Published Jan 2015 replacing April 2010, last reviewed with no updated 2018
This page provides a guide to applicants wishing to gain a nights away permit. It should be read in conjunction with Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR) of The Scout Association. Find out more about the scheme for Nights Away Advisers and for Commissioners.
The Nights Away Permit Scheme
A Nights Away Permit allows you to lead nights away events for young people within Scouting. It shows people in Scouting, the young people and their parents that you have the necessary skills and experience to be able to lead these important events.
The Nights Away Permit Scheme is a national scheme, so when you have a permit it will allow you to lead nights away events for young people from any District or County. Each permit can be tailored to the level of your skills, experience and requirements, meaning that restrictions may be placed on such matters as areas, venues or group sizes. This ensures that you can lead events at the right level.
What Will Be Assessed?
To gain a permit you will be assessed in four areas:
1. Technical Competence
2. Knowledge of Scout Association Rules for Nights Away
3. Child Protection
4. Personal Suitability
The last two will be checked by your responsible Commissioner, Knowledge will be checked by the responsible Commissioner or a NAA, and Technical Competence by a NAA.
During your Technical Competence assessment you will be assessed for your skills, knowledge and experience. This is likely to be through a practical assessment, except where you are renewing an identical permit, and you have recent on-going experience. This assessment is not supposed to trick you or catch you out. It's to assess your level of technical competence, and your NAA should also be able to support and provide advice to you throughout the process of planning, running and evaluating an event, as well as assessing you. Full details of the syllabus you will be assessed against can be found in the Nights Away Assessment Checklist. If you're unsure about anything to do with the assessment or how it will be run, please talk to your Nights Away Adviser beforehand.
If the NAA or responsible Commissioner recommends certain restrictions on your permit they should let you know why this is. They should also be able to tell you what further experience or skills you require to gain a permit with fewer restrictions.
Training And Support
There's no compulsory training course that you need to complete before going forward for an assessment. The important aspect is being able to prove you have the skills during the assessment, not where you got them from. However, there are a number of places that you can find training and support
The most obvious and recommended place to learn skills is through Module 16 (Nights Away) of The Scout Association’s adult training scheme. Module 38 (Skills for Residential Experiences) could give you some additional basic knowledge. In addition to this, valuable experience can be gained by attending or helping on the leadership team for residential events being run by someone else who holds a nights away permit.
Using Your Permit
Once you have gained your permit you can use it to run the activity up to the level permitted by any restrictions placed on it. Please remember that although there is no requirement to hold a first aid qualification to gain a nights away permit, and that your permit will remain valid whether you hold a first aid qualification or not, you are required to have a first aid holder present at every nights away event.
All groups undertaking a nights away event must have immediate access to someone who has a current first aid qualification, minimum First Response. The level of first aid competence required for each event will be determined by the event risk assessment.
Having a permit does not override the need for all activities to have the (usually informal) approval of the responsible Commissioner, and in the case of nights away events this is done through the Nights Away Notification Form (NAN). Before any nights away event takes place you need to send all the details that can be found on Form NAN to your Commissioner, whether this is through email, hard copy, text message, phone call – whatever system works most efficiently within your District. It's the Commissioner that gives approval for events to take place, not campsite wardens or managers. You may act as Permit holder for more than one Group at an event, but they remain your responsibility and you must ensure that the appropriate Commissioners are informed via the NAN form or Compass.
To encourage young people led residential events, such as patrol camps or Explorer Scout expeditions, when you hold a nights away permit you can grant a nights away passport to an under 18 year old. It will allow the young person to lead a residential event for members of their own section and it only lasts for a single event.
You can only issue a Passport to the level of your own permit. It is not to be used if an adult, who hasn't got a permit, is going to be present for the duration (or a significant part) of the residential event in a leadership capacity.
Before granting a Passport you will need to check that you are happy that the young person has the skills to lead that event safely and successfully, as you remain responsible for the event. The young person given the passport will be leading the event, so it cannot be given if there will be Leaders present running the event who are looking for a way around the Rules as they do not have permits.
You can get hold of passports through the Scout Brand Centre.
Event Leaders & Permit Holders
During the course of a residential experience the permit holder has overall responsibility. However some activities during the course of the residential will require an event leader. i.e. a climbing instructor on a campsite, a horse riding instructor, an assistant who is responsible for that part of the programme. In these instances the event leader should have a more thorough knowledge of the activity and consequently are best placed to ensure that it is safe and fun for all. The permit holder is still responsible and must ensure that the event leader is competent to lead that part of the programme and the appropriate risk assessments have been completed satisfactorily. If the permit holder has any concerns during the course of the activity then they should take the appropriate action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all concerned.
Applying For A Permit
To get a permit you should apply directly to a NAA. NAAs are appointed by Districts (and occasionally Counties) so if you are not sure who they are your District Commissioner should be able to let you know or use the search facility on Compass (Find Members - Assessor Search – Activity - Nights Away) You can find an application form on the nights away pages, that can either be printed off and filled in, or filled in online to enable emailing. Although there's no requirement to get approval from anyone in applying for a permit, it's good practice to let your GSL and responsible Commissioner know of your intentions beforehand. They can often provide valuable guidance and support.
Once you have been assessed by the NAA, they will issue a recommendation for the level of permit they believe your skills and experience are capable of fulfilling. This recommendation is not a permit on its own and will be done either online within Compass or using the form within the Assessment Checklist. You must take this recommendation to your responsible Commissioner who will deal with the other areas to be checked before granting you your permit, if done online this will happen automatically. When your permit is granted you may be given a permit card and your permit will be recorded on Compass.
All permits have an expiry date which is a maximum of 5 years from the issue date. After this the permit ceases to be valid. Renewal of a permit is conducted in the same way as initial application except the form of assessment is likely to differ. The permit holder will need to complete an application form and pass it to their NAA. The NAA will consider the experience of the applicant and decide the most appropriate form of assessment. A practical assessment is unlikely to be required but the NAA may wish to meet the applicant or may simply consider the experience listed and issue a recommendation to the commissioner on the strength of the known evidence.