Friday 21 October 2016

Consumer Champion: Keeping the boredom at bay is child's play with summer camp activities

With just six weeks to go before primary schools break for the summer, parents everywhere are faced with the usual dilemma: What to do with kids for what will hopefully turn out to be a long, hot eight weeks.

Whether you work outside the home or not, it’s a long time to cater for them, especially if they’re bored and frustrated so one of the most tried and tested outlets is the summer camp.

So, this week, I’m looking at what’s available, how much they cost and is there anything different out there this year. Camps are expensive and one thing’s for sure – you’ll need to get your skates on because, irrespective of cost, they fill up fast and you don’t want to miss out.

When mine were small, it was either sports-led or arts and crafts, but these days there are tons of offerings to suit every kind of child (see table for something different).

For the traditionalists the activity ones are always good – they tire children out and they get to do lots of things they may not do in school.

In Dublin, the Let’s Go camps have always been popular (www.letsgo.ie) with 14 venues across the city. They cover the usual range of activities such as football and team sports but also assault courses, zorbee balls (no, me neither, but they’ll love it!) and human table football.

For the water babies, try surfing at any one of the many centres, like Skerries for example, where kids can learn the basics, with all equipment provided for €95 per week (www.outdoordublin.com).

Those who just don’t like sports may prefer something more cerebral. There’s been a huge upsurge in camps aimed at science and technology. Apart from the wonderful Coder Dojo, there’s Whizz Kids in UCD and DCU which includes web design and programming for 8+ year olds while DCU’s CTYI Summer Scholars programme offers bright kids options in app design, medicine, engineering and psychology on a day or residential basis.

Children with special needs are also being catered for although, of course, many enjoy fully the regular camps on offer. Well Being for Dyspraxia has play therapy camps on crafts, puppetry and games at www.sugru.ie for €150 in July (or €130 if you book before May 22). 

Some places you can go to find out about local camps include your library, community centre or school. Good websites are www.fundays.ie, www.whatsonin.ie and www.rollercoaster.ie.

Here are the things you should ask before committing your money (and child) to a summer camp:

l How long will it run in terms of days/hours?

l What do you need to supply? Usually it’s a packed lunch, change of clothes/shoes and some sun cream. What’s provided by the camp?

l Does the child receive anything for taking part? A gift, certificate or some other reward?

l Ensure the camp is fully insured. Don’t assume the venue (e.g. a school) is covered under its own insurance.

l Are all staff garda vetted and operating under the ‘Children First’ policy?

l Ask about their policy on mobile phones – many don’t allow them to be brought to camp for security reasons.

Springboard to dive back into work

I’m a big fan of initiatives that help get people back to work – we still have a long way to go. One of the best is Springboard: a reskilling and training initiative undertaken between Government and private and public colleges.

It provides part-time and full-time courses from Levels 6-9, so these are at the higher Fetac and Degree levels, matching industries crying out for people (IT, skilled manufacturing, financial Services and Construction), with trained or re-trained unemployed.

All courses are of less than 12 months duration for under 17 hours per week and are held on campus, online or a mix of both. This year, funding has been given for 9,000 places (up from 6,000 last year) and to qualify you need to be on Jobseeker’s Allowance and apply through your local DSP office.

Hop on to the Springboardcourses.ie website to browse what’s available. If you attend part time you get to keep all your benefits, but must be ‘available for work’ when you’re not at college.

Springboard tells me many people get work while doing the course. There is no waiting period of unemployment before you apply.

If attending a full-time course, you will move to the Back to Education & Training Allowance instead. All courses are completely free of charge.


3s customers got a surprise alright - but there are ways to kill that bill

After the hype of 3 buying out O2, customers were promised “exciting developments” by the merger – instead some got a shock when they were texted with a price increase of €5.08 per month on their pay-as-you-go SIM-only service which will now cost €25.41 – a 20pc increase.

They have reacted angrily and while the extra cash will go to improve the 4G network, it’s not quite the ‘development’ they were expecting. My advice is to download the free Kill Biller App, which analyses your phone usage and recommends plans.

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