Skip to main content

Welcome from the Chair

Welcome from the Chair

Finding the light in the darkness

The world around us has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on young people, families and communities, and we can safely say it’s been one of the toughest years Scouts has faced for decades.

After a long period of growth (our total membership rose by nearly 200,000 between 2006 and 2020), our Census figures show that our overall membership sharply fell by 24.5% over the past year. Youth membership dropped from 480,083 to 362,752 and adult volunteer numbers also fell, from 156,762 to 141,896.

There have been positives – glimpses of light in the darkness. Huge numbers of members took to Zoom, offering Scouts to young people throughout the pandemic and bringing much-needed joy to thousands of evenings. We provided free activities to 500,000+ families in lockdown, held the UK’s biggest ever digital summer camp (attended by young people from 44 different countries), ran multiple national campaigns that galvanised the movement, and appointed our Joint President (and first ever female President), HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.

However, it’s clear we have more work to do. Because the kind of outcomes we can provide for young people have never been needed more. Scouts has a pivotal role in rebuilding society, and we’re acting quickly to reverse our decreasing numbers. We owe it to young people.

Delivering a strategy during such unpredictable and rapidly changing times isn’t easy but the Board discussed and concluded that our 2018–23 Skills for Life Strategy is still relevant (more so in many ways), with some adaptations. Our destination remains the same, with goals around growing our membership, being as inclusive as possible, making sure our young people shape their Scouting experience and making a difference in our communities. But we’ve reset our end-date to 2025 and we’ve adjusted our route. You can read more about our plans in this report.

You’ll also read about our fantastic volunteers. They‘ve been outstanding over the past year – showing extraordinary determination, generosity and positivity – and we’re so proud of them.

Our young people, too, have been a great source of pride. One Scout, named Max, was left a tent from a friend and neighbour who sadly died from cancer, and who told Max to have an adventure in it. He camped in his back garden for the full year and raised over £280,000 for the hospice that cared for his friend. A Cub named Arthur sadly lost his legs to meningitis around Christmas 2020, but still went on to cover 20km at his local park in a wheelchair, raising more than £10,000 for disability charity LimbPower Juniors. So many heroes have emerged during the pandemic.

My final year of service is coming to a close as my six-year term of office ends in September. It’s been a source of pride and pleasure to lead the Board of Trustees and to watch as the movement has moved from strength to strength, even in the face of such adversity as we’ve seen over the past year.

Looking towards the future, I’m delighted to hand over to Jennie Price: Jennie’s background as Chief Executive of Sport England and Chair of Trustees for the Youth United Foundation show that she’s just as passionate about creating brighter futures for young people as we all are, and I know our movement will do brilliantly under her guidance.

Finally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge what we’ve all been through. My thoughts are with those who’ve lost friends, family members and loved ones. It’s important that we take time to reflect on our collective loss, celebrate the lives of those who are no longer here, support everyone bereaved and together, look towards better times ahead.

Here’s to hope. It’s one of the most precious things we have.

Ann Limb CBE
Chair, Scouts