Skip to main content

Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Understanding our responsibilities for disability inclusion

Find out what we need to do to include disabled members

At Scouts, we’re committed to removing barriers to our Groups and activities for disabled members.  

The Equality Act 2010, and relevant equality legislation in Northern Ireland, is the law that says when people and organisations have to make changes so disabled people aren't disadvantaged. These changes are called reasonable adjustments and organisations have a legal responsibility to make them. 

What does ‘reasonable adjustments’ mean? 

Reasonable adjustments are changes that organisations providing support and services have to make to prevent a disabled person being at a disadvantage compared with non-disabled people. It’s a legal term and recognises that organisations and groups will have different practical resources to meet the needs of disabled members.   

What do we mean by ‘reasonable’? 

What is considered a ‘reasonable’ adjustment depends on several things, including: 

  • whether the changes would remove the disadvantage for the person and other disabled people.  

  • the person’s disability or health condition and their needs.

  • the cost and resources available to the Group at that time. For example, making an adjustment that costs a Group a lot of money may not be reasonable if it means taking out a loan.

  • how easily any proposed changes can be made.

Example 1: 

If a young person would benefit from regular 1:1 support to fully participate in Scouts, and their parent or carer is able to offer this support, it's reasonable for the Group to support this adjustment. It’d also be reasonable to try to recruit an adult volunteer with the skills needed.  

However, if the parent or carer is unable to provide this support and the Group can’t find a suitable volunteer, it’d likely be unreasonable to expect the Group to finance a professional 1:1 carer on a weekly basis.  

Scouts is delivered by adult volunteers and isn’t a statutory provision, such as the education system. Therefore, Scouts doesn't have a statutory obligation to provide 1:1 support for a young person to access Scouts on a regular basis. 

Example 2: 

If a wheelchair user joins a Group, it's likely to be reasonable for the Group to provide a moveable ramp. It's likely to be unreasonable for the Group to provide an electronic lift, due to cost. It's also likely to be unreasonable for the Group to fit a permanent ramp if they don't own their meeting place, but it may be reasonable to ask the building owners to make the access updates needed. 

When should I make reasonable adjustments? 

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is ‘anticipatory’. This means you should think about any adjustments in advance to meet the needs of disabled members. Adjustments may be made to remove potential barriers for disabled members.  

We know there’ll also be barriers to disabled members accessing our Groups and activities that are unique to them - so the reasonable adjustments needed haven't been anticipated.  

If a member asks for an adjustment (or we can see a member being clearly disadvantaged by a specific issue), we’d then have a legal responsibility to consider making reasonable adjustments.  

Making reasonable adjustments is an ongoing responsibility for everyone in Scouts and these should be regularly reviewed.  

It's always good to consider what reasonable adjustments might be needed every time a new person joins your Scout Group. 

How will I know if a member is disabled? 

Anyone joining Scouts may inform their Group that they have a disability, health condition or need additional support.  

A parent, carer or those who support the new joiner may also inform the Group.  

Someone may also be on an assessment pathway, and they might not have a specific diagnosis. 

Telling a Group Lead Volunteer, Section Team Leader or anyone else who helps to run your Scouts activities about a disability means we can support people as effectively as possible.  

It’s important you provide opportunities for people to tell you about disabilities, health conditions or support needs when they join Scouts, or when they move to a new Group, Section or role.  

It’s a voluntary decision and someone should never be treated negatively as a result. If someone tells you about their disability or health condition, it should be treated sensitively, confidentially and respectfully, with a focus on providing the most effective support possible. If you need to share this information, it’s important to get the person’s consent first. 
A member, a parent/carer or those who support them may decide not to share information with Scouts either.  

Volunteers shouldn’t attempt to make a diagnosis, but instead should make reasonable adjustments to meet the member’s needs.  

A specific label or diagnosis isn’t as important as understanding the person’s needs and how this affects their participation in Scouts. 
Discover our guidance on working in partnership with parents and carers. 

Key policies

Find out more about our responsibility in our Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR), chapter 2 and chapter 4.

Read our key policies >
Equality, diversity and inclusion policy

Find out more about our commitment to preventing discrimination and promoting equality in our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Policy.

Read our EDI policy >

Where can I find out more?

Scout Groups, Districts and Counties (or Areas/Regions) can ask for guidance from UK headquarters about making reasonable adjustments.

If applicable, it’s important to tell your line manager, and district and County Lead Volunteers of any potential disputes and potential allegations of discrimination as soon as possible, in line with our Safeguarding and Whistleblowing policies.

Contact Scouts HQ