At the start of this week the UK Government announcements placed the UK into the highest COVID-19 Alert Level. The published de-escalation strategies are such that it is inconceivable that the country can be at the National Alert Level and Local Tier Levels for the UK conference to happen on 1st & 2nd May 2021. It is with great disappointment that we are announcing the cancellation of our conference for this year.
Throughout our planning process we recognised that COVID-19 could impact us to the extent of not being able to go ahead with our May 2021 Conference. We took an early decision to run our UK Conference next year, rather than wait until 2023. Our efforts will now switch to the delivery of our conference from Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May 2022, in Solihull.
For this year, our focus will be intensified in supporting families through our online activities, family challenges, and activities through our recently launched regional initiatives programme. We hope, that as restrictions lift, to be able to organise regional events across the UK to bring families together locally. We are grateful to Foundation Scotland and the Pears Foundation for providing us with grants to help us deliver our regional activities in 2021.
We can look forward to May 2022 when our conference can once again bring our SMS families together in person. In the meantime, we thank you for your understanding and appreciate your continuing support.
Hazel Wotherspoon – Chairperson
Nigel Over – Chief Executive Officer
Why were we even planning a conference for May 2021 with COVID-19 prevalent?
Until the identification of the new variant of COVID-19, the UK Government briefings were suggesting that restrictions should be sufficiently eased by February / March 2021 that gave optimism that we could continue with our plans for the conference in May.
Has the Foundation lost any money?
All deposits paid to suppliers can be rolled over for the conference next year.
Some staff time has been lost in contingency and scenario planning around the conference and COVID-19 implications, although this has been at a higher, more strategic level with detailed plans due to have been prepared from January 2021. This knowledge and understanding leaves us better placed for other activities this year and for the conference next year.
Conference programme planning that has been done remains applicable for 2022.
Why are you not switching to a virtual conference?
An important aspect of our conferences is the bringing of our families together. A virtual conference would not connect families in the same way as our in-person events. This aspect we hope to compensate for with family meet ups through our regional activities.
Hosting a virtual conference can be more demanding on resources that coming together at a venue. In 2020 we started to enhance our online presence and offering which is continuing into 2021. There is also more flexibility in people’s diaries to be able to invite guests into webinars / discussions throughout the year, with a chance to be more responsive to the needs of our community.