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Story | 27 August 2021

How Portsmouth’s reached new communities with Squirrel Scouts

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Excitingly, there are now over 200 new Squirrel Dreys set to start this autumn. This includes 90 existing Squirrels in Northern Ireland who’ll merge with their local Scout Groups, and 44 pilot groups that will continue to run.

Over in Portsmouth, they’ve opened six sections for 4 and 5 year olds as part of the pilot trials and have reached 500+ new young people over the last couple of years. They’ve even had to open a brand-new Scout Group to cater for the demand for early years Scouts in an underrepresented community.

The new group is located where a previous Scout group folded 15 years ago, and there are neighbouring groups with huge waiting lists ­– so they knew there was appetite. They’ve bolstered the new group by opening Beavers and plan to start Cubs this October.

In the two months that they’ve been open, the Portsmouth group has registered 13 leaders and sectional assistants, and a full executive committee. Portsmouth have moved to an almost completely online appointments committee, making it so much easier and faster to get new people on board.  

Portsmouth’s success is linked to their innovation. The District have an interactive shopfront sharing what Scouts looks like, QR codes to get on the District waiting list for young people and to submit volunteering enquiries, and their very own billboard.

We spoke to the County Development Officer in Hampshire to find out more about their recruitment efforts

The District is now thriving and with the new provision for even younger young people, they’ve broken the one-thousand youth members mark.

Kieron, District Commissioner in Portsmouth, said, ‘The early years programme has invigorated the District and encouraged adults to get involved in all of Scouts, not just the Squirrels section. It’s really helped to accelerate the growth of the District. I’m thrilled about the progress and I’m so excited to see the move to Squirrels this September.’

Kieron found that there have been quite a few organisations interested in supporting them to open Scouts for younger people. They’ve applied for funding to help get things set up sustainably and recommend exploring this as an option.

The pilot groups, previously known as Hedgehogs, will transition to be called Squirrels as we start to roll out the new section this September.

We’re asking volunteer line managers to opt-in to start Squirrels whenever they’re ready. We’re also opening a limited number of sections to begin with, to make sure that there’s the right support in place.

We particularly encourage those who can open Squirrels in communities where Scouts is currently underrepresented to do so. They might just have the same success as Portsmouth!

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