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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

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

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Campaigning in a General Election Year

At Scouts we're committed to making a difference, but before taking action we need to make sure it's within campaigning rules

This guidance applies to all adult volunteers including trustees and county and district leads, as well as section leaders.

We're expecting a general election in 2024. We know that volunteers might ask what Scouts’ role should be when it comes to campaigning on political issues. They might also feel concerned about the potential risks involved. General elections can be good opportunities for promoting how Scouts benefits our young people and communities. When carrying out any activity, impartiality is key and you should not use these opportunities to promote personal political views

This guidance is created to explain how we can promote Scouts during the election year without breaking any of our own rules in POR, or Charity Law.

Can I campaign about Scouts in a general election year?

The short answer is yes. All charities are permitted to campaign as long as the causes they campaign for further their charitable purpose. For Scouts, this is supporting young people’s development. If you want to understand more about what we mean by campaigning, or how to align with our charitable purpose, please refer to our wider guidance on community impact and political campaigning.

Is charity law different during election periods?

Charity law stays the same during general elections. However, we need to be aware that during the pre-election period how Scouts and other charities act may be under more scrutiny. This is to make sure elections are democratic, unbiased and free from interference. That means during an election period, we need to be even more careful that our activities do align with charity law.

What activity can I do in a general election year as someone representing Scouts?

Ways you can get involved include:

  • Promoting our Scouts' Manifesto and policies that support the development of young people, or the growth of Scouts, in the UK.
  • Running an educational activity on democracy or active citizenship.
  • Inviting your local candidates from different parties to talk to your young people about what they do and the policies they support.
  • Writing to your local candidates in your capacity as a Scouts volunteer to talk specifically about the value of Scouts or local Scout issues.

I want to promote policies that support Scouts. What do I need to know?

Charities can endorse political parties’ policies but not parties themselves. These policies should only be focused on how we support the development of young people, volunteering or issues that the Scout movement faces. You should make sure the way you talk about a policy isn’t giving support to one party over another.

Do say: I support the X party’s policy to give all children a free tent.

Don’t say: Everyone in Scouts should vote for X party as they will give all children free tents.

Can I run sessions on the election or politics more widely?

Yes. Scouts plays a key role in supporting young people to become active citizens. Part of this journey is understanding democracy and how we can make change in society. We have prepared some activity ideas to help you to do this. These have been developed in partnership with other organisations that support young people to learn about democracy and politics in a neutral way. As always, impartiality is key and you should not use these opportunities to promote personal political views.  Instead, you should let young people explore their own beliefs whilst being guided by our Scout values.

Do say: Today we’re going to be doing an activity on how to take part in politics and make change.

Don’t say: Today we’re going to be doing an activity on why X party is better than Y party.

Can I invite politicians or candidates to our group?

Yes. Scouts, like other charities, are free to invite candidates and political party representatives to meetings about issues relevant to us. It's helpful to invite representatives from as wide a political spectrum as possible. You don't have to invite every party every time. You should not invite politicians who express views that do not align with our values of cooperation, care and respect. When deciding who to invite, try to be objective without bringing in your own party political views. While you should aim for political balance, you can invite your local MP on their own to your group. Your MP is your representative in Westminster and their role is to promote your local interests as their constituents, no matter what party they represent.

Do say: Dear candidates, would you like to come and talk to the Scouts about the issues you care about?

Don’t say: Let’s not invite candidate X as I don’t agree with their policy on the new ring road.

Can I contact local candidates in my capacity as a Scouts volunteer?

Yes, getting in touch with MPs and candidates in your capacity as a local community leader is a great way to raise issues that matter most to Scouts. You can write to them or meet them in person. When you represent Scouts you can’t give your support to a party or suggest you will vote for them. You are representing Scouts if you are in uniform or a necker, using your Scouts title, or have young people from Scouts in your care. Remember, you should reach out to more than one candidate if they are not your MP to ensure you are being politically neutral.

Do say: Dear candidate, we would like our next MP to talk more about the importance of Scouts for children’s development in the House of Commons

Don’t say: Dear candidate, I will vote for you if you talk more about the importance of Scouts for children’s development in the House of Commons

Can political parties use my Scout Headquarters?

There is nothing in charity law that stop charities renting out their premises for hire. This can be a valuable way of raising funds for your group. You should not however let parties use your premises as a favour if you have a personal link as this could be seen as political bias. You may also wish to refuse a commercial hire if the organiser does not align with our Scout values.

Need more advice?

We know these rules can seem complex and sometimes require a discussion to decide whether your plans align with our charitable purpose. The Public Affairs team is always happy to support you with this thinking.

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