Parents concerned about misconduct in unregulated children's camps

Children. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

In a memo to the Ministry of Education, the Consumer Protection Authority called attention to the fact that, despite a number of complaints from parents, the organizing of children's camps lasting less than six days is not regulated by law in Estonia.

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), which is responsible for supervising children's camps under the Consumer Protection Act, observed that the organization of camps lasting less than six days in Estonia is not regulated. The new secretary general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Ahti Kuningas, wrote to the Ministry of Education regarding this matter.

Kuningas said that there are no explicit regulations for camp organizers, such as sanitation and supervision requirements, and that no national organization is responsible for monitoring such camps. Even a permit from a municipal authority is not necessary to organize them.

A number of worried parents have complained to consumer protection about apparent misconduct in the organization of short-term camps.

Parents have complained about a lack of and/or inadequacy of hygiene and catering facilities, underage smoking, boys and girls sharing rooms, a lack of supervision while children bathe, a lack of knowledge about the backgrounds of camp supervisors, such as whether they have a criminal record, and children working in hot weather.

"While the Youth Work Act governs children's camps, legislators did not see the need to enact a separate regulation for camps lasting less than six days. This is not to say that such camps do not require supervision," Kuningas explained.

The TTJA said that while the protection of children is required by law, the relevant authorities lack the legal power to do so because this is not a traditional "service" as defined by the Consumer Protection Act.

The Ministry of Education agrees with the TTJA that the safety of campers merits a legislative review and they are willing to look into potential solutions.

"Even while organizers of camps lasting less than six days are not required to obtain a separate license, they are nonetheless responsible for adhering to the rules and principles for working with youth," Riin Tamm, the head of the ministry's youth and media policy department, said.

"The safety of young participants should be prioritized during their stay," she said. "We are willing to talk and, if necessary, identify national solutions to ensure participant safety and monitor the application of the law."


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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