Supporting you to make Scouting more inclusive
UK Chief Commissioner Tim Kidd explains why we are making the time and space to consider how we best support our volunteers with inclusion, so we continue to welcome young people of all backgrounds and abilities.
In Scouting we always put young people first. But we rely on amazing section leaders too. You give your time, energy and expertise to help young people have fun and gain the skills to succeed. In return you should get all the support you need. You should be able to enjoy your role and feel you know where to turn in a challenging situation.
I know you and your teams work hard to support tens of thousands of Scouts with disabilities such as autism. However, this week, you may have seen some media coverage about a young person on the autism spectrum who didn’t have such a positive experience. We have made a personal apology to the family.
Firstly, cases that result in situations like this are very unusual. Naturally though, this has raised some concerns among leaders, and I want to address these fully over time. However what we must avoid is rushing to conclusions or decisions that do not properly address all the issues.
We need to take a measured approach to ensure the best outcomes for all and create the space to do this. That’s exactly why we have launched a learning inquiry to learn from this experience, and importantly, so we can give you the support you need to continue to welcome all young people into Scouting.
What we can learn from this case
Although I cannot go into further detail on this specific case, I am keen to ensure that we discover everything we can from the learning inquiry.
The National Autistic Society has agreed to be part of this work and the rest of the panel are members of Scouting with many years’ experience delivering the programme. Therefore recommendations will be grounded in the realities of running a voluntary organisation. You can feed into this process too by sharing your experiences of supporting young people with disabilities to participate in Scouting and sending them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will share the key learnings widely throughout the Movement in the autumn term. Until then, I have signposted our current resources and support at the end of this blog.
Our commitment to inclusivity
I want to be very clear about this. As a Movement, we are committed to being fully inclusive and I know you, our volunteers, take great pride in that. This isn’t just the law, it’s a commitment that is embedded in our values.
Many volunteers have told me that they did not feel that this case was representative of the way we so warmly welcome young people of all backgrounds and abilities across the UK.
Several leaders who contacted me this week stressed the importance of an open dialogue with parents, who know how best to include their child in activities. Others have said that using our risk assessment process is an effective way to consider what additional support young people may need.
Why we’re here to support you
Let’s be realistic. Situations can often be complex, for example where volunteers are supporting a number of young people with disabilities. Proper planning and resources are needed while considering the needs of other Scouts in the Group. We must continue to consider the impact on young people when making decisions, including their safety.
We are not statutory services, but the law, and our own rules, mean that all Scout Groups must make reasonable adjustments to support young people with disabilities, including those with autism, so that everyone can access Scouting and progress between sections. That is why we need to support each other and signpost advice to help everyone stay within the law and deliver inclusive Scouting.
It is, therefore, vital that the right systems, advice and support are in place to support you as a volunteer. Just as important is that you should know how to access them. In Scouting, you should never feel you are left alone to cope with a challenging situation and while we already have good resources, we could be doing more to help you.
Giving you the support you need
Moving forward, I want to ensure that every volunteer is prepared when a young person with disabiltiies joins a Group and knows who they can go to if they need support. There isn’t an expectation for everyone to become an expert in dealing with all forms of disability. Rather, we want everyone to know how to comply with the law and where to seek help.
By doing this, we can ensure that all young people get the chance to enjoy Scouting and you, our volunteers, are reassured and protected.
Sharing your stories of inclusion
Since the media coverage I have been immensely heartened by the volunteers who have shared their positive experiences of welcoming young people with disabilities. Often having members with such a need can be a positive learning experience for everyone in a Group and many are strengthened as a result. It’s when our values of care, respect, integrity, cooperation and belief really shine through. As I mentioned, please continue to share these experiences with us at email@example.com.
Taking time to make the right decisions
I would like to finish with a few words of caution. None of this work is easy and we do not have all the answers at this point. I do not want us to rush to conclusions. That’s why I want the learning inquiry to consult as widely as possible based on expert input and real-world experience. We will take the time needed to get this right. Let’s wait for its conclusions, then act decisively on its recommendations.
Clearly this is an emotive issue and we need to be especially sensitive to everyone involved at a local level in this case. So I ask that we don’t speculate or add comments on this case on social media. Healthy debate is important, but speculation on matters this complex and sensitive runs the risk of causing further hurt and harm.
Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Scouting and inclusion. This has been a challenging week but I have no doubt that we will come through it stronger and more committed than ever to providing Scouting for all.
Further support on autism and Scouting