Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Girlguiding UK

1.  Girlguiding UK is the largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women in the UK which offers a safe, girl-only space in which our members can have new experiences and undertake challenges. Our programme supports girls to develop self-confidence and new skills which they can take into the rest of their lives and their communities. Girlguiding UK is open to all girls and young women aged 5-25 and currently one in four eight-year-old girls is a Brownie and one in ten 11-year-old girls is a Guide.

2.  Guiding is present in many communities in the UK and our aim is to welcome even more members from a wider range of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Recently Girlguiding UK's three year long SWITCH project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, sought to identify and break down barriers to participation in guiding and ensure that any girl or young woman who wishes to take part can do so. New groups were set up in areas where there was no history of guiding, and to meet the needs of groups that face barriers to participating, such as young mothers, demonstrating that with the right approach guiding can bring benefits to girls and young women in a range of different communities.

3.  Girlguiding UK's programme encourages informal and formal volunteering as well as wider community involvement from a young age and fits well with the priorities for the Big Society With 44,000 girls currently on waiting-to-join lists due to a lack of adult volunteers we welcome Government's focus on the value of volunteering. Guiding supports the government's aim of increasing volunteering. "Active Citizenship—Girls Shout Out!" our 2008 survey of guiding members aged 14-25 found that 96% of them engaged in volunteering. Between September 2009 and 2009 Girlguiding UK ran a one-year initiative "Changing the World" which encouraged all members to undertake a community action project of their choice to support one of 19 partner charities. In total 296,591 members took part and raised over £750,000.

4.  Although it did not bid to be a provider of the pilot project taking place in the summer of 2011, Girlguiding UK supports the values that underpin the National Citizen Service—of providing opportunities for young people to have new experiences, meet new people and gain new skills—and welcomes the increased focus that has been placed on the benefits of volunteering. We would urge young women who take part in this scheme to consider continuing their contribution to the community by supporting a local unit as a volunteer with Girlguiding UK.

5.  While supporting measures to encourage volunteering, we are concerned that proposals to create a new generation of community organisers could overlook organisations already working in and engaged with communities, and believe that existing best practice should be accompanied by support from both national and local government. In order for the Big Society agenda to be fully realised the Government must consult with the voluntary sector and make full use of its experience and expertise.

6.  In total there are around 500,000 members of Girlguiding UK, of which approximately 80,000 are adult volunteers.

7.  Our young members have repeatedly said that they want Girlguiding UK to remain a girl-only organisation and that they value they time it gives them away from boys. Our young members have repeatedly told us that enjoying a safe girl-only space is one of the things they value most about their guiding experience. Throughout our 100 years we have always maintained this safe girl-only space for our members. We strongly believe that in today's world there remains a vital role for such a space, where girls can be themselves during a formative time in their lives without the pressures of having boys around. To support this, research conducted for our Girls Shout Out! report series has illustrated the value for girls of all ages in having a girl-only space in which to learn, have fun with their peers and tackle difficult aspects of growing up such as self-esteem and body image.

8.  Our girl-led programmes enables young members to decide, in an age-appropriate manner, what activities they do ie Rainbows (aged 5-7) use the "Rainbow Roundabout" to come to a group decision about which of a range of activities they will do, whereas Rangers (part of the Senior Section, aged 14-25) plan and carry out their own activities. The guiding programme is designed so our girls and young women work together in small groups, taking as many of their own decisions as possible about how they spend their time and choose their own priorities from a national framework of activities.

9.  Girlguiding UK is working towards making youth participation an integral part of our decision-making processes. Our youth forums (such as Innovate which enables Senior Section members to contribute ideas to how Girlguiding UK is run), peer education projects (such as "4" where young members receive training in peer education so that they can run sessions with other members on issues such as binge drinking and world poverty) and girl-led approach to guiding already shape and inform our work and expanding youth participation will be a key priority for the organisation in 2011.

10.  While aware that what it offers is not intended to replace statutory youth service provision, Girlguiding UK can complement these services. We feel strongly that statutory provision should include girl-only opportunities as girls themselves have told us they value and need these spaces and we would encourage local authorities to think innovatively about the youth services they provide and to ensure that they meet the particular needs of the young people in their area. 

11.  Girlguiding UK supports the requirement for all local authorities to provide access to information for young people on the positive activities that are taking place in their local area. We particularly welcome the emphasis on incorporating young peoples' views when determining the provision of such educational and recreational activities. We hope to work with the relevant bodies to develop a model which will enable more girls to find out about guiding units in their area. We are always seeking to extend the reach of Girlguiding UK's expertise and girl-led programmes in to areas that have traditionally been harder to reach and believe this programme to be another key tool in achieving this.

12.  Volunteers with Girlguiding UK receive training in leadership skills, programme training, outdoor skills, international opportunities, interpersonal skills, management skills and safety and support and training is provided for those who choose to obtain their Leadership Qualification. However, we believe that communities would benefit if guiding members were able to participate in local authority youth work training as well as Girlguiding UK's internal training.

13.  The impact of public sector spending cuts on Girlguiding UK is not yet clear, but as an organisation that is largely self-funding it is likely to be less severe than on other youth services. Guide units are run on a very tight budget in order to keep the costs to members as low as possible. Our "Starting a New Unit" grants has demonstrated that a relatively small sum of money (around £250) can enable a new guiding group to be set up which then becomes self-financing.

14.  Guiding aims to enable girls and young women to develop their potential and make a difference in the world. The effectiveness of participation in guiding is difficult to demonstrate quantitatively but our 2010 Girls' Attitudes Survey showed that girls who currently or used to be involved in guiding are more likely to describe themselves as "very happy" and more likely to state that they felt part of their local community.

December 2010

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Prepared 23 June 2011