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Leicestershire charity calls for a change in rules to help ‘forgotten’ children

A charity which takes disadvantaged youngsters on holiday is appealing to the government for a change in the rules on social distancing at outdoor centres.

Leicester Children's Holidays chair Parvez Bhatty at the charity's base at Highcross Leicester

Parvez Bhatty, chair of Leicester Children’s Holidays, has written to the region’s MPs to call for them to raise the matter and push for the change.

He thinks the risks associated with children going back to school are similar to those affecting the charity’s holiday breaks to outdoor centres.

Parvez said: “Even during the height of the pandemic this year, children of key workers continued to be taught in school classrooms, albeit with social distancing measures in place.

“There is a forgotten group of children in our region who are having a tough time right now. These are the vulnerable and disadvantaged youngsters who, since 1898, are the kind of children our charity has helped.

“For the last few years they have been going to an excellent outdoor centre where they are helped to realise their own potential, work together as a team and have fun.

“Due to the rules on social distancing in residential centres, it meant we were unable to take 85 youngsters on holiday with our charity this summer. Our charity has more holidays planned over the next 12 months.”

It is the first time since 1945 that the charity’s holidays have not gone ahead. During both world wars, the charity’s holiday centre in Mablethorpe was used by troops focused on coastal defences.

Children being briefed on activities as part of one of the charity's breaks

Leicester Children’s Holidays provides free respite breaks for local children aged 8 to 11 who may face difficult circumstances at home. The youngsters may live in a low-income family, have suffered a bereavement, be a child carer, or need a break for a host of other reasons.

Parvez said: “If the government relaxed these restrictions and allowed risk-assessed residential activities, our charity and others could help change these youngsters’ lives for the better.

“These children were disadvantaged before Covid-19 struck and after a summer of inactivity, they need an outdoor break.

“I am calling on the government to relax the guidelines and give the children a chance to get back on track with their lives, to enjoy an outdoor adventure and give their parents a break too.

“Opening schools and residential centres go hand in hand, and both are vital to children’s wellbeing. The government needs to plan ahead now to get measures in place to support these forgotten children.”

A petition to persuade the government to consider allowing youngsters to go on outdoor trips has been set up. It's received over 8,000 signatures so far.

Photos courtesy of Leicester Children's Holidays.

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