Scouts announce plan to protect movement’s future
As the pandemic continues to deepen, Scouts have today announced a decisive plan of action to support young people, stabilise the movement’s finances and safeguard its future.
The measures fall into three areas: reducing staff headcount, selling some of our property and launching a major national fundraising campaign.
The plan will provide immediate support to local Scout Groups, keep essential services running and protect the future of our 113 year old movement.
Facing a major cash shortage and reserves that are run down, we’ve made a set of key decisions to reduce the negative impact on young people and prevent passing further costs onto our members.
Now more than ever, young people need our support for their wellbeing and future prospects. We provide the skills, and the sense of hope and belonging they so badly need in these incredibly challenging times.
A challenging backdrop
All of our commercial activity, which normally subsidises our services to members, has been severely impacted by the crisis. With face to face meetings suspended for much of the year, income at Scout Store, our commercial business, has dropped significantly. Our Adventure Centres, which provide activities to Scouts, schools and youth groups remain closed. Bookings at our conference businesses are at their lowest ebb.
Despite using every means available, including using the Government’s furlough scheme, and announcing an increase to the membership fee, further cost saving measures and ways to increase income are urgently needed.
Reducing our staffing levels
In line with many other charities, we’ve had to take the difficult decision to put some members of our valued staff team on notice of redundancy. In total, some 100 posts are likely to be removed, accounting for 30% of the workforce and resulting in a net annual saving of nearly £2.27 million pounds. At the same time, our absolute focus to maintain key services, especially safeguarding, programme, safety and volunteer recruitment.
Selling property to support the movement
The Scouts currently directly operate seven centres, providing camping and activities to young people. Going forward, we’ve decided to reduce to four directly operated centres – Gilwell Park, Youlbury, Great Tower and Hawkhirst. We are working with the Counties who own Buddens and Woodhouse Park to identify the best operating model for the centre in the future and we’ll now move to sell Downe Scout Adventures in Kent. Centres in Scotland and Wales are not affected by these changes.
Our trustees have also agreed to the sale of Baden-Powell House in South Kensington, London, which is used as a hostel and conference centre. COVID-19 has significantly reduced bookings, and Meininger, who operate the hostel, are also experiencing a similar impact. In addition, the building requires an investment of £6 million in the coming years, which is not feasible in the current climate.
While historically, the building (opened in 1961) was intended as a place for Scouts to stay in central London, today only 2% of those who use the building are Scouts. The sale will support a sustainable future for our movement over the coming decades.
We know that both Baden-Powell House and Downe are special places for our members, hold many memories, and that these decisions will be difficult for some. That’s why we will do everything to make sure that the legacies are honoured and heritage preserved.
Our trustees have taken these decisions with a heavy heart. However the reality is stark and in the absence of other funding, we are faced with no alternative. As a movement our priority must always be to support young people, safeguard our future and protect our members. The sale of the assets, once realised, will allow us to replenish our cash reserves and focus on supporting local Scout Groups through this pandemic and in the future.
It is important to note that the sale will take time to be realised, which is why we have also launched a major fundraising appeal.
Announcing our #RaceRoundTheWorld
To provide immediate support to the 500+ groups hardest hit by the crisis, we’ve announced our biggest ever fundraising campaign - #RaceRoundTheWorld
Every Scout, their parents and families, are being challenged to travel a sponsored mile or more in their local areas, any way they like, to help their team travel a 43,000 mile route round the Earth. The four teams are being led by Scout Ambassadors Tim Peake, Ellie Simmonds, Steve Backshall, Helen Glover, Saray Khumalo, Ed Stafford, Megan Hine and Dwayne Fields.
We’re aiming to raise £300,000 in total to keep our Scouts Groups up and running. Many of these were already made vulnerable before the crisis and are based in some of our most deprived areas.
Why we’re a lifeline for young people
Scouts is a lifeline for young people. It’s often their only moment of connection and positive social contact during the week. Two thirds of young people have told us that the crisis have negatively impacted their mental health and how they feel about the future. That’s why it’s vital we keep our groups running. While these measures are painful, we’re putting young people and local Scouting at the heart of all our decision making.
These are not decisions we’ve taken lightly. However we’re taking this action now to secure a long-term, sustainable future for our movement, to avoid passing on more costs to our members and to support generations to come.
We’re focused on providing immediate support to the 500 groups most in danger of shutting their doors. We’re inspired every day by the work our brilliant volunteers are doing to help give our young people skills for life. We owe it to them to give them the future they deserve.