The Duchess of Cornwall was in Wiltshire today, paying a visit to Youth Action Wiltshire’s Oxenwood Outdoor Activity Centre.
Royal engagements are no longer announced ahead of time, the norm in the time of COVID-19, to prevent large gatherings of well-wishers, as social distancing remains in place.
Camilla was in Wiltshire, where she met with young carers and officially opened the activity centre, following its closure due to coronavirus.
The Duchess of Cornwall arrived at the Centre’s “Round House”, which was built by Young Carers attending the centre, and was met by Lynn Gibson, CEO of Community First. Her Royal Highness then met with four carers aged 15-16, who told her all about their experiences during lockdown. Following their talk, she posed for a socially distanced photograph with them.
Youth Action Wiltshire is the youth branch of Community First and is the largest and principle provider of young carers’ services in Wiltshire. The Duchess has proudly been patron of the organisation for 15 years, taking up the role in 2005 following her marriage to The Prince of Wales.
Oxenwood seeks to offer support to vulnerable young carers from the county, give those carers the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities as part of a team, help them to develop their cores skills and build their self-esteem and confidence
There are currently around 874 carers aged between 5 and 18 years-old in Wiltshire alone. Youth Action Wiltshire supports all those carers in many different ways, but mainly through outdoor activities. During lockdown, the organisation identified the most vulnerable carers (around 290 of the estimated 874), and gave them support through welfare checks, remote webinars and advocacy. Youth Action is now beginning to return to group work delivery at Oxenwood for small groups.
The Oxenwood Outdoor Activity Centre has only been reopen for a couple of days, welcoming youngsters once more on 8th July.
The Centre’s building and grounds were originally those of a primary school built in 1904. The school closed in 1968 and the site was repurposed as a Field Studies Centre, which opened in 1969. In October 2019 Community First purchased the site.
But just because things are starting to get back to some sort of normal for the charity and the Centre, does not mean there are not underlying worries. The Young Carers they help have concerns and worries regarding the safety of their family members – who may well be vulnerable or shielding – and at the start of lockdown issues, around access to food and medicine was a key concern.
There are also potential barriers around returning to school, creating additional anxiety in these already unnerving times. Many of the young people are missing seeing their friends and wider family, with some finding it hard completing school work remotely – especially if they have limited IT equipment, lack of broadband internet, amongst other issues.
As well as speaking with the youth carers, the Duchess also watched on as they took part in outdoor activities such as archery. Speaking of outdoor activities, the Royal showed she has been keeping fit lately as she accessories with an unusual accessory for a royal – a Fitbit!
The visit concluded in the main building where, after a few words from the Chairman of Community First, The Duchess of Cornwall cut a ribbon to signify the re-opening of the Oxenwood Centre after lockdown.
The Duchess also gave a small speech, telling the small, socially distance crowd, that she just wanted to say “how grateful everybody is for all you do…I know how hard it’s been for you, especially over lockdown”.
Hopefully these young people can now get more help and a little more relaxation.