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Focus Surrey Trustees are Hopeful for the Future

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

The past year was one that many of us will never forget. A newly discovered coronavirus swept its way across the world causing immeasurable disruption, panic and most painfully, deaths. Many families have been isolated and undergone undue stress as they tackled social isolation and were separated from their usual support networks. As we started our 8th term at Focus Surrey in February last year, we began to feel the impact of Covid-19 closer to home. People around us started getting sick, hospital numbers started to increase and some started to feel increasingly worried and wary about what lay ahead.

It was against this extremely uncertain backdrop that Focus Surrey commenced it's eighth term. We had a full cohort of volunteers who had all undergone their training and were eager to put their newly acquired skills into practice. And we had all our kids, some from previous terms and some new, but all who were looking forward to fun times that have long been associated with the club. The club re-opened on 22nd February, however as the country started to shut down around us, the difficult decision was taken by the Trustees to close the club on 14th March. It was hoped this would be a short term closure, however as the country went into lockdown on 23rd March, it wasn't long before we all realised that this wasn't going to be a brief intrusion on our lives, and it became a long, hard year of lockdowns and social distancing.

However, work continued behind the scenes as we submitted our first annual report to the Charities Commission; undertook our first audit; updated our website; continued fundraising and consolidated many of our processes. As we passed the milestone of a long year in lockdown, the future has started to look a bit brighter. Widespread vaccinations and the freely available testing means that we have finally dared to hope that our lives may get back to a kind of normality. And our Focus Surrey Trustees have also started taking the first tentative steps towards the re-opening of the Saturday club.

Over the past year, as lockdowns came and went, the Trustees had many discussions about whether it was possible to run the club. Various solutions were put forward and mulled over. We could go on-line, we could reduce the number of kids but some would miss out, it would be easier and safer to have the parents as the tutors, we would need to find an alternative venue. All the solutions just fell short of the experience that we wanted for our families and volunteers.

We did venture on-line with our Guest Speaker series though and that has proved very popular. Our speakers have covered topics such as fighting for ABA in your child's EHCP, getting through the teenage years and surviving it!, and helping your BCBA work collaboratively with your SLT. The talks have been well attended, not just by our current members, but by ABA subscribers globally too! We also took our fundraising on-line with our first virtual Pamper Party which was enjoyed by all who attended it.

But the main focus for us is the Saturday club, and as the roadmap out of lockdown starts to make headway, our Trustees have started drawing up plans to re-open, hopefully in the Autumn term. Risk Assessments have been drawn up, consultants have been approached and we are in consultation with our usual venue in Cheam. Everything is being carefully planned to make sure that when we open, it will be safe not only for everybody who attends, but also for those who they come into contact with after they have been to the club.

The trustees have consulted with a Health and Safety expert; undertaken a Covid-risk assessment to ensure we will have rigorous covid precautions in place; and have budgeted for PPE for staff and enhanced cleaning procedures. We have spoken to a professional cleaner who deals with Covid compliance daily and is happy to come on board and clean surfaces and touch points throughout the day and at the end of the day. We will also ensure there is good ventilation and there is a one-way system throughout the building. We will also aim to reduce the overall number of people in the venue throughout the day.

We are hopeful that those who wish to be vaccinated will all have received their jabs by this time. All of this gives you greater reassurance that everyone involved will be safe. We will be recruiting and training our volunteers, not only in volunteering with children, but also in covid compliance. It can therefore be said that we are "cautiously optimistic" of a September re-opening - watch this space and please keep your fingers crossed!!

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