Why we need to take action now for a brighter future
This the biggest crisis Scouts have faced in a generation, says Tim Kidd, UK Chief Commissioner. The pandemic has brought so many challenges, but we’re more determined than ever to keep supporting our young people through the pandemic and beyond. He explains our plan of action to support groups in immediate need as well as to prepare for the years ahead.
There is really only one priority right now: to keep our groups open.
I’ve heard from so many of you personally, and you’ve all got your own story to tell about how the pandemic has affected you and your groups. Despite your heroic efforts, many of you are struggling just to keep going.
You need funds to pay the bills, for the most basic costs, and of course, you need volunteers. And this happens at a time when young people need us most.
So many groups, especially those in areas of deprivation, were already struggling, even before the pandemic. If these groups close, then not only will this generation miss out on the skills, hope and opportunities, we provide, but future generations too.
That’s why everything we’re doing now is focused on supporting those groups locally most in need, and delivering essential services nationally so we can keep supporting young people during the pandemic and beyond.
The pressures we’re facing
The biggest pressures we’re facing, locally and nationally, are financial. If ever we’ve been saving for a rainy day, then this is it. It’s raining hard.
We’ve already supported Groups to access funds locally. We’ve already announced an increase to the membership fee with £1.50 ring fenced to support groups in the most need. But even this isn’t enough.
Centrally, the pandemic has drastically reduced our income. Sales at Scout Store are significantly down. Our Adventure Centres remained closed and we’ve already shut our conference business at Gilwell Park. The income that normally subsidises our core services simply isn’t there.
When the crisis began, we immediately acted to reduce our costs. Furloughing more than 50% of our staff helped reduce costs in the first stages of the crisis.
However, our reserves are running down and longer term decisions need to be taken to safeguard the future of our movement locally and nationally.
We’re now having to take further, painful steps. What we’re doing now might feel dramatic, but I’m convinced it’s for the long term benefit of our movement
The action we take now will mean that we can generate funds for those who need immediate help, and also help us build back better and more quickly when the crisis passes.
So what are the key steps we’re taking?
Reducing costs and generating income
Like so many other charities at this time, we’ve had to reduce our staff headcount. For those who’ve worked with our dedicated team, you’ll know just how committed they are to supporting us. The total reduction in staff over our consultations will see 100 posts being removed, making a net annual reduction of nearly £2.27 million pounds.
Nearly every team is affected, and as you can imagine, it’s an incredibly tough time for our staff and their families. Livelihoods are at stake, and we’ve had to say goodbye to many valued and long serving members of the team. At the same time, we’re being careful to protect our frontline services to you, our volunteers.
We’re also taking tough decisions on the properties we own and run. We currently operate seven adventure centres, offering activities and experiences to Scouts, school and youth groups. Taking into account the income they generate, the amount of investment they need and availability of other campsites in the areas, we’ve decided to reduce to four 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.
In an ideal world, we would not have to do any of this. But facing the biggest crisis in a generation, we need to act.
We’ve also decided to sell Baden-Powell House in London. I know this will come as a shock to some. However, the numbers simply don’t add up. Considering its high value and prime location in central London, it simply isn’t supporting the movement in the way it should be, and the pandemic has hit business further still. The company that runs the hostel is also experiencing financial challenges. Just 2% of those who use the building are Scouts.
The building will also need £6 million of investment in the coming years, and we don’t believe we should borrowing millions of pounds for this, especially when our cash flow is under so much pressure. So, with a heavy heart, we intend to sell the building.
The sale, when it is realised, will support our essential services, including safeguarding, programme, safety and volunteer recruitment. Without these, we simply cannot operate. The sale will support a sustainable future for our movement and provide a generation of opportunity ahead.
I know that Baden-Powell House and Downe are special places for many of you. I’ve my own treasured memories of days spent there, and I know you will have too. That’s why we will honour their legacies and preserve their unique heritage. However, given the stark choice of whether to continue to support young people with skills for life, or preserve bricks and mortar, then I know which side of the fence I fall.
The sale of the assets, which will take time, will help replenish our reserves. This will allow us to focus on supporting local Scout Groups.
But these sales will take time and many our Groups don’t have time. They need help now.
Join our #RaceRoundTheWorld
That’s why we’re launching our biggest ever appeal. I’ve been a Scout almost all my life and there’s one thing I’ve noticed that marks us out: we help each other in times of crisis. It’s that spirit of solidarity and friendship that makes us who we are.
That’s why I’m so inspired that we’ve launched our #RaceRoundTheWorld
We’re aiming to raise £300,000 for the 500 groups hardest hit by the crisis. It’s a campaign for everyone, both young people and volunteers, Scouts and non-Scouts. All you need to do is join your section team led by our Scout Ambassadors, travel a mile, any way you’d like and get sponsored by family and friends. It’s really that simple.
Together, we’re hoping to make it all the way around the world. While it may sound like a small step to take, it’s likely to have a massive affect on those groups that need it. It’s about getting funds to those who need them right now.
You, our volunteers, are the people who make Scouts happen. You’ve worked harder this year than ever before and your commitment has inspired every one of us. Every pound we spend, every minute we give is creating the communities we want through the pandemic and beyond.
What we do now matters in the future
If we act now, we can continue to support young people now, and for years to come. We can continue to proudly play our part in the heart of our communities supporting young people. Let’s never forget that Scouts is a lifeline for so many young people.
Please keep supporting each other, and keep supporting young people. Please galvanise your teams to support #RaceRoundTheWorld
Most importantly, let’s never lose heart. Our movement is bigger than all of us and in this most difficult of times, it falls to us to keep it going.
Thank you for everything you’re doing. You’re all shining lights.