Scouting seen as ‘too middle class’

Scouting could die out in poorer parts of the UK because it is still seen as being for middle-class Christian boys, the chief commissioner has warned.
Scout leaders say the organisation has vastly changed from what it was in the 1940s. Picture: GettyScout leaders say the organisation has vastly changed from what it was in the 1940s. Picture: Getty
Scout leaders say the organisation has vastly changed from what it was in the 1940s. Picture: Getty

Wayne Bulpitt said parents were being put off by “myths” about the Scouts, originally founded on Christian lines a century ago.

Meanwhile, Scottish organisers said they were attempting to challenge some perceptions about the organisation and still struggled to get volunteers who think Scouting is for them.


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Mr Bulpitt said UK-wide, adult volunteers remained in short supply, particularly in deprived areas. And girls needed further reminding that they can join Scouts.

He said: “There is a danger that in some areas Scouting will die out. Scouting is for boys and girls and is open to all. Some people think it is for Christians but it welcomes all faiths and none. It is always a problem with myths. Unless you address them, they will be taken as facts.

“We feel passionately that Scouting changes the lives of young people and is good for the communities where it ­exists. We are looking for people to volunteer and make Scouting happen.”

There are currently 44,373 Scouts in Scotland and 550,000 across the UK, with “thousands” wanting to join every month, said Mark Shanks, Scotland’s commissioner for inclusive Scouting.

But he said: “We struggle to get into certain communities because of how we are perceived – they perceive what we are not. Young people don’t carry those perceptions, but adults are less likely to volunteer if they don’t think they will fit in.

“We have a challenge reaching out to these communities, but we are making some headway.”

Mr Shanks said they were trying to recruit more Scouts from minority backgrounds and that despite perceptions of the organisation as being white, middle-class and Christian, there had been a 15 per cent increase in Scottish Scouts from black and ethnic communities.

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“We recognise we are not as strong in areas of deprivation as it could be,” he said. “There are a huge number of reasons, particularly a lack of volunteers.

“Scouting is more than 100 years old and when it started it was the most inclusive, pairing the most deprived with the least deprived in London. We now have Scouts in Yorkhill Hospital and have had a disabled group for 80 years.

“It takes a concerted effort to set up groups and keep it going. More people are volunteering but the kind of roles are changing and people are volunteering in different directions today.”

The Scouts this week launched the “Better Prepared” campaign to expand in the UK’s 200 poorest areas.

The project is funded by the Youth United Foundation and will support two areas in Scotland – Glasgow and East Ayrshire/Kilmarnock. The money will cover set-up costs for 18 months, during which each area will be aiming to create 20 new sustainable Scouts groups.

Hannah Kentish, the Scout Association’s new UK Youth Commissioner, said: “We know Scouting can change lives, so it has to reach those who could benefit the most”

Since the centenary in 2007, Scotland has seen a rise of 10,000 more Scouts, 1,043 in the past year alone.


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