Children and youth ministries, Sunday schools, faith-based education, non-regulated organised activities for children and face-to-face youth work are, in certain protection levels, able to resume in church buildings. The Scottish Government through Youthlink Scotland has produced in-depth guidance that congregations and service providers must consider before any children's or young person's work can resume. The Scottish Government has also published additional guidance relating to unregulated organised activities for children including carer and toddler groups. Congregations and service providers should note that not all activities can resume in church buildings at the present time, and you should refer to the Scottish Government sector guidance to ensure that your planned activity can safely resume.
General Youth Work Provisions
Before any activities can resume, congregations must ensure that the measures outlined in the Reopening and Looking After Your Church Buildings guidance are followed. In addition, the following general principles will apply:
- The default position is that all work with children and young people,including Sunday Schools, Bible Classes and other faith-based education, falls under the general guidance for activities for children and young people unless sector-specific guidance from the Scottish Government is in place for the activity
- Whether an activity takes place indoors or outdoors the same principles apply for calculating numbers and even if a very large area is utilised for the activity, care should be taken to ensure that the numbers attending can be safely managed. Numbers should not exceed the number stated for the activity in your risk assessment. If a higher number can now be accommodated for an activity a revision of the Risk Assessment will be necessary with the Risk Assessment being approved by the Kirk Session, or other regulatory body.
- Where an activity falls under the general guidance for organised activities for children capacity is based on the ability to maintain physical distancing (1m)for all users of the space (between adults, between children over 12 years and between adults and these children) and should not exceed a congregations PDBC. Facilitators will also count in relation to the capacity of the building. Under 5's do not count within the calculations.
- For activities categorised as ‘Youth Work' (see definitions below),
- In circumstances where support to a vulnerable young person is required, this can be provided on a one-to-one basis (indoors or outdoors)at any protection levelwithmitigationsin place.
- In areas under levels 3 and 4 restrictions digital youth work should be the norm with face-to-face being prioritised to those who need it the most.
- In areas under COVID Protection level 3, youth work should be provided online or outdoors and should only be carried out indoors for the purposes of targeted youth work to support health and wellbeing with vulnerable groups, the completion of youth qualifications or employment training or education recovery. Activities are limited to a maximum of30 people (if the activity is for those under the age of 18) or 15 people outdoors/ 5 indoors (for activities where the young people are aged 18 and over) which includes the youth worker, volunteers, young people and children.
- In areas under COVID Protection levels 0-2 youth work is permitted to take place indoors or outdoors. The numbers able to attend is based on the Risk-Assessed Physical Distance Based Calculation (PDBC) for the space being used. All other mitigations such as face coverings and distancing remain in place for such activities except where there are exemptions. Physical activity and sports should follow the general guidance for sport whereas activity akin to events should follow events guidance.
- Young people aged 12 and over and adults must continue to physically distance (1m) from one another at all timesduring indoor activities.There is no distancing required when providing a youth work activity outdoors.
- The capacity for how many people can participate in youth work may change depending on the type of activity being undertaken or its location
- Children under 12 do not have to physically distance; however, young people over 12 and adults must maintain a 1m physical distanceduring indoor activities
- The sharing of food and drink should not take place at children's activities or youth work activities
- As with all activities in a place of worship, face coverings should be worn by all over the age 5 without a medical exemption. In certain instances face coverings may be removed by young people, however youth leaders, volunteers and adults should continue to wear a face covering at all times unless there is an exemption. The removal of the face covering in youth work sessions should be the exemption not the rule. The default should remain that face coverings are worn except when young people are actively engaged in exercise, physical activity or small learning groups.
What can be classified as ‘Youth Work'
Congregations should understand that not all work with young people aged 12-25 is classed as ‘youth work'. In order to be classed as ‘youth work' and operate under that exemption and guidance, the group must be able to demonstrate a clear educational focus and a structured programme. This means that a drop-in youth club where there is no planned programme is unlikely to fall under the ‘youth work' guidance and would therefore follow the ‘organised activities for children' guidance. For more information on what defines a Youth Work Group or Activity there is useful information on the Covid FAQ page on the website of Youth Link Scotland.
It is important that congregations and service providers ensure that any activities provided within their church buildings are run safely. Scottish Government guidance states that before implementing any planned face-to-face delivery or re-opening of youth work spaces, youth work leaders should be able to demonstrate the following:
- That the Scottish Government scientific and medical advice deems it safe to proceed
- Youth work leaders have the ability to comply with Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance
- Comprehensive risk assessment are in place relating to both the building/space being used and the activity undertaken
- Appropriate measures for infection prevention and control are in place
- Enhanced cleaning arrangements
- Adequate facilities, equipment and procedures for personal hygiene
- Measures are in place to comply with physical distancing requirements
- Ability to adhere to the Scottish Government Test and Protect COVID-19 guidance
- Specific measures to protect those who are at higher risk from COVID-19 infection
- Clear communication processes - to ensure staff, volunteers, service users and parents understand what measures have been put in place to manage risk of COVID-19 transmission
- Appropriate insurance cover
- That these arrangements and measures are monitored and reviewed regularly.
Sunday Schools and Bible Classes
For more information on Sunday Schools and Bible Classes please see the Worship section of the guidance
Congregations which provide a holiday club for children and young people can take place in church buildings or church grounds in level 3 – 0 areas. Capacity is based on the ability to maintain physical distancing (1m)for all users of an indoorspace (between adults, between children over 12 years and between adults and these children) and should not exceed a congregations PDBC.Note there is no distancing required when providing a youth work activity outdoors.Facilitators will also count in relation to the capacity of the building. The Organised activities for children guidance must be followed alongside the general principles outlined above.
Due to the nature of uniformed organisations and the educational model they provide, sections of uniformed organisations with children and young people of any age should comply with the Youthlink Scotland guidance.