Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Surrey County Scout Council



  1.1  Surrey County Scout Council covers the administrative County of Surrey. It is responsible for the provision of Scouting through twenty Scout Districts and over 200 separate Scout Groups to over 12,000 young people.

  1.2  Each Scout Group is made up of one or more of the following Sections:

    —  Beaver Scouts—6 to 8 years;

    —  Cub Scouts—8 to 10.5 years;

    —  Scouts—10.5 to 15 years;

    —  Venture Scouts—15 to 20 years.

  1.3  Each section has its own progressive training awards, culminating in the Queen's Scout Award in the Venture Scout section. All leaders are volunteers and belong to Scouting as their way of providing service to the community.

  1.4  On their 20th birthday, the young person can either decide to become a leader with a specific section or join the Scout Fellowship. These adults are necessary to provide an adventurous but safe programme which encourages a young person to take a constructive place in their local community.

  1.5  There are over twelve thousand Beaver Scouts, Cub Scouts, Scouts and Venture Scouts in Surrey, supported by over three thousand adults[15]. All the adults are volunteers. Their names, prior to them becoming actively involved with young people, have been sent to the Scout Association who check, using existing systems, their suitability to work with young people.

  1.6  In Surrey, every other young person has, at some time, been involved with Scouting or Guiding.


  2.1  Our current understanding is that there will be no retrospective checking of existing adults involved with the Scout Association. Were there to be we would face a one off bill of ?30,000 (based on a charge of £10 per adult) will not have to be found from the supporters of Scouting in Surrey.

  2.2  However, the names of over 3,500 adults who wish to become involved in Scouting in Surrey, are currently checked by the Scout Association each year, a possible recurring annual bill of £35,000.

  2.3  Scouting is a voluntary organisation. When activities away from the regular weekly meetings are carried out eg camping and other outdoor activities, especially with the younger sections (Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts), a larger number of adults are needed to help the existing leadership team ensure that the activity is run successfully and safely. We are increasingly adopting the commendable procedure of recruiting these additional adults from the parents of the young people attending the event.

  2.4  These people are also subjected to the Association's checking procedure to ensure that they are suitable persons to be working with young people. To prevent last minute problems in finding suitable adults, some Scout Districts and Groups have adopted the practice of submitting the names of parents of all young people who join Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts for checking. In this way, leaders know which parents are and are not suitable to work with young people.

  2.5  If this procedure was adopted by all Scout districts in Surrey then, based on existing membership numbers[16] and the age range of Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts, there would be over 3,500 checks made for parents alone, each year.

  2.6  To this figure must be added all those adults who volunteer to take on a regular commitment with the Association locally. In Surrey, this is approximately five hundred adults a year who are not parents of members but who have heard about what Scouting has to offer and wish to be part of it.

  2.7  Thus, if all parents of Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts together with volunteer leaders were checked, there would be 4,000 checks a year from Surrey—an annual cost of £40,000.


  3.1  Scouting is a Charity. Each separate part of the Association that holds money (County, District and Group) is a separate registered Charity with the Charity Commission. Some of the money used to support Scouting comes from central and local government grants. Some money for specific one off projects will come from other grant making bodies. However, the vast majority of money required to run Scouting is raised from either the individual subscriptions paid to enable the young people to belong, by covenanting those subscriptions or claiming gift aid on them and by various fund raising activities including jumble sales and selling Christmas cards

  3.2  This money will pay for the upkeep of the buildings that meetings take place in or the rental of suitable accommodation; it will pay for the purchase of equipment—ranging from craft items for the younger members to tentage and camping equipment for the older members. A typical tent that a Patrol of Scouts would use on a week long camp now costs over £450; a specialist tent used when on hiking expeditions costs over £250[17]. Scout Groups also pay the cost of training for each adult leader. This training, which is compulsory, consists of three courses lasting over five week ends spread out over a period of time, together with project work in-between. The total cost of these courses, which are all run by volunteers, is £140[18]. Groups, therefore, already financially support, to a considerable extent, their adult leaders, who give a huge amount of time and, in many instances, their own money, to Scouting.

  3.3  In paragraph 3.1 we referred to the individual subscriptions paid to belong to the Scout Group. Apart from any grants that are received from local government, Scout districts, counties and headquarters raise most of their money by a levy on each member in the Scout Group. For 2001, the Headquarters levy (or the membership fee as it is called) is £15, the County levy is £3.50 and the average district levy is £1.50. Therefore, the first £20 paid in subscriptions each year by individual members goes to meet these fees before any money comes to the Scout Group to pay for the running or other costs mentioned in paragraph 3.1 above. The Government's proposals will increase these costs by almost £3 per person, a 15 per cent increase.

  3.4  In Surrey, the County does not receive any money from local government towards general running costs. In the current year, it received a total or just over £22,000 towards eight specific projects. This should be seen against a background of general fund income of £173,000 and expenditure of £152,000 for the last financial year[19].


  4.1  We all have a duty to protect our young people from harm and from coming into contact with undesirable people. The Scout Association already has a method of checking whether adult volunteers should be allowed to work with young people, though it is not 100 per cent foolproof. The Government's proposals, though also not 100 per cent foolproof, are to be welcomed.

  4.2  Parents expect that organisations, such as the Scout Association, are properly organised. They can safely entrust the care of their children to the trained adult leaders. Part of that expectation currently is that appropriate checks on the background of the adults have been carried out. Not to take advantage of the proposals put forward by government would, we submit, be considered to be negligence by the parents of any young person who was subsequently abused.

  4.3  The proposals as currently put forward by Government, on the current level of checking and pricing, would cost Scouting in Surrey at least an additional £35,000 per year. This is an additional £35,000 that would have to be raised by jumble sales, dances, car washes etc. Alternatively, it would be an additional £3 per year on individual membership subscriptions which already average £55 per person per year.

  4.4  This, we believe, is an unacceptable charge to ask either parents of children belonging to the organisation or the volunteer themselves to pay. Government promotes and encourages people to volunteer their time and talents. It should support that view by providing this checking service free of charge to voluntary organisations.

  4.5  We would suggest two possible ways forward—

    —  That organisations that are registered charities should be exempt from this charge,


    —  That organisations that are registered charities should be able to apply for grant aid to cover the costs.

  The first option would be the ideal way forward and would not impose the expense of establishing grant aid mechanisms, setting aside funds and providing staff to deal with grant aid applications.

Dereck PollardSteve Hall                  
ChairmanCounty Commissioner

5 January 2001

15   Source: Surrey County Scout Council Census: January 2000. Back

16   3459 Beaver Souts and 4678 Cub Scounts; Surrey County Scout Council Census 2000. Back

17   Scout Shops catalogue. Back

18   Surrey County Scout Council's web site Back

19   Surrey County Scout Council's Financial Statement for year ending 31.3.2000. Back

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Prepared 28 March 2001