COVID-19 coronavirus

Contacting your MP in support of sail training

If you don't know who your local MP is or you don't have their email address, you can find it by entering your postcode on this website.

When writing to your local MP, it is important to include your full address and postcode so that they can see you are genuinely one of their constituents.

Back in March and April, many OYT South members helped us enormously by writing to their local MP to ask for support for sail training. This was effective in raising awareness – and we also became part of a much wider call across many other sectors for changes to make government support more practical and effective. For example, we asked for more flexibility in the furlough scheme to allow for part-time working. This was introduced in July and has enabled us to arrange part-time working for Mark, Peta, Josh and Jo – rather than the previous choice of no work at all versus having to pay full salaries even if they weren’t needed full-time.

You may well be aware that the furlough scheme ends in October and the Chancellor has said that while he is not inclined to extend it in its present form, he is looking for new and creative ways to support businesses and employment over the coming months. The government is under pressure from sectors with much louder voices than ours to target ongoing support on the areas which need it most. Imagine how disappointing it would be if new support was announced covering – for example – theatres, restaurants and live music venues, but not including sail training! It’s therefore very important to make our case NOW that whatever the chancellor might be considering, it should cover businesses and charities like OYT South. We are suggesting a draft letter (below) though obviously you are free to adapt it - and the first line will need to change if you weren't part of the earlier letter-writing campaign!

Thank you so much for your support.


Dear [MP]

I have previously written to you about the difficulties faced by Ocean Youth Trust South ( and other Sail Training charities due to COVID-19. Our work involves taking young people – many of them disadvantaged and vulnerable – on residential voyages to develop confidence, resilience, teamworking, communication and more. Due to government guidelines we have been unable to operate at all this year and have lost all our trading income for the 2020 sailing season.

We have made full use of all the available grants and support, including the furlough scheme: the opportunities for flexible working through this scheme have been particularly valuable.

I note that the Chancellor has now said he is looking for new and creative ways to keep people in jobs as the furlough scheme ends, and many other organisations have been asking for an extension to the scheme or for some alternative support targeted at specific sectors. Sail Training is a very small sector and there is a risk that our voice may not be heard among all the competing interests, but I am writing to ask for your help in ensuring that if any new or targeted support becomes available, Sail Training should not be forgotten.

Our case is that we have a viable business with a long track record of sound financial management. However, our business is seasonal: we normally sail from late March to early November each year. Even without COVID-19, we cannot take children to sea in the depths of winter. We are currently working very hard to make our vessel and our voyages COVID-safe for next year, with huge adjustments to all our ways of working. But we cannot hope to earn any voyage income until the start of the season. Normally we would have spent the 2020 season securing sufficient funds to see us through the winter: this year we have to get through almost five months from the end of the furlough scheme before we can bring in new income.

We can certainly be a successful business again going forward, once restrictions are lifted, though a really effective coronavirus testing regime will be of enormous importance to us as it will to so many other sectors.

A relatively small investment over the coming months could make all the difference to the Sail Training sector and will be far cheaper, less complex and more reliable than seeing people on benefits, retraining and reskilling while entirely new jobs are created.

The existence of Sail Training in itself saves money for the nation. A school which has sent 67 students to sail with us over the last eight years says: “These experiences have given life changing skills such as confidence, self-belief, trust and an "I can" attitude. For some of these students getting through to Year 11 and final exams was looking bleak, but the experiences enabled them to complete it and achieve.” These voyage places cost less than £500 per head: set that against the long-term costs and consequences if a young person fails to complete their education.

We can run a financially-sound business and we can meet a genuine need. If there are to be any new measures to support businesses after the end of the furlough scheme, please can you help to ensure that our sector is included?

Yours sincerely


[If you do write to your MP, it would be enormously helpful if you could let us know that you have done so by emailing, and please also pass on any response that you receive!]


“I have learnt and seen loads of new things and I will remember for the rest of my life! ” Jemima, aged 12