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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

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Whistleblowing Policy and Procedures

The Whistleblowing policy is for all volunteers who have a serious concern in regard to a breach of our standards or conduct. This policy makes sure that if a volunteer has a serious concern, they know how to raise it as soon as possible. The matter will be comprehensively investigated and the appropriate action taken.

Adults in Scouting are from all walks of life, but one thing that unites our volunteers is the energy and enthusiasm they have for giving young people the adventure of Scouting.

It is a commitment of The Scouts to provide a positive environment as we know that all thrive in safe surroundings so we are committed to making sure that Scouting is enjoyable and safe for everyone involved.

1. Purpose

The Scouts are committed to ensuring that anyone volunteering their service is able to do so in an enjoyable and safe environment.

We recognise our duty of care to all volunteers when performing their role and taking part in our activities. We therefore promote the highest standards of transparency and accountability in everything we do.

These standards are set out in our values and vision, as well as our policies and procedures. However, all organisations face the risk of things going wrong from time to time, or of unknowingly harbouring unlawful or unethical conduct.

The Scouts aim to foster a culture of openness and accountability as essential in order to prevent such situations occurring and to address them promptly and effectively when they do occur.

Whistleblowing enables genuine wrongdoing to be reported so that something can be done about it.

The Whistleblowing Policy applies to all individuals who volunteer for The Scouts who have a genuine concern in regard to suspected wrongdoing or malpractice (within the relevant whistleblowing criteria explained below).

This policy ensures that if a volunteer has a genuine concern, they know how to raise it as soon as possible. The Scouts will take seriously any genuine concerns raised, will investigate as appropriate and will take all reasonable steps to ensure the person raising the concern is treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

Any individual who raises genuine concerns reasonably and responsibly will not be penalised in any way, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

A volunteer means someone who gives their time, unpaid, to do activities that benefit Scouts and includes Network members.


2. Scope

Whistleblowing is the disclosure of information which relates to suspected wrongdoing, malpractice or dangers at work which falls outside the scope of other policies and procedures.

This may include:

  • criminal activity;
  • miscarriages of justice;
  • danger to health and safety;
  • damage to the environment;
  • breach of a legal obligation or regulatory requirement
  • bribery;
  • financial fraud or mismanagement;
  • unauthorised disclosure of confidential information;
  • breach of our internal policies and procedures, including our code of conduct in our Yellow Card;
  • conduct likely to damage our reputation or financial wellbeing;
  • the deliberate concealment of any of the above.

A whistleblower is a person who raises a genuine concern relating to any to the above whistleblowing criteria in the public interest. If a volunteer has a genuine concern related to suspected wrongdoing, malpractice or danger affecting any of our activities a report should be made under this policy.

Repeating gossip or making allegations dishonestly or maliciously is not considered whistleblowing.

The Scouts can exercise its discretion to use a different policy to deal with your concerns. Our Whistleblowing Policy sits alongside our Safeguarding, Complaints, and Volunteer Anti-bullying and Harassment policies.

This policy should not be used where the concern is of an individual or personal nature (so not in the public interest) where there is no genuine concern in relation to wrongdoing, malpractice or danger. In these circumstances, a report should be made using the Complaints Policy.

Public interest means that you should not make a disclosure for personal gain.

The following factors will be considered when determining whether someone has made a disclosure in the public interest:

  • How many people the disclosure affects;
  • Which interests the disclosure affects;
  • The nature of the wrongdoing, malpractice or concern;
  • The identity of the alleged wrongdoer or subject of concern.

These are some examples of whistleblowing concern vs a complaint or safeguarding concern:

  • A volunteer's complaint that they have received insufficient safety training - this is a matter to be handled locally, or under the Safety Policy if it cannot be resolved locally.
  • A concern that an individual is acting in an unsafe way towards a young person/adult at risk - this should be reported under the Safeguarding Policy.
  • A parent’s complaint about their child’s dietary requirements not being taken into account during an event – this should be reported under the Complaints Policy.
  • A disclosure that safety rules within the organisation are routinely being flouted, thus endangering safety - this should be reported under the Whistleblowing Policy.

If you have concerns about the safety or wellbeing of a young person or adult at risk, you must in the first instance follow the Safeguarding Policy and the matter must be reported to the Safeguarding Team.

Crimes against a person or property should be reported immediately to the police. If any person or property is at immediate risk the Police should be called immediately.

Complaints relating to discrimination, victimisation or harassment should be dealt with through our Volunteer Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy.

If you have concerns about the behaviour of another organisation you should raise them with that organisation. You should follow their whistleblowing procedures, if they have them.

This policy does not replace other policies or procedures and should not be used to escalate matters that are being, or have been, dealt with under another of our policies and procedures.

If you have a concern or complaint which does not fall within the whistleblowing criteria, this concern should still be raised through the correct policy.

Whistleblowing should only be considered when there are the strongest of reasons not to use other ways to raise matters of concern.

If you are uncertain whether something is within the scope of this policy we encourage you to seek advice from your immediate superior OR the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner using the Whistleblowing Webform.


3. Whistleblowing Policy Guidance

A volunteer who wishes to raise a concern that fits the whistleblowing criteria above should follow the Whistleblowing Policy.

This includes if the incident is happening now, in the past or may happen in the future. It is important that the concern is raised without delay.

On receipt of a whistleblowing report, our procedures set out in this policy will be put into effect.

We expect all volunteers to:

  • Work within the Values of Scouting and our code of practice (the Yellow Card);
  • Report all concerns promptly using the correct policies and procedures;
  • Never stop or discourage someone from making a disclosure;
  • Never criticise or victimise anyone for making a disclosure;
  • Not raise concerns with any malicious intent;
  • Cooperate with any whistleblowing investigation under this policy, being open and timely in the provision of information.  

We will:

  • Take concerns seriously;
  • Acknowledge receipt of the whistleblowing concern within a period of five days;
  • Consider whistleblowing reports carefully and undertake a thorough and prompt investigation where appropriate;
  • Keep you informed as to progress of the investigation if you wish;
  • Understand the difficult position a volunteer may be in when raising a whistleblowing concern;
  • Seek appropriate advice;
  • Take prompt action to resolve the concern or refer it to an appropriate person;
  • If the need arises, and if appropriate, report the concern to external agencies;
  • Ensure individuals who genuinely report concerns are not penalised in any way;
  • Treat any retaliation against or threats to victimisation of whistleblowers as a serious matter that may lead to disciplinary action against the perpetrator.

Deliberate misuse of this policy may lead disciplinary action being taken, including suspension or termination of role.

If you are concerned about any form of malpractice covered by this policy, you should normally raise the issue with your immediate superior/the Group Scout Leader in the first instance. You may tell them in person or put the matter in writing if you prefer.

They may be able to agree on a way to resolve your concern quickly and effectively. In some cases, they may refer the matter to the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner.

If you feel you cannot tell your immediate superior/the Group Scout Leader, for whatever reason, you should raise the issue with the District Leader/ Assistant District Commissioner/District Commissioner.

If you have raised your concerns and you are still concerned, or the matter is so serious that you feel you cannot discuss it with either of the persons named above, you should report your whistleblowing concern to the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner using the online form.

Your report can be in writing, using the online form, or reported verbally. If your report is given verbally, a statement may be requested subsequently to aid any investigation.

The Scouts encourage young people to speak to a parent, carer or trusted adult if they wish to report a matter through the Whistleblowing Policy so that they can be supported throughout the process.

Please use this form to submit your whistleblowing disclosure to The Scout Association.

  • Your name and role within The Scouts. A report can be made anonymously, but The Scouts encourage the sharing of information where possible to enable the proper investigation of concerns (see section below on anonymity).
  • A contact telephone number and/or email address so that contact can be maintained if you wish to be kept informed.
  • Who or what you are making a report about, including the names of the people involved.
  • Why you consider the matter falls within the whistleblowing criteria.
  • Where and when the events of the report happened.
  • Who else is aware of the issue.
  • Any action you or someone else has taken to address the issue.
  • The impact the concern has or may have on The Scouts.

If you have any personal interest in the matter, we do ask that you tell us at the outset. If we think your concern falls within our safeguarding, complaints policy or other relevant procedure, we will let you know and will ask that you redirect your concern accordingly.

Volunteers or staff contacted by The Scouts to provide information in relation to a whistleblowing investigation, must respond within an agreed timeframe, laid out by the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner, in order to support the process.


4. Process

Usually within five working days:

  • Once the submission is received it will be acknowledged. We may contact you (the whistleblower) for clarification and/or make internal enquiries as appropriate.
  • The report will be recorded in the Whistleblowing Register held at Headquarters.
  • Available information will be collected, including any documentation or statements supplied by you (the whistleblower).
  • If anonymity has been requested, the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner will decide whether anonymity will be agreed. Please note that if anonymity is agreed, this may limit the scope of the investigation.
  • We will carry out an initial assessment to consider whether the matter should be investigated and to determine the scope of any such investigation. Reference to the criteria in the Whistleblowing Policy, Charity Commission or other relevant regulatory guidance may be utilised to make this decision.
  • Depending on the outcome of the initial assessment, an impartial investigator may be appointed by the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner to carry out an investigation of the matter in line with the procedures set out below.
  • On occasion, the report may be referred to external agencies/ bodies as appropriate.

Usually within 10 working days, you (the whistleblower) will be provided with the following information:

  • The outcome of the initial assessment.
  • Confirmation on whether the matter will proceed to investigation and, if so, the name of the investigator.
  • If the matter will not be proceeding to investigation, an update regarding what action, if any is being taken and the reasons why.
  • Details of the nominated person for contact.
  • What action has been taken.
  • An indication of the anticipated timeframe to conclude the matter.
  • Information about support and protection for the whistleblower.

If it has been determined that the matter will not progress to an investigation and you are not satisfied with this outcome, you can request that the decision be reviewed by the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner and The Scout Association Governance Team.

Any such request must be made in writing within 10 days of being notified of the outcome of the initial assessment. Any decision is final. 

Where the outcome of the initial assessment has determined that an investigation is necessary, an impartial investigator will be appointed; investigators may be volunteers, staff members or someone external to The Scouts as appropriate.

The investigator will undertake any further enquiries required and will review all relevant documentation. They may contact anyone they reasonably consider to be able to provide pertinent information. This may include volunteers, staff and/or external people such as partner organisations.

If a volunteer is required to attend a meeting in regard to any investigation, they may request that an appropriate person attends with them to offer support.

Any such appropriate person must respect the confidentiality of the disclosure and any subsequent investigation.

The Scouts may decide to refer the investigation to a relevant external body or authority. They may also halt any investigation or hand over the enquiry to another body or authority. The whistleblower will be informed of this decision.

A relevant external body or authority may include:

  • The Police
  • The Charity Commission
  • Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

In some instances, an individual may wish to inform an external body or regulator, such as the Charity Commission. This is usually only appropriate where an individual believes their concern has not been taken seriously by The Scouts and/or the matter raised is continuing despite the matter being considered and/or investigated internally under this Whistleblowing Policy.

The independent whistleblowing charity, Protect, operates a confidential helpline. They also have a list of prescribed regulators for reporting certain types of concern. Their contact details are at the end of this policy.

It will very rarely if ever be appropriate to utilise the media (including social media) to raise your concerns. The Scouts strongly advise that any volunteer seeks appropriate advice before reporting a concern to anyone external.

The investigation will be conducted in a manner proportionate to the circumstances. It may be proportionate to conduct a summary investigation, without documentation, where the report and outcome is communicated orally only.

All information in relation to any investigation will be treated as confidential within The Scouts. A report will be compiled by the investigator/s and will only be shared with the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner (unless any of them are implicated in the case).

In these circumstances, an appropriate alternative person will be nominated to proceed with the review. Where appropriate, the report may also be shared with the Chief Safeguarding Officer or other relevant staff members.

Depending on the outcome of any investigation a decision will be made as to the appropriate action and learning.

In order to maintain confidentiality and in keeping with our legal obligations, it may not always be possible to give you (the whistleblower) specific details of the investigation or the outcome of any investigation, but you will be informed when the investigation has been completed.

If you raised a genuine concern, we will not take any action against you if the investigator does not uphold the concern.

In all cases, The Scouts will use the Whistleblowing Register to monitor progress and keep track of any investigation and any actions that need to be taken. The Scout Association Governance Team will support the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner to manage the process and provide accountability.

The Register will be kept updated stating:

  • The name and status of the whistleblower.
  • The date on which The Scouts received the whistleblower’s report of a concern.
  • The nature of the whistleblowing concern.
  • Details of the person who received the whistleblowing report.
  • Whether it is to be investigated and by whom.
  • The outcome of the investigation.
  • Learning identified from the incident.
  • What action or change has been implemented as a result of the incident.
  • Any recommendations to be considered and by when.

The Register will be confidential and only an anonymised version will be made available for inspection by the Board of Trustees.

The Governance Team will report to the Board of Trustees on the operation of the Whistleblowing Policy and any allegations made during the period covered by the report. The identity of the whistleblower will remain confidential in any report for the Board.

All whistleblowing matters will be treated in confidence. The Scouts will not reveal your identity other than to the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner and the nominated investigator.

There may be circumstances when The Scouts will be required to identify you:

  • Where there is a duty to refer to statutory agencies.
  • Where the matter results in court proceedings and you are required to give evidence.
  • Where it is required in order to progress an investigation.
  • If the matter is subsequently handled under a different process (e.g. complaints/safeguarding procedure).

Every effort will be taken by The Scouts to notify you if the above becomes applicable.

We hope that volunteers will feel able to voice whistleblowing concerns openly under this policy.

However, if you want to raise your concern confidentially, we will make every effort to keep your identity secret. If it is necessary for anyone investigating your concern to know your identity, we will discuss this with you.

We do not encourage anonymous disclosures. However, if you have a serious concern, it is better for us to be informed anonymously than not at all. However, to enable a thorough investigation and to be able to substantiate any claims, it is always preferable for you to supply your details.

Any request for anonymity will be considered at the discretion of the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner. In exercising this discretion, the following will be taken into account:

  • The seriousness of the issue raised;
  • The credibility of the allegation; and
  • Whether the allegation can realistically be investigated from factors or sources other than the whistleblower.

It is understandable that whistleblowers are sometimes concerned about possible repercussions.

The Scouts encourages openness and will support volunteers who raise genuine concerns under this policy, even if they turn out to be mistaken and no wrongdoing is found.

This policy is in line with the Employment Rights Act 1996 as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The Act gives employees raising whistleblowing concerns legal protection from negative treatment as a result of raising a concern.

Under the law, volunteers are not afforded the same legal protection as employees. However, The Scouts want to promote and encourage an open and honest environment where concerns can be freely raised.

We will treat all individuals making a genuine whistleblowing concern in the spirit of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

Volunteers must not suffer any detrimental treatment as a result of raising a genuine whistleblowing concern. Detrimental treatment includes termination of your volunteering role, threats or other unfavourable treatment connected with raising a concern.

If an individual experiences any such unfavourable treatment from volunteers, staff or any members of The Scouts, this must be reported to the contact dealing with the investigation immediately.

Staff and other volunteers must not threaten or retaliate against whistleblowers in any way.

Anyone involved in such conduct may be subject to action under the relevant procedures [in relation to staff, this would be disciplinary action under the Disciplinary policy and in relation to volunteers this would be action pursuant to Chapter 16 of Scouting’s Policy Organisation and Rules].

The Scouts will take all reasonable steps to protect whistleblowers from any negative or unfavourable treatment as a result of their report and support them throughout any investigation. We treat all concerns consistently, fairly and professionally.

Those who raise a concern frivolously, maliciously and/or for personal gain and/or make an allegation they do not reasonably believe to be true and/or made in the public interest will be liable to [action under Chapter 16 of Scouting’s Policy Organisation and Rules] and will not be protected under this policy.

We will try to deal with your concerns fairly and in an appropriate way, but we cannot always guarantee the outcome you are seeking.

If at the conclusion of an investigation under this whistleblowing process, you are not satisfied with the outcome you may appeal the decision.

You have grounds for appeal if you believe that the correct process has not been followed or you have new information that you wish to be considered.

In these circumstances, you may appeal to the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner within 30 days of being notified of the outcome.

The appeal must be in writing and forwarded via the whistleblowing email address above or by post to Gilwell Park, E4 7QW, the envelope should be marked “Whistleblowing Policy”.

The purpose of the appeal is to review the outcome of the original investigation and basis upon which the original decision was made. The decision of the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner is final.


5. Further information & contacts

Related policies and procedures:

The independent whistleblowing charity, Protect, operates a confidential helpline and can be contacted via its website.
Protect helpline: 020 3117 2520
Protect website:

Charity Commission: 0300 065 2199

NSPCC whistleblowing advice line

6. Responsibility & review

The Deputy UK Chief Commissioner has overall responsibility for the effective operation of this policy, and for reviewing the effectiveness of actions taken in response to concerns raised under this policy.

The Scout Association Governance Team has day-to-day operational responsibility for this policy and you should refer any questions about this policy to them in the first instance.

This policy is due for review

  • every 24 months, or;
  • following any legislative changes, or;
  • following any learning by The Scouts, or;
  • as required by the Charity Commission, or;
  • any change in jurisdictional guidance, whichever comes first.

The policy will be reviewed every two years by the Deputy UK Chief Commissioner and the Nominations and Governance Committee before final approval by the Board of Trustees.