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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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Alcohol and Scouting

Alcohol in particular raises a number of issues, both for young people and for adult leaders. The guidance below deals with the questions that alcohol might raise in a Scouting environment.

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Policy Organisation and Rules

Adults must not consume alcohol when they're directly responsible for young people on a Scouts activity. They mustn't permit young people, aged under 18 years, to consume alcohol on Scouts activities.

Alcohol's a part of many people’s lives, regardless of whether they consume it.

The issues alcohol raises aren't just about the effect it has on health. Drinking alcohol can have associated hazards. The level of risk depends on who's drinking, how much and in what situation.

Drinking any amount of alcohol has effects on the physical co-ordination of the body and can seriously slow down judgement and reaction time. Within minutes of being consumed, alcohol's absorbed into the blood stream and reaches the brain, where there's an immediate impairment of brain function. It takes an hour for the adult body to process one unit of alcohol.

Young people find out about alcohol by trying it themselves, observing others and through information from parents, at school and via the media, through advertising and so on.

As an adult in Scouts, you're a role model for young people. Young people are impressionable and will inevitably be influenced by those adults they respect.

Drinking alcohol may not mean adults set a bad example to young people. However, in certain circumstances doing so has the potential to place adults in a compromising position with regard to their responsibilities for child protection and their duty of care.

The Scout Association’s Safety Policy

The Scout Association has a key policy, which requires Scouting to be provided in a safe manner without risk to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. All adults need to be physically and mentally fit to undertake their responsibilities in this area. When responsible for young people, adults must not drink alcohol.

Policy Organisation and Rules 2.4

Adults must not consume alcohol when they are directly responsible for young people on a Scouting activity and must not permit young people (aged under 18 years) to consume alcohol on Scouting activities.

During Scouts events that are attended by under-18s, the following should apply:

  • Under 18s must not consume alcohol under any circumstances.

  • At any one time there should be the correct ratio of responsible adults who must not consume alcohol, a minimum of two people, and risk assessments in place depending on the size and nature of the event.

  • In general, adults should not consume alcohol in the presence of under-18's. It's accepted though that this might occur in certain circumstances, such as at fundraising and social events. This should be addressed by the risk assessment.

  • If adults are to consume alcohol, this should be in an area separate from young people. There should be a clearly defined adult only area to which young people don't have access when practicable. It's accepted this may not always be possible, such as at certain fundraising and social events.  

  • Adults who do consume alcohol should be mindful of the need to follow the Yellow Card ('Young People First') at all times, even if they're not directly responsible for young people.

  • Consideration should be given to the effects alcohol can have and how it may affect an individual’s ability to fulfil their Scouts duties. This should form part of the risk assessment. For example, if someone drinks excessively in an evening, they may be ineffective in performing duties the following morning.

  • Consideration should also be given to running alcohol-free events and to the cultural and religious needs of all those taking part.

  • Any member of the Scout Network or a Scout Active Support Unit should be expected to follow the same guidance as for adult leaders.

  • All young people and adults should be aware of the standards of behaviour expected of them. Best practice is to draw up codes of conduct in advance of events.

  • Young people and adults should be helped to understand the issues associated with alcohol and how to access information and advice to make informed

Green Card - Scouting and alcohol

The Green Card sets out our policy on alcohol for all adults involved in Scouts. 

Read more on Scouting and alcohol
Help and information

Our facts provided are courtesy of the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Alcohol Concern. If you would like further information, please visit: