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Nights away FAQs

If I have a nights away permit does this allow me to camp in prohibited camping areas?

No. The prohibited camping areas, as defined at scouts.org.uk/prohibited, are out-of-bounds regardless of the fact that you hold a nights away permit.

What information do I need to notify the District Commissioner of?

The information required is conveniently listed on the nights away notification form (NAN) at scouts.org.uk/FORMNAN. This information can be passed to the commissioner in whatever way they are happy with, not necessarily through filling in and sending off the form.

If, as a commissioner, I am presented with a nights away permit issued by another district commissioner, can I accept it?

Yes. The assessment process is standard throughout the United Kingdom and permits, once gained, can be used anywhere.

Is a permit required to lead overnight events for scout network members?

No. A permit is not required provided that all of the members participating in the event are over 18 years old. However, notification, conveying the information listed on form NAN, needs to be given to the district commissioner (or nominee).

If I am taking my scouts camping outside my district, do I need to inform the 'host' District Commissioner?

No. There is no need to notify a host DC unless your risk assessment deems necessary

How do I find out the contact details of the 'host' District Commissioner?

You can telephone the Scout Information Centre on 0208 433 7100. The venue postcode would be useful here.

If I am taking explorer scouts out on a night hike and sleeping in our scout headquarters, do I require a permit?

Yes. You require a permit if it is intended that young people will sleep overnight and arrangements are put in place for this purpose. You should also make the appropriate notification (supplying all the information listed on form NAN) to your district commissioner.

If I hold a campsite-category permit, can I issue a young person with a greenfield-category event passport?

No. You must hold a permit of an equivalent or higher category than the event passport you are issuing. In this instance you would require a greenfield-category permit.

If I hold a greenfield-category permit, do I automatically qualify to lead events in the other three categories?

Yes. The greenfield-category permit allows you to lead any category of residential event. If you hold a campsite-category permit, you will only be able to lead campsite or indoor-category events. If you hold a lightweight expedition or indoor-category permit you can only lead residential events within that category.

Do I need a permit to take my young people abroad?

Yes, for events for those under 18 years. You will require a permit suitable for the type of residential or camping event you are leading in addition to the normal procedures for travelling abroad.

How long does my permit last?

The length of a permit's validity is determined by the District Commissioner when issued. The maximum validity of a permit is five years.

Can a nights away adviser be shared between districts?

Certainly. This may be a sensible approach to appointing nights away advisers in some districts. It would be particularly useful to have a scout campsite manager or skilled service team member as a nights away adviser.

What is the age criteria for the issue of a nights away permits?

The minimum age to get a nights away permit is 18. Members under this age who wish to lead nights away events for their peers can do so using event passports. There is no maximum age for the issue of a permit, provided the applicant can meet the requirements of the assessment.

Does the permit holder need to remain on site overnight?

Yes. The permit holder remains responsible for the event at all times, and although they might leave the site at times during the day (shopping, off-site activities etc), they need to be there to be in charge of all nights away elements of the event.

If I have a hillwalking permit that includes remote camping, do I still need a lightweight expedition nights away permit?

If your hillwalking permit includes remote camping then you do not need a lightweight expedition permit. However this only covers lightweight expeditions, so does not automatically cover indoor, campsite or greenfield permits. If your hillwalking permit does not include remote camping then you will need a lightweight expedition nights away permit, or will need to get a hillwalking permit that includes remote camping.

Why can't event passports be given to adults?

Nights away passports were designed to ensure that young person-led residential experiences continue to take place. If an adult has the skills to run a nights away event they should get themselves a nights away permit. If they don't have the skills to get a nights away permit then they shouldn't be running a nights away event.

Why do nights away advisers need to hold a permit themselves?

All nights away advisers need to have the technical skills and knowledge to be able to carry out their role. Holding a nights away permit shows that they have these skills.

Can you expand on why the permit holder does not need to have a valid first aid qualification at the time of assessment?

The actual need is to have accessible first aid cover for the activity, rather than attaching that requirement to the permit holder. So in the same way you would not expect the event leader to do all of the cooking, putting up tents, running the programme, emptying the toilets etc, it does not have to be the permit holder with the first aid qualification, as long as it is provided somewhere within the leadership team.

Why aren't nights away permits section-specific?

The assessment for a nights away permit is on an individual's technical and personal abilities to run quality nights away experiences. It is then easy for them to include leaders of any section, especially if they don’t have much experience with that section personally, to ensure the programme is relevant for the young people involved. So in the same way you would not expect to see someone with a climbing permit only being allowed to take cubs climbing, you would also not expect to see someone with a nights away permit only being allowed to take cubs camping.

Why do campsite wardens or managers not check my nights away permit card?

The approval for nights away events (as with all activities) lies with the home district commissioner, not the campsite warden. It is not possible to make campsite wardens responsible for this approval as they have no line management responsibility for the people concerned, and when people stayed at non-scout centres, or greenfield sites such as farmers' fields, there would be no-one to give approval for the event to take place.

Are there any restrictions on Beaver Scouts taking part in Nights Away activities?

There are no longer any specific restrictions to Beaver Scouts taking part in residential activities, except for the normal section ratio's. As with any nights away activity consideration should be made to the suitability of the opportunity for the young people.

How do I run a joint Explorer Scout and Scout Network expedition within the rules of the Nights Away Permit Scheme?

Where an Explorer Unit are on a nights away event they either need a Leader on site with a Nights Away Permit or they need an Event Passport issued by a Nights Away Permit Holder. An Event Passport cannot be issued to an Explorer who is going to be on an expedition where adults from the same party will be on site overnight. Scout Network member are classed as adults as well as member of the Scout Association.
Therefore, if there is to be a joint nights away experience between Scout Network members and Explorer Scouts, there must be a full or associate member who holds a Nights Away Permit of the relevant type. A suitable role for the permit holder could be a Skills Instructor or an Active Support Member, both of which can hold a permit unlike an Occasional Helper. If the night away is part of an expedition and has members that are under 18 as well as over 18, there must be a Nights Away Permit holder on site and a minimum of 2 adults.
This could mean a Nights Away Adviser may need to recommend the issue of a Lightweight Expedition Permit to one of the Scout Network members, who has taken on an appropriate full or associate member role. The permit may contain restrictions to specific members, the type of expedition or the location. It may not need be a full assessment but the Nights Away Adviser must be satisfied the Scout Network member understands their responsibility as the permit holder. The permit only needs to be held by one of the two over 18s, the other can attend within their Scout Network role. 

A young person who turns 18 during an event or residential activity (of no more than one month’s duration) shall be treated as under 18, and be subject to all rules applicable to under 18 year olds, for the duration of that event.

I have a Campsite Nights Away Permit, can I set up and use chemical or portable toilets at a campsite with plumbed toilet facilities?
No, anyone wishing to use chemical or other portable toilets must be assessed against the Greenfield Permit requirements. This is because the assessment for the handling and therefore disposal of human waste is in the Greenfield Permit category. A restricted Greenfield Permit can be held that would allow you to use chemical or portable toilets at a campsite.
Can I use commercial portable toilets at a campsite when using my Campsite Nights Away Permit?
Yes, in this situation an external source will be taking care of the disposal and handling of the human waste so operating under your Campsite Nights Away Permit is absolutely fine.

Can boys and girls share accommodation?

Yes they can. This is subject to the Risk Assessment of the Nights Away Permit holder. The Nights Away Permit holder has the ultimate responsibility for the event so it will be their decision. However, this decision must take into consideration the views of the young people and the views of the parents, and give the parents the opportunity to voice any concerns they may have.

The NAP holder and/or Leader in Charge must also consider that different age groups may present different issues and this must be taken into account when accommodation is being arranged.

What happens if there is Permit Holder has to leave camp due to an emergency?

The permit holder remains responsible for the event at all times and as a minimum, attends the event during the time that provision is made for young people to be sleeping overnight.

What should be undertaken is a brief chat with the District Commissioner on what action they want you to take in the event of this happening. If it was to happen during the day, you should try and get hold of a replacement permit holder for that night or finish the camp early at the end of the day. If at night, then it needs to be considered what the safest, realistic option is. As there will be no permit holder present to make this decision, then the home District Commissioner will need to be asked for advice on what should be done as they are ultimately responsible.

Obviously there are many factors involved, length of camp, distance from home, time, weather etc. When planning your camp, you need to take into consideration as part of your planning and risk assessments, what actions you are going to take in the case of emergencies, part of that is if you only have one Nights Away Permit holder available, what will you do if they unavoidably have to leave. This plan needs to be clearly documented, so the other leaders on the camp know what action to take.

If this is not done, then in the unfortunate event of the Nights Away Permit holder having to leave, then the District Commissioner will need to be contacted to agree a plan of action, this could possibly involve a call to be made at an unsociable hour.


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