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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

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Policy, Organisation and Rules

Definitions Chapter

These definitions explain terms that are used in POR.

Must, should, and may

POR uses key words to indicate obligations for rules.

‘Must’ means that adherence to the rule is mandatory.

‘Should’ means that the rule is strongly recommended, with an expectation of adherence.  However, circumstances might justify an alternative approach.  This minimum good practice guidance should be followed unless there is a good reason not to.  It is good practice for such ‘good reasons’ to be agreed and recorded by the local governance team (Group, District, County Trustee Board or Country Board as appropriate).

‘May’ means that the rule is optional.  It indicates less formal advice and recommendations which may be found helpful in the management or governance of your Group, District, County or country.


The Scouts’ programme is delivered to young people through a mixture of section meetings (usually at or close by the section’s normal meeting place), or an activity (e.g. a wide game in the woods or a hike), or an event (e.g. a County Explorer Belt expedition, or a District Cub Camp, or a Group Family Camp).

For convenience in POR, the term 'activity' should be interpreted as a meeting, an event or an activity.


A volunteer aged 18 or over.  This is a person with an adult member appointment (see the Chapter 16 Roles Table) or a Scout Network member. 


Abbreviation for an Annual General Meeting


The person applying for a particular role.

Appointments advisory committee (AAC)

The sub-committee of the relevant Trustee Board that supports the process of appointing adults in the Scouts.  The appointments advisory committee is a mandatory sub-committee for all Districts and counties. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and UK Headquarters also have AACs.  Each AAC should have at least two members aged between 18 and 25, and the AAC membership must comply with the Equal Opportunities Policy.  To prevent conflicts of interest, these roles must not be a member of an appointments advisory committee:

  • District Commissioner
  • District Chair
  • County Commissioner
  • County Chair

Appointments chair

The person appointed by the relevant Trustee Board to chair the appointments advisory committee.

Appointment panel

A panel of three people drawn from the appointments advisory committee which meets with a person applying for an appointment in the Scouts. It is good practice for a member of the panel to be aged under 25, and for the panel to have a diverse mix of members, including someone currently in a programme role.

Appointments secretary

The person appointed by the relevant Trustee Board to be responsible for the appointment process administration.


Certain 'Counties' are titled Area rather than County. This applies in Wales. British Scouting Overseas is an Area. An Area is led by an Area Commissioner.

British Scouting Overseas 

British Groups that operate abroad within the Area known as British Scouting Overseas. They are part of The Scout Association.


Bullying is characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power through means that a recipient is:

  • undermined
  • humiliated
  • denigrated
  • injured

It is not classed as bullying if a line manager is solely making sure a person follows the rules in POR. It is more than a strong, firm or authoritarian interaction.  It is:

  • destructive rather than constructive
  • a criticism of the person rather than their mistakes
  • public humiliation rather than private correction
  • where the recipient feels threatened or compromised

See also Volunteer Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy and Procedures.

Charity governance 

The Scouts is a federation of charities, as described in Chapter 5. Each Group, District and County must operate as a charity whether or not they are registered as one. They must meet the requirements of POR, the relevant charity regulator and charity law applicable to their location. 

In Scotland, Groups, Districts and Regions must also comply with Scottish Variations to POR. 

A charity’s Trustee Board has governance responsibilities which are detailed in Chapter 5 of POR. 

Confidential enquiry check 

The process used by the UK Headquarters Safeguarding Team to check volunteers against records held at UK Headquarters.  

Conflict of interest

A conflict of interest is when someone’s judgement or actions are, or could be, affected by personal involvement or other interest relating to the matter at hand.  This includes any circumstances that affect, or could be seen to affect, someone’s independence or impartiality.

For Trustees:
All trustees have a legal duty to act only in the best interests of their charity.  If there is a decision to be made where a trustee has a personal or other interest, this is a conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest may lead to decisions that are not in the best interests of the charity and which are invalid or open to challenge. Conflicts of interest may also damage a charity’s reputation or public trust and confidence in charities generally. These harmful effects may be prevented where individual trustees can identify conflicts of interest, and the trustee body must act to prevent them from affecting their decision making.

See also:

Connected person

A member, or non-member of the Scouts.


Every charity must have a governing document, in the Scouts we call this a constitution.

Country Headquarters

  • For England (including Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey), British Scouting Overseas and Gibraltar: this is UK Headquarters
  • For Northern Ireland: this is the headquarters of the Northern Ireland Scout Council 
  • For Scotland: this is the headquarters of The Scottish Council of The Scout Association 
  • For Wales: this is the headquarters of ScoutsCymru 


A County is a Scout unit that supports delivery of the programme within a certain geographic area.  A County has various responsibilities as defined in POR, including providing support to Scout Groups and Districts. A County will normally comprise several Scout Districts. A County is led by a County Commissioner.

For ease of reading POR refers to ‘County’ in all cases, but the word County should be read as:

  1. Area (in Wales and British Scouting Overseas)
  2. Bailiwick (of Guernsey)
  3. Branch (Gibraltar)
  4. County (in England and in Northern Ireland; note that the Isle of Wight is an English County) 
  5. Island (Jersey, the Isle of Man)
  6. Region (in Scotland)

Criminal record check 

A criminal record check will show any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings together with any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role.

A criminal record check will generate an official record (a ‘disclosure’).

For England and Wales, the criminal record check process is conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

For Scotland, the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme is managed and delivered by Disclosure Scotland.

For Northern Ireland, the checks are conducted by AccessNI, which is a branch in the Department of Justice.


A District is a Scout unit that supports delivery of the programme within a certain geographic area.  A District has several Scout Groups, one or more Explorer Units, (including Explorer Young Leaders), and one District Scout Network.  

A District has various responsibilities as defined in POR, including providing support to Scout Groups. Districts are led by District Commissioners. 

Ex officio

Ex officio means ‘by virtue of the office’ and refers to a role that comes with someone’s ‘main role’.  For example, a Group Scout Leader is also an ex officio member of the Group Trustee Board.

Gross misconduct

Gross misconduct has no strict legal definition.  In the Scouts it is interpreted as observed practices that are a very clear breach of the Values of Scouting such as:

  • theft
  • physical violence
  • gross negligence
  • serious insubordination
  • behaviour that destroys relationships with other volunteers or staff such as bullying and harassment

Gross misconduct may cause physical and emotional damage to individuals and reputational damage to the Scouts and any connected person.

This guidance is a general overview of the subject of gross misconduct and the examples above are to help understanding – they do not cover every eventuality.


A Group is a Scout unit that supports delivery of the programme within a local community. Groups are led by Group Scout Leaders.

Growth and Communities Team

Staff employed by UK Headquarters to support local volunteers in growing and developing Scouting at a local level in England.  


Harassment is ‘unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating people’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’ (Equality Act 2010). 

Harassment may be conduct based on characteristics including:

  • age
  • class or socio-economic status
  • ethnic or national origin, nationality (or statelessness) or race
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • marital or civil partnership status
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • political belief
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • religion, belief or faith (including the absence of religion, belief or faith)
  • sex
  • colour
  • language
  • social background
  • non-relevant criminal background

The list above is neither exhaustive nor exclusive.

Harassment may take many forms - for example verbal or written abuse, ignoring or subjugating colleagues to unwanted attention, ridiculing and humiliating colleagues in front of others, mocking, mimicking or belittling a person.

A person may be harassed even if they were not the intended ‘target.’  For example, a person may be harassed by racist jokes about a different ethnic group if the jokes create an offensive environment.

See also Volunteer Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy and Procedures.


A helper is a person aged 18 or over who is not a member but provides informal support to help deliver the programme. They may be, for example, parents or local subject matter experts. A helper must have a satisfactory Personal Enquiry and recorded in the adult membership system before they can help with a regulated activity.


A young person in any section who has made the Promise appropriate to the first section they join.  They are a member of the Scout Association and are a member of their local Group, District, County, Region, and country, where applicable.

An adult whose role requires them to be a member having completed both the appointment process and members’ declaration, and made the Scout Promise. They are a member of The Scout Association and are a member of their local Group, District, County, Region, and country, where applicable.

Members of the Scout and Guide movements

Members of an organisation recognised by the World Organisation of the Scout movement (WOSM) or the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scout (WAGGGS). 

Overseas Branches

Refers to parts of The Scout Association that are established in certain territories overseas.


The word parent should be interpreted as parent, guardian or carer (as appropriate for the young person concerned).

Personal enquiry

Vetting checks for adults (aged 18 or over), where they will be involved with regulated activity or are trustees. 

There are two parts to the personal enquiry: 

  • a satisfactory criminal records check, which must be held at all times 
  • confidential enquiry check, which is  required on starting each new role.


The abbreviation of Policy, Organisation and Rules.

The programme

This describes the selection of activities and experiences provided in the Sections for youth members.  It is based around three main themes:

  • outdoor and adventure
  • world
  • skills

The programme is designed to be progressive through the sections to offer young people an appropriate level of challenge.  It should be delivered in a balanced way that incorporates elements from each theme.

A range of badges and awards exists in each section, covering the three main themes as well as leadership, teamwork and personal development.


The minimum number of people necessary to make decisions.  

In the Scouts, the word quorum is used to specify the quorum for meetings of charity bodies (Scout Councils and Trustee Boards and any sub-committees)


A Region is a Scout unit that supports delivery of the programme within a geographic area in England or Wales.  For Regions in Scotland, see definition of County.  

A Region in England has various responsibilities delegated by the Chief Commissioner for England, including providing support to Scout Groups, Districts and Counties. 

A Region in Wales has various responsibilities delegated by the Chief Commissioner for Wales, including providing support to Scout Groups, Districts and Areas. 

In Scotland, the Scouts is organised into Districts and Regions, each with distinct responsibilities. Some ‘County’ functions are the responsibility of Scottish Regions, whilst others lie with Scottish Districts. Unless otherwise stated in Scottish Variations from POR, all references to ‘County’ or ‘Counties’ in POR relate to ‘Region’ or ‘Regions’ in Scotland.

Regional Commissioner

A volunteer who leads a Region in England or Wales.  This role does not exist in Northern Ireland and Scotland, so references to it in those countries should be read as Chief Commissioner.  For the purposes of POR, Region (Scotland) Commissioners are County Commissioners.

Regulated Activity

Scouts is a regulated activity provider and must comply with the law in respect to adults engaging with children. Regulated activity with children refers to work that a barred person must not do. A barred person is someone who has harmed or poses a risk of harm to children or vulnerable groups.  

In England and Wales, regulated activity is defined in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.   

In Northern Ireland, regulated activity is defined in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (SVG) Act 2006 and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007, both as amended (in particular by, respectively, section 64 and Schedule 7, Protection of Freedoms Act 2012). 

In Scotland, regulated activity is defined in the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 and includes those working directly with children and trustees of charities focused on children.

Regulated activity in Scouts means where a person aged 18 or over meets any of these criteria:

  • will be a member of a Trustee Board 
  • will be assisting with, and be present overnight at, an overnight activity
  • may be helping out once a week (or on four occasions in a thirty-day period) or more frequently 
  • will have unsupervised access to young people. 

Any adult member or helper delivering or likely to participate in regulated activity must hold a satisfactory Personal Enquiry. 

Relevant commissioner

The commissioner for the Scout unit in which the role is located.  For example, the relevant commissioner for an Assistant County Commissioner - Beaver Support would be the County Commissioner. For Scout Groups, the relevant commissioner is the District Commissioner, not the Group Scout Leader.


A volunteer role within the Scouts. The full list of the available roles is contained in the roles table.

Role holder

The person who holds a given role, which has been successfully appointed under Rule 16.1.

Scottish Variations

This refers to amendments to POR in Scotland to reflect the different organisational structure.  Where such amendments apply, the rule is marked by a superscript SV, and Scottish readers must consult the Scottish Variations from POR for the relevant text.

Scout unit

A Group, District, County, Region, country, or nations’ equivalents.


This describes a single unit of the Scouts delivering the programme to young people.  These are a Squirrel Drey, a Beaver Colony, a Cub Pack, a Scout Troop, an Explorer Unit and a Scout Network.  If multiple Dreys, Colonies, Packs, Troops, Units, or Networks exist within the same Group or District, each one is an independent section.


Most commonly, it means either the organisational structure or the volunteer line management hierarchy.  This is an important part of the federated structure of the Scouts.

The organisational structure is the structuring of Scout units: section, Group, District, County, region, country, UK.  Each level of the structure is responsible for supporting the programme in a smaller area, with Districts responsible for Groups, Counties responsible for Districts, and so on.

There are some exceptions to the general structure:

  • in Scotland, the structure is Group, District, Scottish region, country, UK.
  • in Northern Ireland, there are no regions.
  • there are a number of counties with Groups but no Districts.

The volunteer line management hierarchy refers to the volunteer manager of each of these units: Group Scout Leader, District Commissioner, County Commissioner, Regional Commissioner, Chief Commissioner (Country), UK Chief Commissioner.  Each of these volunteer managers is helped by a team who work to support the delivery of the programme in their areas.


A sub-committee is a small group of people assigned by a Trustee Board to focus on a particular task or area, such as finance or fundraising or property maintenance.  A sub-committee generally makes recommendations to the Trustee Board for decision.  Any decisions made by a sub-committee remain the responsibility of the whole Trustee Board.


An adult who is a charity trustee within the Scouts, as defined in a group, District, County, country, or UK Headquarters’ constitution.

UK Headquarters

This refers to the Headquarters of The Scout Association in the United Kingdom.

Unsatisfactory service

Service in a role that would be grounds for ending the role under Rule See also Rules and

Unsupervised access 

Unsupervised access is where an adult is left alone with a young person(s) at any time for any length of time and cannot be seen or heard by other adults. 

In the Scouts, an adult is only allowed to have unsupervised access when they have a valid personal enquiry. When an adult does not have a valid personal enquiry, their access to young people must be supervised which means that they must at all times be within sight and hearing of at least one adult who holds a valid personal enquiry.  


The process where a Training Adviser checks what an adult has learned, and that they can apply the skills that they have acquired to their role.  Validation is essential for every training module.  In some cases, the validation is conducted as part of an online module, with a validation certificate issued at the end of the learning.


An adult who holds at least one non-paid role with the Scouts.

The Scouts’ Website is the official website of The Scout Association and provides regular news updates, general information on the Scouts, material for young people. 

Young Leader  

An Explorer Scout aged between 13½ and their 18th birthday who is volunteering with a Squirrel, Beaver, Cub or Scout Section Leadership Team. 

Young Leaders automatically belong to a District Young Leader Unit even if they are also members of another Explorer Unit.  The purpose of the District Young Leader Unit is to ensure that all Young Leaders receive the training in the Young Leaders’ Scheme, and also to ensure that each Young Leader who is not also a member of another Explorer Unit has access to a programme pathway that leads them to the top awards within the Explorer section. 

Young person

A young member aged between their 4th and 18th birthdays.