemic has gone on, the clearer it becomes that young people are going to bear the greatest social, emotional, educational, and financial burden following Covid. We are still on course and ready to help them, but it hasn’t been easy.

Today I have both good news and a couple of challenges to share.

The good

We’ve worked with over 14,000 young people since August 2020. Our latest report shows what we have achieved through these day programmes. It is an insightful read on the work we have done and the challenges young people are experiencing because of the pandemic.

Residentials for apprentices and graduates have been running (at reduced numbers) at Eskdale since January. And I’m very happy to report that as of this month – all of our other centres are now welcoming young people back for residential summer adventures.

Despite these positive steps forward, the pandemic continues put barriers in our way.

The challenges

Staffing: Like many organisations reopening, we're experiencing recruitment challenges, in particular for hospitality staff and outdoor instructors. Recruiting is our priority, but training staff to the level our participants expect and deserve will take time.

COVID guidelines: All our adventures must be organised according to the latest guidance from the education, hospitality and outdoor sectors, as well as be in line with the latest government guidance for the three nations of England, Wales and Scotland. That's a lot of guidelines! The constant change also makes it very difficult to plan ahead. This combined with staffing challenges, means we may be running at reduced capacity until Easter 2022. We're part of the sector wide campaign to have the restrictions removed but it’s slow progress.

We still have a long way to go. We always knew this was going to be a marathon rather than a sprint. Maybe it is more of an ultra-marathon!

And finally

I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for your messages of support to me personally and the wider team. Thank you for your donations. These donations mean we can work with young people right now. They are also helping the organisation weather the storm.

2021 is our 80th anniversary year. From our foundations in WWII to a global pandemic, via eight decades of learning and adventure – we have worked with an estimated 1.3 million young people. With your support we'll be there for many more in the years to come.

22 July 2021

Support our charity

There’s no doubt, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our charity. Your gift will support a young person to attend one of our programmes and realise they're capable of more than they think.

Download our report

We might not have been able to run our usual programmes, but we adapted. And as a result over 14,000 young people have had an Outward Bound experience since COVID struck. The report is insightful.