Published Jan 2015 replacing Sept 2007, last reviewed with no updated 2018
This page provides a guide to Commissioners on their role within the Nights Away Permit Scheme. It should be read in conjunction with Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR) of The Scout Association. Find out more information about the scheme for applicants and for Nights Away Advisers.
The Nights Away Permit Scheme
The Nights Away Permit Scheme promotes quality residential and camping experiences. It allows adults who have demonstrated their knowledge & skill to take young people away on nights away events. It also supports and encourages adults to acquire and improve the skills required to provide residential experiences.
The Commissioner's Role
It's your role as the responsible Commissioner to issue Nights Away Permits. No other role, such as Nights Away Adviser (NAA) or Assistant Commissioner, can grant a permit, although they can all provide support to you.
It's also not possible to grant or renew a permit without a recommendation from a NAA. It's also not possible to grant a Permit to a higher level than that recommended by the Nights Away Adviser.
The Nights Away Permit Scheme is a national scheme, so any permit you grant can be used with young people from other parts of the country, and anyone with a permit from elsewhere in the country can use it with young people from your County or District.
Please don't implement local rules in relation to the permit scheme. These are not needed, provide extra barriers to young people being able to take part in residential experiences, and may lead to confusion and frustration.
Granting A Permit
If someone wishes you to grant them a permit they should come to you with a recommendation from a NAA. When this happens there are a number of steps you need to take:
This will be based on the applicant's technical competence and experience. This recommendation may come to you through Compass or on the recommendation form from the Assessment Checklist. You may not grant a permit that is less restrictive than this recommendation.
Always check who the Nights Away Adviser (NAA) is. If it's not someone you know as being an NAA, then you should contact them or their County/District to check that they're in a position to be able to carry out assessments.
Recommendations made through Compass will only come from a NAAs.
You will need to check that the applicant is aware of the general and nights away specific Scout Association Rules and how these affect them. It might be that you use a specialist to check this such as the Nights Away Adviser (NAA), and further support can generally be found from the Assistant County Commissioner (ACC) Activities.
All Permit Holders must have undertaken appropriate criminal records checks. In addition, they must have completed the relevant safeguarding training either as part of their Wood Badge or prior to appointment review.
This is a check on the applicant's attitude to run the activity for young people. It's not the same as their personal suitability to hold an appointment, as they'll be in a different environment with different responsibilities.
If you don't know the applicant well yourself, it can be useful to consult with people who do know them well, such as their Group Scout Leader (GSL).
This can't be to a level higher than the recommendation received from the Nights Away Adviser (NAA). It can be tailored to the skills, experience and requirements of the individual as much as is deemed appropriate.
However, you should be prepared to explain the reasons for any restrictions, and how they could gain a less restrictive permit in the future.
You'll also need to state an expiry date for the permit, up to a maximum of five years from the issue date. Again, if you decide there are reasons to issue a shorter term permit you should be prepared to explain the reasons for this to the applicant.
When an applicant's permit expires they'll need to apply for a new one following the same process, so it might be useful to remind permit holders a few months before their permits expire.
The permit isn't valid until the details are recorded on Compass. This also allows Counties or areas to see what permit holders there are in their area. It also allows The Scout Association to easily contact them with updates (or other information) should the need arise.
Permits aren't section specific. Therefore, Districts and Counties/Areas mustn't operate a policy of issuing only section specific permits. It's recognised that for some individuals a restriction to this effect may be appropriate. However, consideration must be made on how this will affect the use of Young Leaders or other young people on the residential experience.
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 the permit holder should send you all the details that can be found on Form NAN, whether this is through email, hard copy, text message, phone call, via Compass - whatever system works most efficiently for you.
There are occasions when residential opportunities present themselves at short notice. Commissioners should understand the ad hoc nature of the opportunity and be flexible about the notice given.
As Commissioner it is you that gives approval for events to take place, not campsite wardens or managers, so please don't leave this for others to do.
All adult groups, whilst not requiring to have a Permit, are still required to inform you when they undertake a residential experience. However it's not required that a NAN form be used in this instance.
Review or Cancellation of a Permit
A permit can be reviewed at any time if the issuing Commissioner has concerns about the holder's suitability to continue to run residential experiences. Outcomes of a review can be continuance, restriction, non-renewal or cancellation.
The Commissioner should inform the permit holder, and their line manager (if different from the Commissioner), as soon as is practically possible that they are reviewing their permit.
They should also inform the Permit holder the areas of concern and the processes by which they are going to review the permit, such as by assessment by a Nights Away Adviser (NAA), an interview and so on. They should also inform them about the time line of the review. Any review of a Permit should be completed as quickly as possible and commissioners should aim at no longer than 3 months.
A commissioner may restrict a permit for the duration of the review. This may include a restriction on the permit holder that they cannot lead residential experiences until the review is concluded. The Permit holder and their line manager must be informed of any restrictions.
The Permit holder and line manager should then be informed of the outcome of the review, the rationale of the conclusions and any actions required, such as additional training.
Any amendments of a permit's status is only valid if the record on Compass is updated as appropriate. If the permit is revoked, this can be done on Compass using the revoke permit function, giving the Commissioner the ability to record the reasons for the permit being revoked and to communicate this to the permit holder through the system.
If the Permit holder is dissatisfied with the outcome they may appeal using either of the two options below.
If an applicant has cause to dispute the level of Permit granted, or if no permit is granted, they should be allowed to appeal.
If the dispute lies with the assessment by the Nights Away Adviser (NAA) then the applicant could ask to be re assessed. In this instance it is advisable to use an independent NAA, usually from another District or County, who is unknown to the applicant and the original NAA so as to enable an impartial assessment.
If the cause for concern lies with the issuing Commissioners' decision then a complaint can be raised using the Scout Associations Adult Disputes procedure.
Formal inspections are not part of the Nights Away Permit Scheme. However, people might like a visit from their District Commissioner, Assistant District Commissioner or Nights Away Adviser (NAA) from time to time, and these visits are encouraged. They act as support to Permits Holders that they are doing a good job and as opportunities to increase skills and knowledge.
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 event will require an event leader, such as a climbing instructor on a campsite, a horse riding instructor or 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.
The Permit holder has responsibility for the overall camp and can't 'ignore' any rules because parents and carers are present. Within this context, parents and carers can be responsible for their young people. Find out more about Family Camps.
Levels of Permit
The diagram below outlines the hierarchy of the permit scheme.
Any one holding a Greenfield Permit may lead residential experiences in the other three categories. Those holding a Campsite Permit may also run indoor residential experiences.
However those holding only Indoor or Light Weight Expedition Permits may not run residential experiences in the other categories.
Those holding a Hillwalking Permit that includes lightweight camping in remote areas may also run Lightweight Expedition events.
However holding a Lightweight Expedition Permit does not authorise those holding a Hillwalking Permit (without the remote camping authorisation) to camp in remote areas.
If you're unsure of anything to do with the permit scheme then support should be available. Many Counties have a local support structure for Activities headed up by an ACC Activities who would usually be the first point of contact for any activity queries. In addition to this there is support available from the Adventure Programme Team at UK Headquarters.
If in doubt, please ask.