Supporting Sections to deliver safe Scouting - Tips for Line Managers
Some helpful tips and hints for GSLs, DESCs, and Commissioners to help you support your teams manage safe Scouting activity.
The Safety policy in Chapter 2 (together with rule 2.5) lays down what is required to help all involved to operate safely.
It reminds us that we recognise that life is not risk-free, and in its turn Scouting is not risk-free. As Scouts, we endeavour to manage these risks to wellbeing and safety to be as low as is reasonably practicable. Identifying and proportionately managing risk is a skill for life that we wish to kindle, develop and enhance in all of our members.
In particular, relating to risk assessment is that, when incidents are reported, managers must make arrangements to complete a proportionate review, and learn and share lessons from the incidents (in accordance with POR Chapter 7).
Have an effective way to approve activities that makes use of the knowledge, skills and experience of those in local team roles to make sure the activities stay safe, but are able to be carried out in a simple and easy way.
Encourage leaders to build in a five minute reflection at the end of each meeting after shutting the door behind the last parent. This will capture fresh thoughts about bits of the activity that could be improved – for safety or just for enjoyment.
Role model positive behaviour and instil a positive culture
You can reinforce four simple messages to your team:
Adults and young people should have an appropriate level of training and experience for the activity they are undertaking.
There should be a recognition and understanding that Scouting has mandatory safety training to prepare adults and rules that apply to certain activities. Activities with higher levels of risk may require permits, approved by your local commissioner, to reflect competency of the individual. These can apply to young people as well as adults as a great way to build their interest and experience.
Remind leaders how they can gain qualifications and permits to expand their range of activities and make them feel even more valued.
Make sure there is a Leader in Charge for all activities to take an overview of how safety has been organised. They need to make sure hazards and risks have been identified, controls put in place and that both adults and young people understand how things are going to be monitored and controlled.
Discuss how your leader teams are putting this into practice when you have Group leader meetings and share your experiences. You’ll also see this happening when you visit Section meetings and events, ask questions of the leaders and young people to check understanding and that what has been planned is in place.
Help all to feel and be empowered to never be afraid to change or stop an activity if risk increases.
Both adults and young people have a role to play in managing safety and it is very much a team effort. Sections can share risk assessments and build on those done by others as many activities have a number of similarities.
Groups local to each other can compare notes when they meet at District section meetings or in Group leader meetings. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers if they have examples or experience of a certain activity which can help inform the planning in your setting.
Give safety instructions for each activity in a way that all can understand and get acknowledgement of their understanding.
Review risk assessments as often as necessary when circumstances, environment or conditions change.
Make sure an approach to safety is discussed more generally, for example at programme planning meetings.
Challenging and stopping unsafe activities
Encourage a culture where your teams feel comfortable to talk to each other when they feel an activity is unsafe and should either be reviewed or stopped. This could because of a change in conditions or circumstances.
Nobody should feel under pressure to carry on regardless, worrying that they will disappoint. They need to know they will get more credence for having the integrity to stop.
You can role model this behaviour, if you see something you’re unsure of or think maybe unsafe, stop it in a polite way and quickly reflect with the leaders on what can be done to make things safe so the activity can continue. Encourage openness and feedback within the leadership teams so that everyone feels empowered to do this if required.
Remind leaders that the key to the delivery of exciting and enjoyable programmes is that they are safe. As part of any planning process, the risks of an activity should be identified and appropriate controls put in place. Don’t treat risk assessment as an afterthought, it should be built into the planning to inform the programme and not as an admin task at the end.
Talk with leaders about ‘assessing the risk’ which is regular part of the planning and organising they do for activities, rather than ‘doing a risk assessment’ which somehow seems more like a task for some people. We can easily associate it with being work, rather than play.
It is important to remind ourselves about how we maintain safe conditions for those in our care and for ourselves. We can easily lose sight of that important fact.
Remember, if we were handing over our own children into someone else’s care we would expect them to take the greatest care possible of them.
Training & workshops, collective work to make it easier
- Ensure leaders, supporters and young leaders are competent to undertake their task, through attending appropriate training, checking their understanding of instructions and information, and remaining current in these competencies.
- This gives them the confidence to properly assess the risks of activities undertaken in Scouting and to know when to ask for help. Assessments should be suitable and sufficient for the activity being undertaken, and it follows that activities with higher risk should require more in-depth assessment.
- Provide clear instructions and information to anyone who requires this, be it adult volunteer or young person, in order to ensure any activity is conducted with safety and wellbeing in mind.
- Encourage leaders running similar sections to work together on assessing similar activities, such as Cub leaders at a district meeting chatting and realising they run the same games or activities so can pool their thoughts on hazards, risks and controls. Maybe use the online examples as a starting point?
- We have recently had some long periods of inactivity and we need to support leaders and young people alike to recover from ‘skills fade’. This can be achieved by putting on workshop sessions reminding us of basic scout skills. Indeed teaching them to new leaders for the first time is a great way to help others to focus on and engage with skills that may be rusty.
Additional Information & Support
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Don't forget the Safety Checklists are a great little resource to remind leaders, Executive Committees and Managers of their responsibilities for keeping Scouting safe and how to undertake these.Staying Safe - Safety Checklist
A fun and simple checklist to help plan a safe programme could be something like: