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Frequently Asked Questions

Scouts carry out an annual census to create a detailed picture of the young people and adults that make up our membership.

Use the FAQs to find an answer to your issue or to learn more about our census.

If a section has no youth members it should be recorded as closed on the census, this is because the whole purpose of a section is to deliver programme to young people. Group scout leaders and commissioners can close the section on compass, and reopen a new one later if it restarts. Should a group have no members and need closing please contact the support centre. 

Once you’ve completed the census return (unless previously arranged with the relevant person), the next ‘approval level’ must be notified so that the return can be reviewed and approved. Deadlines for the completion of Group and District returns will be set locally, but a deadline for all County/Area/Region returns is the 14th February 2024

In an attempt to get a greater understanding of Scouts across the Country, the online census system has individual returns for each Drey, Colony, Pack, Troop, Unit, Network & Active Support Unit. The details of the hierarchy used for the Census has been taken from Compass.

For Dreys, Colonies, Packs and Troops, the Group will be able to log in and add Group level information, as well as being able to go into each section within the Group to add the information for those sections.

Units, Networks and Active Support Units are handled similarly by the District.

If sections or Active Support Units are missing from the Census, they’ll need to be added to Compass locally and can then be added to the Census system by contacting the Scout Support Centre. Details of how to do this can be found on the Compass Support site.

On the census form, the total number of young people of each age and gender needs to be recorded in the relevant section – record the number of members on the day you complete it before the end of January. Sections using Online Scout Manager can obtain this information by using the Census Aggregator function on OSM.  The census aggregator will not record data for any young people listed on the Census Aggregator’s ‘Members’ tab – that data must be added manually. Young people who’ve recently moved section should be included from the date of their first meeting in their new section (there’s no gap in membership whilst awaiting investiture to the new section).

For example, 

  • A young person who was a Cub and is attending Scouts but hasn’t yet been invested into the Scout Troop should be recorded on the Scout section census rather than the Cub Pack’s census.
  • A young person who was a Scout and is attending Explorer Scouts but hasn’t yet been formally invested into Explorers Scout Unit should be recorded in an Explorer Scout section on the census rather than the Scout Troop census.
  • A young person new to Scouts at any level who hasn’t made the Promise as of 31 January, isn’t a member and isn’t listed on the Census and should be recorded on the waiting list.

Alongside this, we ask for information regarding ethnicity, religion and disabilities. This information is anonymous and enables us to understand the composition of our membership and provide the most appropriate support. Sections using Online Scout Manager can obtain this information by using the Census Aggregator function on OSM.  The census aggregator will not record data for any young people listed on the Census Aggregator’s ‘Members’ tab – that data must be added manually.

A question is included on each section return relating to top awards. Each section, including the Scout Network, is asked to state the number of top awards achieved during the past 12 months.  It’s important to note that this is the total number achieved (whether the young people are still members of the section/Group or Scouts), and that it’s date of completion of the award that matters rather than the date that the award is actually presented (for example, if a young person completed their top award in December, but the presentation won’t be until March, then the award should be recorded on the census). Sections using Online Scout Manager will be able to gain this information by generating an OSM Badge Report.

All members of Scout Groups, Districts, Counties, Regions and Areas must be recorded on the relevant census form.

If you’re part of a Scout Group, your Group Scout Leader will have the necessary passwords and instructions regarding how to log in to the online census system and record the relevant information. Similarly, for Explorer Scouts, the District Explorer Scout Commissioner will have the requisite passwords to enable completion and approval of the census forms.  Explorer Scouts that only undertake the role of Young Leader should be shown as belonging to the District Young Leader Unit; Young Leaders who are also active Explorer Scouts should be recorded as members of the Explorer Unit in which they are active. Scout Active Support members who’ve another leadership role should be listed in that role and added to the Unit in the statistical purposes section of the unit they are associated with.

Passwords will be sent during January to:

  • Country Commissioners and Deputies
  • Regional Commissioners England and Wales
  • County/Area/Region (Scotland) Commissioners and Secretaries
  • District Commissioners and Secretaries
  • Group Scout Leaders
  • District Explorer Scout Commissioners
  • District Scout Network Commissioners
  • District Scout Active Support Managers
  • County/Area Region (Scotland) Scout Active Support Managers

Anyone who’s a member should be recorded, both young people and adults. Everyone who’s a member of a section (Squirrels, Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers, Network) is a member starting from the date of their first investiture into Scouts. For adults, membership status varies by role and can be determined using POR Chapter 16: Roles Table. Adult members should be recorded on the census even if their role is provisional or pre-provisional.

Young people should only be recorded once on the census; this makes sure that their membership fee is only paid once. If an adult has more than one role, they should be recorded in the role the member considers to be their main role (not necessarily what’s recorded on Compass as the Primary Role). This can be recorded in the boxes with the white background, columns 1 to 4, and a main role should only be recorded once per adult. More than one secondary role can be recorded in different census returns, using columns 5 to 8 with a grey background. Adults and Scout Network members don’t pay the national membership fee.

An individual should be recorded on the census in the box that relates most closely to their main role. For the vast majority of members, this will be the only role they hold. Some adult members, however, hold more than one role. In these instances, a suitable method should be used locally to define what the adult’s main role is (not necessarily what’s recorded on Compass as the Primary Role). Members are recorded in this way to make sure that the results of the census give the most appropriate and realistic picture. Where an adult has multiple roles, and their main role is not for the return you are filling in, they should be recorded in the boxes with a grey background, columns 5 to 8.

For example, a County Secretary also holds a Section Assistant appointment in their local Group. In this case, the primary role is most likely to be County Secretary. Similarly, an Assistant District Commissioner for Scouts is also a Scout Leader in one of the Groups in the District. In this case, the primary role is more likely to be the Scout Leader. Here are some specific examples:

Example 1: Sharon’s a Cub Scout Leader and a County Scout Active Support Member.

Sharon should be recorded on the Cub Pack census, but also recorded as a Scout Active Support Member on the relevant Active Support Unit in the grey boxes.

Example 2: Glenn is an Assistant Explorer Scout Leader and a member of two Scout Active Support units; one at District level and one at County/Area/Regional level.

Glenn should be recorded on the Explorer Scout Unit census as an ‘Assistant Explorer Scout Leader’ and should also be recorded as a Scout Active Support Member in the grey boxes on the District & County census.

Example 3: Sam is a County Secretary but is also a Section Assistant at the local Cub Pack.

Sam should be recorded on the County return as a County Secretary, as this is his main role, and he should also be recorded on the Pack return as a Pack Section Assistant using the grey boxes.

When we analyse the data it is anonymised. Every effort is made to ensure that the data is also anonymised at the point of collection. However we recognise that from time-to-time it may be possible for volunteers to identify individuals. We asked that discretion and confidentiality is applied in these circumstances, as some of the data can be sensitive.
The only exception to this is that we request the contact details for the person completing the Census return.  This data is kept for a maximum of twelve months so that they can be contacted if there are any questions that need to be answered in regard to the return.  This personal data from the 2024 census will be removed from the Census website no later than January 2025. 

Care should be taken with collecting the data, particularly if using the form provided to collect ethnicity and disability information. There’s no name required for the form, but we do ask for gender. The forms should be collected and collated anonymously, and destroyed once the figures have been pulled together. Read more in the Scouts Data Protection Policy.

Through the census, we collect information about the meeting place of each Drey, Colony, Pack, Troop and Unit. It’s very important that the information provided is genuinely the main meeting location and not (for example) the post code of the leader’s house.  Please make sure that you give the full post code. If not known, post codes can be found using the Royal Mail postcode finder at www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode. Very few meeting places have no post code – if that’s the case, please use the postcode finder to provide a (very) nearby post code.

Mapping the ethnicity of our members enables the Scouts to understand how reflective we are of the communities in which we are present and identify if there are Groups which are currently under-represented within the membership. This helps us to look at how we might grow and develop Scouts locally.

Information about ethnicity is anonymous. If any individual’s uncomfortable about providing this information, please record as ‘prefer not to say,’ however this should not be used instead of collecting the relevant data.  A letter for parents and a form has been produced to help collect this information. Users of Online Scout Manager can use that system to anonymously collect the ethnicity data required for the census.

There are a number of ways in which collecting this data will help us to grow and develop Scouts. These include:

  • Helping us to identify and celebrate our successes in working with diverse communities
  • Helping us to identify communities with which we could work to grow and develop Scouts

We know many religions form our Scouting, and we're keen to know the religious makeup of our membership. Mapping the Religion of our members enables the Scouts to understand how reflective we are of the communities in which we are present and identify if there are Groups which are currently under-represented within the membership. This helps us to look at how we might grow and develop Scouts locally and better support the programme.

Information about Religion is anonymous. If any individual’s uncomfortable about providing this information, please record as ‘prefer not to say’ however this should not be used instead of collecting the relevant data  A letter for parents and a form has been produced to help collect this information. Users of Online Scout Manager can use that system to anonymously collect the Religion data required for the census.

There are a number of ways in which collecting this data will help us to grow and develop Scouts. These include:

  • Helping us to identify and celebrate our successes in working with diverse communities
  • Helping us to identify communities with which we could work to grow and develop Scouts

The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as ‘having a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on an individual’s ability to do normal daily activities’. Understanding the disabilities and additional needs of our members helps us to constantly look for ways to improve access to Scouts and provide the support and guidance needed to support the full participation of all young people.

This information enables us to identify the key external bodies and agencies we need to work with in order to make sure that we are following the best practice guidelines with respect to our provisions for people with visible and hidden disabilities. Information about disability is anonymous and a letter for parents to explain why we want this information, as well a form, have been produced to help collect this.

We’re seeking additional information about disabilities across Scouts in order to help us improve and more accurately target the support provided for adults and young people. The ethnicity and additional information will help collect data to aid implementation of our strategic plan for the period 2018-2025.

This data will help us to be more effective in planning our projects, programme materials and events, so we can meet the needs of both adult volunteers and young people. The data will also help identify the key external bodies and agencies we need to work with in order to make sure that we are following the best practice guidelines with respect to our provisions for people with visible and hidden disabilities.

Each Scout County is charged the membership for each Squirrel Scout, Beaver Scouts, Cub Scouts, Scout and Explorer Scouts registered on the census. Counties will then pass these charges down to Districts and Groups as appropriate. Scout Network members and adults don’t pay the national membership fee.

Young Leaders are recorded in Young Leader Units and the colony, pack or troop where they help. The recording of Explorer Scouts could cause some confusion as they could be active in one of three ways, as an active member of an Explorer Scout Unit only, as a Young Leader only, or as a Young Leader and an active member of an Explorer Scout Unit.  We also have Young people aged 14-17 who aren’t members of Scouts but are helping as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award, through Girl Guiding or something similar. Here are some examples:

 

Example 1: James is an active member of an Explorer Scout Unit only

James is recorded on the Explorer Scout Unit return for the unit he’s active in only.

Example 2: Jane is a Young Leader but not active in an Explorer Scout Unit

Jane doesn’t participate in the Explorer Scout programme and is only interested in being a Young Leader. She should be recorded on the District Young Leader Explorer Unit return. If a Young Leader unit doesn’t exist, please contact the Scout Support Centre who can create one for you. She should also be recorded on the relevant Colony, Pack or Troop return as a Young Leader.

Example 3: Alex is an active Explorer Scout and a Young Leader.

Alex should be recorded on the Explorer Scout Unit return where she is active as an Explorer Scout, and should also be recorded on the relevant Colony, Pack or Troop return as a Young Leader.

Example 4: Harry’s undertaking his DofE Award and is acting as a Young Leader.

As Harry isn’t a member of Scouts, he isn’t recorded in any Explorer Scout Unit. He should be recorded in the Colony, Pack or Troop return where he’s helping as a 14 – 17 helper.

We send log in information to District Explorer Scout Commissioners and Scout Active Support Managers so that they can manage the census information for which they’re responsible. As this doesn’t fit the normal District/Group hierarchy, we’ve added these as ‘Provisions’. So a District Explorer Scout Provision will comprise one or more Explorer Scout Units, in the same way that a Scout Group comprises one or more Colonies/Packs/Troops.

This’ll allow the DESC and Active Support Manager to go straight to their sections but will mean that those with the District or County level log in won’t see their sections without first going into the Provision level.

These Groups are listed so that the census information for them in previous years is recorded and available to help compare the census year on year. 

The ‘dormant’ classification used until 2018 is no longer in use – sections/Groups/Districts are now either ‘active’ or ‘closed’. 

If the section (Drey, Colony, Pack, Troop, Unit, Network or ASU) isn’t on the Census, it may not have been added to Compass, which needs to happen so that a Registration Number is created. Adding a section can be done locally. Once the Compass registration number is available, please contact the Scout Support Centre, who’ll add the section to the Census. If a Group needs to be added, please contact the Scout Support Centre, who’ll help with this.

Once a return has been approved, it’s possible for those higher up in the hierarchy to unlock the return: a Group will be able to unlock their sections, the District unlock a Group and the District sections and so on. When the Group is approved, it won’t be able to unlock its sections and similarly, when a District is approved, it won’t be able to unlock their Groups.

Guidance for those approving other returns can be found here.

The Certificate of Achievement, introduced in 2020 should not be included in the census return as a 'full' award. This ensures we compare historical information consistently and accurately.

Yes, suspended members are counted in the census.

Yes, if you go into the view mode of any census return you can print the page.

Unless otherwise agreed by your County Commissioner and HQ, you should declare the membership of your group based on what it is, or will be, on the date you complete the Census before the end of January.

We have included a question on complaints received in Scouting. We are seeking this information as we are always looking to improve our policies and procedures including the complaints policy. This information will help us to build a picture of the volumes of formal complaints received as a movement overall. We plan to work closely with a representative sample of the movement to explore changes in how we deal with complaints. We also want to look at the advice and guidance available for all stakeholders including complainants and their representatives, managers and individuals subject to the complaints process. We feel this data will also be helpful for the line management chain to get a better understanding of their respective areas in Scouting when it comes to concerns and complaints.

Please note that the question relates to complaints raised formally under The Scouts complaints policy. It does not include informal concerns raised which may have been resolved informally.

Although we know where Squirrel Dreys are set up, we want to get a more accurate snapshot of who those Squirrels are. As a result we are asking you for postcode data for each of your Squirrels. We appreciate this is extra work, but the more we know, the more we can help. The data will not be used to identify individuals but will be used to support the development of the Squirrels programme and ensure the content is inclusive and reflective of all our local communities. 

Information on the UKHQ membership fee can be found here.

Census home

Back to the census home where you can find guides for specific census returns.

Back to census home