Happy New Year!

New Year Update – All Sections

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had as good a festive season as possible in the circumstances and that you’ve all managed to stay fit and healthy.

I had intended to write a review of 2020, but on reflection I thought it might be better to look forward than back. Here are a few things that I need to update you on for the first few months of 2021:

Face to Face Meetings

North Yorkshire is in Tier 3 as I write this, and under the NYA alert levels this allows us to meet face to face in limited numbers. In practice many of our leadership team are from Darlington which is in Tier 4, and while our scouting work allows us to cross tiers if we were to follow the rules to the letter, this feels like it goes against the spirit of those rules. Add to this the building work in progress at the village hall, the weather at this time of year and the continued uncertainty about the status of school opening, we have taken the decision across the sections to start the term online and review this towards the end of this half term.

Although schools may be returning this week, most section leadership teams will have a planning meeting this week to work out online programmes through to February and will resume online next week. Look out for emails directly from your section leaders some time soon!

Census

Every scout group conducts an annual census of membership to give a national picture of scouting. This is necessary for two reasons: 1) It allows HQ to monitor membership levels across the country to identify areas that need support recruiting young people and leaders. Based on a lot of historical hard work and good reputation, 1st Barton are yet to need any help on either of those fronts; 2) It allows our district to calculate our annual membership fees.

Why am I telling you this? As ever, we need your help. In this case, in two ways.

First, the process of pulling together the census information requires us to collate a fair bit of anonymised data, particularly around age, gender, race and disability. This can be automatically pulled from our admin system but only when a parent has updated this and given permission. If that hasn’t happened we are forced to rely on paper records of membership applications which in most cases have been destroyed due to GDPR requirements. Where no records exist we have to submit incomplete information which causes no end of headaches. I will follow this email with a specific Census Request email which will only go out to anyone for whom we do not already hold census data and permission. Click on the link and log in – you’ve all been in Parent Portal at least once to set up your DD – and take the 15 seconds required to update your child’s record. That 15 seconds saves us hours of problems in the long run.

Second, very simply, please let us know if you no longer want your place in the group. Not only will this potentially free up space for someone else in a section which is at capacity, it will save us paying an annual membership fee for someone who then leaves shortly afterwards. Unlike many other scout groups we do not make a one-off charge for annual membership; we spread this through the year as part of subs, but this does mean we proceed at risk of not covering our costs if we lose people soon after census. There are a number of you out there who we haven’t heard from or seen since the first lockdown started last March, and we could really do with knowing if you want to come back. Now would be a fine time to get in touch and let us know if you want to give up a place. No hard feelings at all on our part.

Gift Aid

We are part of a charity and this means that we can claim Gift Aid on the subs that you pay to us. That can be worth 25p on every pound you pay to us monthly and that adds up to a lot. We can only do this if you have completed a Gift Aid declaration. You will find that in the Parent Portal that you just definitely accessed to make our lives easier with the census. We’d appreciate you updating your declaration ASAP so we can claim some money back.

In March last year I did some financial projections to see how long we could continue based on reduced subs, which have been in place for 9 months now. I won’t bore you with the details of those projections, but while we are not in imminent danger, another year like last year coupled with the potential for a Gang Show delayed by COVID could see us having a very different and much more difficult conversation this time next year. Completing your gift aid declaration NOW helps us keep the wolf from the door for longer.

Subs

A gentle reminder that when a child moves section, action is required on your part to move their DD to their new section. This is less onerous than it once was and no longer requires a whole new DD to be set up, you can just move to the new section’s plan. There are a number of people who moved during the last term for whom we have not been receiving DDs. This is most likely because of the sheer volume of scouting email you receive, but also because any reminders to set up a DD are sent at the same time as the monthly notification that payment will be taken. These are possibly overlooked because they arrive on the usual payment notification schedule. I’ll get section leader to get in contact with folks individually where there are missing DDs to resolve this, but you can get ahead of us by checking your emails from Go Cardless and checking in Parent Portal to see if there are any payment actions.

Get in touch if you have any payment questions. It is possible you will see multiple months as due and these will all be taken once a DD is in place. Hopefully at £5 a month this shouldn’t be too great a financial hit, but if this causes you any concern at all, get in touch and we can and will support you.

I’ll stop banging on now.

As ever, contact me or one of our fantastic leadership team with any questions, comments, suggestions or offers of help.

Hopefully we can see you all in person soon.

Gavin