Written evidence submitted by Girlguiding
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 CitizenshipGirls
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 Serviceof
providing opportunities for young people to have new experiences,
meet new people and gain new skillsand 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
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.