Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Scout Association


1.  The Scout Association (TSA) is the largest volunteer led co-educational youth movement in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1907 and is part of a wider Scouting movement, with 28 million members internationally. It seeks to support the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potential, as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities. Scout groups across the country offer activities to over 400,000 young people aged 6-25 years old.[14]

2.  Scout Association research and experience illustrates young people who have participated in a youth or sport club such as Scouting are less likely to drink or smoke, more likely to participate in physical activity, more likely to have a good relationship with other adults in their community, more likely to have parents who trust them and more likely to be engaged in their schooling.[15]

3.  Scouting activities are made possible by the efforts of over 100,000 voluntary adult leaders, of which 66,000 work directly with young people. The number of adult volunteers working for Scouting is bigger than the combined workforces of the BBC (24,000) and McDonalds (67,000). If paid, this would be the equivalent of £380 million of services for young people annually. It costs the equivalent of £300 to train a Scout Leader, meaning that, through its activities, TSA provides the UK economy with training worth approximately £5.5 million per year.

4.  The Scout Association is therefore one of the largest active volunteering organisations in the UK with activities being conducted across the country on a weekly basis. This is in contrast to other voluntary organisations that ask volunteers to be active in time-limited projects or mass membership organisations that do not seek personal contributions of time and energy from their members in the same sustained manner. Consequently, supporting volunteers to give the commitment this requires is a key priority for TSA. The Scout Association is also a growing movement and currently has 33,000 young people on waiting lists to join Scouting across the UK. The key challenge the Movement faces is to recruit and retain the adult volunteers urgently required in order to support the involvement of these young people and others in our activities for their, and wider society's benefit.


5.  Scouting takes place in every part of the UK. Each Scout group decides their own activity programme, according to local need and capacity, based on a national programme with clear educational objectives.[16] All Scout Leaders have to complete Valuing Diversity training as part of their leadership development. There are examples of Scout groups, throughout the UK, working with other services to provide targeted services within the universal Scouting setting. One such example is in Northumberland with Lookwide UK, a Scout Association development initiative that seeks to engage young people who would not ordinarily join the movement but who may benefit from the opportunities that it offers.

6.  Lookwide UK is a development wing of Northumberland County Scout Council. It works with young people and, by extension, with their families, in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Newcastle upon Tyne and south-east Northumberland. These are areas of high unemployment with a hugh number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Lookwide UK provides a positive route from inactivity and potential long-term worklessness to a positive outcome based on personal development. LookWide UK's focus includes developing tools for parents and the local community to support young people through the raising of aspirations.

7.  LookWide UK run a series of programmes in coalition with partners such as The Prince's Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Community Foundation. One such programme works with groups of young people from Newcastle's East and West Ends to support them to develop and enhance a section of the North Pennine Walk alongside the Alston Railway. The groups designed and installed information boards, picnic and seating areas and constructed safety railings to protect the public. The walk has now been used by hundreds of adults and young people as they visited the railway and by members of the local community for whom the walk represents an enhanced recreational facility.


8.  The Scout Association believes itself to be the embodiment of the principles of the Big Society. One of the Government's priorities for the Big Society[17] is to "encourage people to take an active role in their communities". This is entirely in keeping with the model adopted by The Scout Association. TSA is entirely volunteer-led with support from a small number of paid staff. As mentioned in paragraph 4 Scouting for young people relies entirely on unpaid volunteers in both front-line and support roles and is community-based. Most Scout groups will financially support at least one other charitable organisation during the course of a year through some form of fundraising activity as part of their commitment to help others.

9.  The Scout Association operates a "Young Leader" programme to support Explorer Scouts to be involved in the running of Scout groups for younger age groups. It is our view that this exposes young people to a culture of volunteering at an early age and encourages them to take active leadership roles in their communities. There are currently nearly 10,000 Young Leaders working with our 100,000 adult volunteers throughout the country.

10.  TSA supports the Government's ambition for a National Citizen Service and believes that there is potential for graduates of the NCS to continue their volunteering journey as a Young Leader in Scouting. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the chosen providers of the National Citizen Service to ensure that the scheme is just the start of a participating young person's volunteering journey and that participants are offered the range of opportunities that Scouting offers.


11.  As mentioned in paragraph 3, The Scout Association provides services for young people aged between 6 and 25.[18] There are approximately 8,000 Scout groups throughout the country and young people are generally no more than a mile from their nearest group. The average length of a young person's involvement in Scouting is 3.37 years.

12.  Each year TSA conducts a census of its members. Figures from the 2010 census conducted on 31 January 2010 show that over 400,000 young people are members of the Scout movement. This is the largest Scout membership since 2001. Growth of 3.5% in 2010 is the largest we have experienced in 38 years and this is due in part to a 26.3% increase in the number of teenage members since 2001 and a 10% year on year increase in the number of girls and young women joining The Scout Association.

13.  Responsibility for deciding the detailed programme content is devolved to local Scout groups in order to take account of local needs, however, it is based upon a nationally agreed framework. Three times a year TSA conducts an online "Your Programme, Your Voice" survey of its members on various aspects of the programme to ascertain that the programme content developed for members from head office is appropriate, relevant and well-received by the different age groups. Many of the new badges introduced in the last five years, such as badges for PR and IT, have been introduced as a result of demand from our youth members.

14.  Young people have an integral role in the shaping of provision, at every level within the organisation. Every committee, from the local Group Committee to the Board of Trustees, aims to have at least two youth members on it and those members take responsibility for appointments, programme development and holding the organisation to account.


15.  There will be a need for greater partnership working between these sectors than currently exists as funding is reduced. The Government's ambition for an increased number of mutuals, co-operatives and social enterprises demands it. However, a distinction needs to be made between purely voluntary organisations and those organisations supported by volunteers. There is a danger that, in trying to support organisations reliant on statutory funding to win commissioned contracts from other sectors, the Big Society model may underestimate the potential of charities such as The Scout Association which are not service delivery organisations or do not receive significant income from government contracts.

16.  As is outlined in more detail at paragraph 25 below, The Scout Association would like to see a greater level of partnership between local authorities and community organisations such as The Scouts to ensure that the needs of young people are met in their local area.


17.  Professional development needs in the Youth and Community Sector generally do not take account of the training needs of volunteers. This needs to be addressed given the implications of the "Big Society" and the likely impact of the recession and subsequent reductions in public sector funding in relation to the voluntary sector. There will potentially be a greater "reliance" in the future on the provision of services through the mobilisation of volunteers rather than paid staff.

18.  In TSA's training and development programmes, volunteers are provided with opportunities ranging from skills based training in areas such as first aid, risk assessment, safeguarding and public relations through to experience in leadership, management and training. The Scouts has been an organisation committed training its adults in informal education methods for over 100 years. These skills are offered to all those in leadership positions, including Young Leaders, who are supported through progressive training schemes. These are designed to offer flexible training that can be tailored to individual needs with the guidance of a personal Training Adviser. As part of the adult training scheme it is now possible for adults to work towards externally recognised awards at NVQ Level II and III through the training and the experience they gain as an adult in Scouting.

19.  The updated training scheme has been running since 2005. With the development of the new training scheme, partnerships were strengthened with the Open College Network (OCN) through which individuals can formalise their training. Over 170 adult volunteers within The Association are gaining credits towards their Open College Network qualification in Providing Voluntary Youth Services or Managing Voluntary Youth Services through their Scouting.

20.  In addition to the OCN scheme, adult volunteers who gain their Wood Badge[19] for completing their adult training within Scouting can apply for membership of the Institute of Leadership and Management at the grade of Associate Member (AMInstLM). Three years after gaining a Wood Badge, leaders who continue in a role within TSA can upgrade to the more senior grade of Member (MInstLM).

21.  We believe that TSA offers a first-class training scheme for volunteers and that our in-role training and other training opportunities support volunteers to improve both their performance as a volunteer and in their professional careers. In a Scout Association questionnaire aimed at uncovering the impact of the recession on volunteers within TSA, 93% of respondents answered positively when asked whether the skills and experiences gained through Scouting had been of relevance to their working or personal lives[20].


22.  As a movement predominantly funded by membership fees and without any direct funding from Government, TSA is in a better position than many youth organisations that are more heavily reliant on national or local government funding. However, that is not to say that Scouting is not affected by public sector spending cuts. The futures of many Scout groups, most of whom operate as individual charities with an average annual income of around £5000, are being jeopardised by increases in the ground rents charged by local authorities or increases in charges for the weekly rental of local authority properties.

23.  Below are three examples of this from around the country:

In Surrey, Banstead District Scouts have received an invoice from their local authority requesting a ground rent of £10,500, a substantial increase from the current rate of £135.

Barwick in Elmet Scout Group in Wetherby District have used the local school for Scouting purposes for free for over 25 years. The group expect that rate to rise to £100 per week in 2011, increasing their costs by £5,000 per year.

The 141st Birmingham, 1st Yardley (Spitfire District) group are currently charged a ground rent of £2,500 per annum by Birmingham City Council. However, until this year Birmingham City Council have always provided a grant to cover the full amount of the ground rent. The group are currently in discussion with the council as to whether the grant will continue but are expecting to have to find an additional £2,500 per year from 2011.

24.  It is our view that Scouting can perform a valuable community role, during this time of economic restraint and cuts to public sector funding, given its established network across the country and its affordability. We believe that it is short-sighted of local authorities to increase ground rent or venue costs to Scout groups at a time of likely reductions to local authority youth services and the services provided specifically for young people by the voluntary sector. Scouting provides excellent value for money and, through creative partnerships, can work with local authorities to provide opportunities for young people that may be missing as a result of reductions to traditional youth services.

25.  Public sector cuts also have the potential to affect TSA's ability to attract match funding from local authorities for the employment of Local Development Officers (LDOs). LDOs work up and down the country to support Scout Groups to grow membership and recruit new volunteers. Most are funded entirely by local Scouting but in some instances they are part- funded by local authorities and other sources.


26.  As explained in paragraph 14, TSA frequently reviews the value and effectiveness of its services with its members. As a devolved organisation, we recognise the importance of regional differences and the need for flexibility to ensure that local groups are able to mould programmes to suit their circumstances. For example, it is very unlikely that a Scout Group in inner London would follow the same weekly programme as a group in Stornoway. We are constantly reviewing our core programmes to ensure that there is plenty for individual groups to choose from, suitable to their circumstances.

27.  As a membership organisation, the ultimate assessment of the value and effectiveness of the services that we offer can be found in our growth figures, shown in paragraph 13. The fact that we can demonstrate five years of continuous growth demonstrates that we offer great value for parents and effective services for over 400,000 young people throughout the United Kingdom.

28.  As outlined in paragraph 4, if paid, Scouting would provide the equivalent of £380 million of services for young people annually as well as £5.5 million of training to the UK economy. The effectiveness of the Scouting model can be seen when one considers that this is done with very little demand on the public purse. We are currently awaiting the findings of an impact study, to be published in 2011, which will demonstrate the impact of Scouting on individual members and local communities.

December 2010

14   Young people can join the Scout family as a Beaver from the age of 6, Cubs is open to young people between the age of 8-10, Scouts range from 10-14, Explorer Scouts are aged 14-18 and the Scout Network is open to young adults aged between 18-25.  Back

15   NfP synergy "Typical Young People" The Scout Association January 2007 Back

16   There is a UK wide youth programme for each Scouting section, known as the "Balanced Programme". This aims to ensure that each young person has a balanced experience of Scouting. The programme is designed so that young people are given the opportunity to take part in activities across the range of programme zones. These programme zones are: outdoor and adventure, community, fitness, creative, global and beliefs and attitudes. Back

17   As outlined in a press release issued by The Cabinet Office on 18 May 2010 entitled "Building the Big Society"  Back

18   2010 census figures show that there are 108,018 Beavers, 142,904 Cubs, 117,328 Scouts, 34,689 Explorers and 2171 Network members in The Scout Association as at 31 January 2010. Back

19   The Wood Badge is awarded to those Leaders who have completed 17 modules of training covering areas such as the planning of youth programmes, first aid, leadership and effective communication. Back

20   Survey of all adult Scout leaders in 2009 as part of research entitled "Keeping Britain's Workforce Ready for Action: Scouting and the Credit Crunch" Dr Stella Creasy, 2009. Back

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Prepared 23 June 2011