“Scouts expands membership in deprived areas”

By Nina Jacobs

| 15 May 2019

Record numbers of new Scouts sections opened in areas of deprivation last year as part of a five-year strategy to bring opportunities to disadvantaged young people.

Figures published today by the youth movement - a year on since the launch of its Skills for Life strategy to increase provision in disadvantaged communities - showed there were 289 new sections formed in target areas in 2018.

The five-year strategy aims to open 500 new units in deprived areas by 2023 and has so far boosted membership by 20,000.

It builds on its drive announced in 2014 to focus taking the movement to the UK's most disadvantaged young people.

At that time the organisation had opened 1,280 new sections, a figure that has increased year on year.

In 2014, 191 new sections opened which increased to 282 in 2016 and 272 in 2017, engaging nearly 20,000 young people from the hardest to reach areas.

In the West Midlands, two new Beaver sections were opened catering for 50 young people drawn from some of the most deprived wards in England, the Scouts said.

Membership levels grew by more than 40 per cent from last year for the Willesden Scout District branch in London, of which young people attending this provision are drawn from the 10 per cent most deprived wards in England, it added.

A census for 2019 showed there were 544 members in the district, a 35-year high.

Despite the record numbers, the Scouts said its waiting list had more than 60,000 young people and more adult volunteers were needed.

More than £7m in funding is being used to support the expansion of new sections with £4.5m awarded by the Youth United Foundation and £1.3m from the Pears Foundation.

The Scouts was one of nine uniformed groups to share £4.2m in government funding to boost the number of places for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A grant of £781,750, distributed through the Uniformed Youth Fund, was awarded to the Scouts to help create 60 new units as well as develop an impact measurement tool of its work with under-13s.

Scouts chief commissioner Tim Kidd said the organisation had seen "great change" as well as "significant progress" since the launch of Skills for Life last year.

The programme, which builds on its previous Scouting for All strategy, sets out plans to grow membership, increase inclusivity, involve young people more in decision-making processes and make a bigger impact in local communities.

"We have so much to be proud of, opening more units in areas of deprivation offering opportunities to the young people who need them most.

"This was so central to Scouting for All and remains at the heart of our Skills for Life plan," he said.

Kidd said overall membership had risen in 2019 and the organisation had seen a four per cent growth in the number of girls and young women aged 6 to 18 to join up.

Total membership figures had increased by 155,000 (more than 32 per cent) in the last decade, while youth membership (6-25) was up by 84,000 (more than 21 per cent) over the same period, he added.

More than 18,000 young leaders (an increase of 2.8 per cent) have also been appointed, enabling young people to experience volunteer leadership.

"The Young Leaders scheme is such a success story and bodes so well, not only for the personal development of these amazing young people, but for the future of our movement," said Kidd.

Opportunities for social action have been taken up by 250,000 Scouts across a range of themes, he added.

These include initiatives such as Dementia Friends, which has so far trained 22,000 Scouts.

The strategy also aims to reach young people under six in areas of deprivation and has rolled out a number of pilots to evaluate the potential for early years provision.

Kidd said: "We know the pilots are already making a positive impact on the lives of young people and their families in areas of deprivation."