SCC’s Outdoor Centres provide vital support during pandemic

Somerset County Council’s Outdoor Centres (SSE Outdoors) are providing a haven for the county’s most vulnerable young people during the coronavirus lockdown.

Kilve Court in West Somerset, and the Charterhouse Centre on the Mendips, have been opening their doors to young people most in need of a safe and reassuring space.

Since 24 March, the centres have worked with 43 young people providing both day visits and overnight stays with more than 1,000 meals served.

With the pressures of the lockdown, reduced attendance at school and the uncertainties created by coronavirus, the outdoor centres have been providing respite care for young people and their carers.

As well as working closely with Children’s Services, the centres are also linking with Adult Social Care and the grounds of Kilve are currently being used as a safe place for vulnerable adults to take their daily exercise.

“Normally at this time of year our centres would be welcoming around 400 children a week for residential visits. During the current health emergency, activities are still being provided for young people with centre staff working closely with social workers, the Family Intervention Service, the Virtual School for Children Looked After and the Emotional Health and Wellbeing team to provide a comprehensive package of support for young people and families,” said Councillor Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services.

“Staff have worked immensely hard to change the focus of the outdoor centres to provide space and safety for vulnerable children, young people and their families at this very difficult time.”

The young visitors’ needs vary from a chance to run around outside to day activities for those moving from care.  Social distancing is practised so the spaces remain safe.

SSE Outdoors has also been providing specialised equipment such as stimulus lights, ‘safe place tents’ and off-road wheelchairs to children with special educational needs and/or disability and their families. The equipment has been loaned out free of charge and delivered across Somerset.