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How we operate

How we operate

The Scout Association exists by authority of a Royal Charter granted by King George V in 1912 and supplemented by further Charters granted by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. These Charters give authority to the Bye-Laws of the Association, which are approved by Her Majesty’s Privy Council. The Bye Laws, in turn, authorise the making of rules for the regulation of the Association’s affairs. The rules are laid out in the Association’s Policy, Organisation and Rules.

This report and financial statements cover the activities directly controlled by the Association – charity numbers 306101 (England and Wales) and SCO38437 (Scotland). This includes its six wholly owned subsidiary companies – Scout Shops Limited, Scout Insurance Services Limited, Scout Insurance (Guernsey) Limited, Scout Services Limited, Scout Products Limited and World Scout Shop Limited (see note 12 to the financial statements for further information on these Companies).

The activities of the Scout Councils of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales together with Scout Counties, Areas, Regions (Scotland), Districts and Groups are not reflected in this report and accounts. These bodies are autonomous charities affiliated to the Association which together form the Scout Movement in the United Kingdom.

The Board of Trustees

The management of the Association’s business is vested in the Board of Trustees. The Board has 20 members:
– twelve members nominated and elected by the Council of The Scout Association at the AGM: nine elected members and three elected youth members
– five members appointed by the Council at the AGM on the recommendation of the Board: the Chair of the Board, the Treasurer and up to three others
– three Ex-Officio Members, the Chief Executive and UK Chief Commissioner, and the UK Youth Commissioner. Since March 2020, we have had one additional Trustee co-opted to the Board

We provide an induction for all new Trustees and all Trustees take part in further training and development opportunities throughout the year.
In 2020, this included a training and development session which focused on one or more areas material to the Association’s business, including;
– Asset review in light of COVID-19
– Strategy 2018–25 review
– Risk management
– Race Equity workshops

The Board’s responsibility includes policy making and oversight of risk management. It delegates the day-to-day management of the Association to the Chief Executive and UK Chief Commissioner, who work in partnership with the UK Chief Commissioner’s Team, (Team UK), the UK Youth Commissioner, and his team, and the Senior Leadership Team. The Board also delegates certain functions to the six Committees which report to it (Strategy and Delivery, Finance, People and Culture, Nominations and Governance, Safeguarding, and Safety). The Board appoints Trustees to serve on these Committees annually, with the Committee Chair having a three-year term, subject to performance and their continuation as a Trustee. The Board met four times formally during 2020/21. The Board also met more frequently between March and June during the first months of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Policies and rules

The Association has a comprehensive set of policies and rules applicable to the movement, which are regularly reviewed by senior volunteers, senior management and staff employed across the UK. We’re committed to providing the best possible experience for everyone in Scouts, whether they’re young people or adult volunteers. To help us achieve this, we work to a number of key policies, through which we can make sure that Scouts continues to develop in a way that’s safe, accessible and free from discrimination.

Our key policies include:
– Development policy
– Equal opportunities policy
– Privacy and data protection policy
– Religious policy
– Safeguarding policy
– Safety policy
– Vetting policy
– Youth member anti-bullying policy

Risk management

The Board of Trustees are responsible for identifying, assessing and managing the risks of The Scout Association and its subsidiaries. The Board of Trustees and its committees operate a comprehensive risk management process to make sure that appropriate steps are taken to manage and mitigate governance, external, operational (including safety and safeguarding), legal/regulatory and financial risks. The undertaking of Scouts activities requires risk identification and its reasonable mitigation, to ensure the achievement of our charitable objectives

The process involves the identification and grouping of the risks that the Association faces both directly and indirectly through the activities of the movement more generally. It includes evaluating the risks in terms of their potential impact and likelihood to occur, as well as considering the Association’s appetite for those risks and identifying means whereby they can be mitigated and managed.

Responsibility for risk management is assigned to members of the Senior Leadership Team, Team UK (senior volunteers) and Chairs of the Board’s reporting committees, as well as the Boards of its subsidiaries.

The Board reviews its major risks throughout the year. The safety and safeguarding of young people involved in Scouts are our highest priorities.

Other major risks to the organisation include:
– reputational damage stemming from external factors
– a decline in youth membership
– insufficient number of adult volunteers
– data security, specifically an information security breach
– failure to deliver on digital projects
– financial, focused on ensuring a sustainable operating model and maintaining the value of our balance sheet

In all cases, the above risks are either being mitigated or controlled. All risks have been reviewed and adapted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to streamline the structure and shorten the lines of communication to the Board of Trustees, the decision was made during the year to dissolve the Risk Committee. As a consequence, the overall risk framework is now overseen and regularly monitored by the Board. Individual significant risks will continue to be allocated to the appropriate Board committees.

The risk framework, due in part to the impact of COVID-19, has recently (March 2021) received a thorough review and revisions were made which were approved by the Board. More detailed work is now underway to make sure the framework provides an effective risk and control environment, utilised by all senior staff, Team UK and members of the Board and its committees. This work will continue into 2021.

An agreed risk management framework is used by the movement, which enables local Executive Committees to deliver their risk management responsibilities based on guidance from the Charity Commission.


Safeguarding is a golden thread throughout Scouts, in that keeping young people in our care safe from harm is our number one priority.

We firmly believe an open and transparent culture of challenge is how we protect our young people. Our Yellow Card Code of Practice for adults in Scouts is embedded in everything we do. A continued priority is making sure everyone knows about this, including young people and parents, so they’re clear about the expectations and behaviours of our volunteers and what to do if this code isn’t followed.

Scouts has a centralised national Safeguarding team which deals with all safeguarding, welfare and suitability referrals covering adults and young people. A key part of the team’s work is liaising closely with all statutory agencies as part of our safeguarding processes.

The Safeguarding team comprises of professionals who’ve previously been involved in safeguarding practice. This includes social workers, ex-child protection police officers, probation officers, early years practitioners and education professionals.

We strive to continually improve the service. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on demand and delivery with staff being furloughed; however, recent enhancements include increased management capacity and oversight in service delivery, and a revision of service delivery standards. As part of our culture of learning, we’ve established a formal learning review panel of volunteers with subject expertise in their professional life to assist in conducting learning reviews with representation from all nations of the UK.

We continue to work with the Disclosure and Barring Service, Disclosure Scotland, and AccessNI as part of our safer recruitment processes.

Our safeguarding training is continually refreshed to make sure the content is current and relevant. Significant work has been undertaken to review the mandatory training that volunteers are required to complete in safeguarding and safety, bringing this to a rolling three years from five. As part of the review, we’ve made sure the module is delivered online for consistency of delivery, with an online validation criteria requiring 100% attainment.

COVID-19 has impacted on face-to-face delivery for our volunteer Commissioner roles. We’ve now moved this to a virtual environment enabling wider reach. Work is underway to look at providing similar training to our Group Scout Leaders with pilots getting underway in April 2021.

The Board of Trustees receives a quarterly report on safeguarding. The organisation has a strong Safeguarding Committee that’s chaired by a Trustee with extensive
experience in safeguarding. Included in the committee are external safeguarding experts for increased scrutiny and challenge.

The Safeguarding Committee is in receipt of regular performance data and makes sure this is used effectively to improve practice, make appropriate changes to training, and to make sure lessons learnt are effectively implemented.

We continue to engage with the wider sector, sharing best practice, and have presented at national conferences on our safeguarding arrangements and governance as examples of best practice. We also work in partnership with government bodies so that we remain at the forefront of safeguarding.


Alongside safeguarding, safety is a golden thread throughout the organisation with the priority of keeping young people in our care safe from harm being a priority.

In order to achieve this, we have a range of measures in place. These include:
– As part of the organisation’s suite of key policies, our Safety policy clearly outlines the commitment to safety expected from all of those in Scouts, making sure they play their part in keeping Scouts safe. The Safety policy is reviewed annually and is informed by wider sector best practice.
– The organisation has a Safety Committee, which reports directly to the Board of Trustees, and whose responsibility it is to provide leadership and oversight of safety policies, procedures and rules that are provided to our volunteers. It’s chaired by an external appointee with significant professional experience of health and safety management, who is also a Trustee. The membership of the Safety Committee includes a range of individuals with extensive experience in health and safety across a number of sectors.
– The Board of Trustees receives an update on safety matters (including incident statistics, training and compliance reports) at each of its quarterly meetings. Annually, it receives a full report of the activities of the Safety Committee and a detailed overview of trends and statistics.
– We recognise the importance of learning from experience and making sure that we have robust responses when incidents occur. This approach is embedded in our culture and systems through the movement. The Safety Committee has processes and procedures in place to gather data about incidents and consider that data carefully to make improvements.

This year, we’ve focused on a review of the mandatory training our volunteers are required to complete in safeguarding and safety, bringing this to a rolling three years from five. As part of the review, we’ve made sure the module is delivered online for consistency of delivery, with an online validation criteria requiring 100% attainment.

As part of our culture of learning, we’ve established a formal learning review panel made up of volunteers with expertise in their professional life in conducting learning reviews/expertise in subject areas with representation across all of the nations of the UK.

We’ve reviewed our guidance on completion of risk assessments and moved towards mandated undertaking and recording of risk assessments for all activities in Scouts. In addition, we’ve reviewed our information and factsheets for volunteers, to make sure they can be easily understood and
applied locally.

Fundraising: our approach

Section 162A of the Charities Act 2011 requires charities to make a statement regarding fundraising activities.

The day-to-day management of all income generation is delegated to the Senior Leadership Team, which is accountable to the Board of Trustees.

We take the protection of our supporters’ and donors’ personal data very seriously: we never use personal data in any way that they don’t wish us to and we always provide them with the opportunity to change their minds.

Although we don’t receive widespread fundraising from the general public, we do enter into Commercial Participator Agreements with commercial partners who sponsor a variety of our programmes, and this activity is fundraising for the purpose of section 162A of the Charities Act 2011. We also receive legacies, grant funding and donations, which are presented in our
accounts as ‘voluntary income’. We make sure that no one’s ever pressured to leave us a legacy or donate any funds.

The charity, nor any person acting on its behalf, has been subject to any undertaking to be bound by any voluntary scheme for regulating fundraising. We’re a member of the Institute of Fundraising regulated by the Fundraising Regulator, and comply with the standards in the Fundraising
Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice, as well as all other relevant legislation codes of practice and guidance. All staff involved in fundraising are made aware of, and the need to comply with, the requirements of relevant fundraising legislation and codes of practice.

We’re not aware of any failure to comply with the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice in relation to our fundraising activities, either by us, our staff, or our Commercial Participators.

We monitor fundraising activities undertaken by our Commercial Participators. All contracts with Commercial Participators contain a provision for monitoring by us. This is usually undertaken by way of regular meetings between the parties and feedback on the progress of any fundraising activity, and an obligation to provide access to additional information and assistance as may be necessary to help us to demonstrate compliance with our duty to monitor. Where Commercial Participators are sponsors, but not undertaking any direct public fundraising, the requirement for access to additional information isn’t always deemed necessary.

We’ve received no complaints on our fundraising activity.

All our Commercial Participator Agreements include an obligation to make sure that they act at all times to protect vulnerable people from any intrusion to their privacy, and don’t make any unreasonable approaches to, or put undue pressure on, any vulnerable people to give money to the charity. This is included even if they’re not undertaking any direct public fundraising.