Taking the right steps at the right time
We may be entering a new phase of the crisis with the easing of some restrictions, but our movement still faces unprecedented challenges. UK Chief Commissioner, Tim Kidd and Matt Hyde, Chief Executive explain what actions we’re taking to protect the movement, as well as sharing progress towards the safe return to face to face meetings and activities.
Let’s start with a thank you. You’ve continued to deliver week after week inspiring programmes to young people on your Zoom calls. You’ve continued to complete your training, support each other and help others in some of the hardest times we’ve ever faced as a movement. When we say we have the most committed volunteers in the sector, we really do mean it. You’re unstoppable.
It’s now clear that we’re entering a new phase of the COVID-19 crisis. The government has started to ease a number of restrictions and we’re seeing shops and restaurants beginning to open again. Yet these are still far from normal times. The recent increase of cases in Leicester is a stark reminder of how unpredictable the situation still is. A vaccine is not yet available and new cases are still being identified every day. Our priority therefore, remains the safety of our young people, our families and our volunteers.
Once again, we were so pleased that over 11,000 of you were able to join our all member call on 24 June. In times like these, and with a number of significant changes coming to the way we operate, it’s vitally important to hear these updates first-hand and to ask questions. If you didn’t manage to join the call, we’ve made the slides and recording available; we’ve also shared some of the key updates from the call below.
Support for local Scouting
Many Groups have taken advantage of the Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund – in some cases Counties have pulled down as much as £750,000 collectively from this. We urge you to pursue this funding if you are eligible, and also to act quickly, as the funding window is beginning to close (and in some nations has closed) - please see our pages for specific details relating to where you live and do your Scouting.
As a reminder, we have negotiated a free Zoom pro account for every Group, District, County, Area and Region. We’re also running a series of webinars to support section leaders deliver programmes. We know that it can be exhausting delivering programmes in this unfamiliar way – that’s why we’re providing as much support as possible, and making it as tailored as possible.
Our financial situation
Nationally, the financial situation remains extremely challenging. Despite furloughing over 50% of our HQ staff, stopping all non-essential spend, including stopping our magazine, we are still facing a deficit of more than £3 million this year if we start full face to face Scouts in September. If we start again later than this, the situation is likely to be more serious still.
We’ve therefore had to take decisive action. We shared in the call how we will need to make staff reductions at HQ. Next, our Council will be voting on a membership fee increase of £6 (or £7.50 with £1.50 ring-fenced for hardship funding for groups) with the decision ultimately made in late July. There is never a good time to raise fees, but to put this in context, an increase of £6 represents 11.5p extra a week. We remain committed to keeping Scouts both accessible and affordable.
To help with budgeting, we’ve taken the decision to move census to 15 October (and this will be the new annual date for census). Moving to this earlier date will give a clearer sense of the number of young people in the movement and also allow us all to better plan before the start of the next financial year. The payment date for HQ membership fees will remain the same as in previous years. We ask that as we move towards 15 October, even if we are not fully back in face to face Scouting by then, leaders contact parents and carers to find out if their child is staying in Scouting. We’re also working with Counties and Districts to identify those groups hardest hit by the crisis and who need more support.
Getting back together safely
We know so many of you are keen to get back to face to face meetings and activities. No matter how good our Zoom calls may be, we know that so many young people are missing meeting up in person and taking part in outdoor activities – especially in these summer months. However, we have a duty to manage this in a responsible way, following Government advice in each nation or jurisdiction.
The good news is that a framework is now approved by our safety committee that outlines our approach. All decisions about the return to face to face Scouts will be taken within this framework. We’re working with the National Youth Agency to make sure our advice is consistent with others in the sector. There are four states of readiness that determine what activities we can and cannot do.
To provide further support, alongside the framework, we’ve created some guidelines for volunteers across a range of roles, issues and scenarios from speaking with parents, to hiring out our premises and safe travel to Scout activities.
Please take some time to look at the framework and read the advice relevant to you. You can then begin to make a plan locally and start your written risk assessments. However you may only begin socially-distanced activities if your area are at amber, yellow or green level.
Even when conditions are met and all relevant checks and written risk assessments are complete, we stress that any return to face to face activities must be voluntary. Volunteers, parents, young people all need to feel comfortable about returning, and we must all continue to be prepared to respond quickly and change our approach if restrictions are reinstated locally or nationally.
Revising our strategy
In different times, it’s clear we need to take a different approach nationally too. We’ll be refocussing our resources and time to where we can the biggest impact. We’re also looking at how we should restructure our team to deliver this. Our aim is to provide as much support as we can for a blended programme of digital and face to face activities; use digital to support volunteers, attract new ones, while making the urgent case about the fundamental value of Scouts to the public. Just as importantly, we will continue to focus on how we protect the movement and ensure the safest possible environment for all members.
Black Lives Matter – next steps
You’ll know that we’re actively looking at inclusion and equity in the movement. The Black Lives Matter protests have brought this issue into sharp focus, and we must respond with empathy, humility and in a way that reflects our values. Key to our approach is that we must be actively anti-racist, which means calling out discriminatory language and behaviour.
We will be focusing on how we can recruit from black and ethnic minority communities at every level of the movement. We’ll also be offering more training, looking at ways to remove barriers to joining and creating more resources to celebrate inclusion. We’ll also be helping young people to understand their rights and celebrate their differences. Please also take a moment to read this powerful blog from Lexie Sims, one of our trustees, about her personal experiences.
Keeping everyone safe
Thank you to everyone who has spent time updating their safety training. We know that some of you have seen several reminders for this, but you’ll understand how fundamentally important this is. Keeping people safe will always be our number one priority.
This year we’ll also be strengthening our basic training requirements, our basic training requirements, policies, including safeguarding and guidance for managing risk, including written risk assessments.
We know you do so much as volunteers. Never for one moment do we take this for granted. Let’s never lose sight of why we do this – to help young people step up, play their part and gain those brilliant skills for life.
Together, all of you are doing such a fantastic job, finding a way together. You’ve pulled out more than all the stops during this crisis and not all of all of it has been in the limelight. For all your efforts, both seen and unseen, we pass on a heartfelt thank you to you all.