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Chief Commissioner's Blog | When adults don't get on

Wayne knew things were getting ridiculous when the suggestion was made to start a union for leaders...

I kid you not

I think we can agree that I am generally a happy, smiling and positive person; you only have to look at my photograph on my Twitter and Facebook pages to see this! However, this week has been dominated by that 5% of my role that includes dealing with serious complaints, adults not following rules and a small number of wayward comments on eScouts. I knew things were getting ridiculous when the suggestion was made that we should have a union for leaders. I kid you not!

I have mentioned before that the Law and Promise that we take and the values that underpin our Movement are so often forgotten when adults fall out or disagree with each other.

Some of the emails and correspondence I receive are very personal and insulting and I am aware that volunteers at many levels just occasionally receive such correspondence. Clearly this shouldn’t be happening and believe me, such negative comments achieve nothing.

Of course, with social media and online groups etc, negativity is now more widely seen and known about than it used to be. It never ceases to amaze me how people seem willing to accept such comments as ‘fact’ without accepting that there may be very good reasons for much of the action.

What are we doing about it?

We identified some time ago that some of the barriers to the success of our Movement would be failing to have the right people in the right roles. We have subsequently called this initiative Leadership and Management and a lot of time and resources have and are being put in to ensure that managers at all levels, from GSLs to Chief Commissioners, have the right skills for those roles and are properly supported.

This information and support, from training courses to videos and webinars, can be accessed at scouts.org.uk/managers.

Similarly, a lot of work has recently been done regarding complaints policies and procedures, including a review; this can be found at scouts.org.uk/complaints.

We can do better

One area that needs work is the suspension of members. Thankfully these are relatively rare, but when they do happen they are incredibly difficult for those involved. While we have developed support around this the area, we are conscious that we can do more. Tim Kidd, Chief Commissioner of England, and the person most behind the significant advances made to this whole area of our work over the past few years, is currently reviewing how best we may do this going forward.

Reasons to be cheerful

Thankfully, I have an exciting weekend of Scouting to look forward to. I will be joining Scouts Scotland; visiting local activities and attending their annual awards ceremony, which recognises the achievements of over 300 young people and adult supporters.

It is always worth remembering when involved in such challenges I have mentioned, we should always focus on our successes, of which there are many, and many more to come. 

I’m still smiling...





By Mel Brammer
on 22/06/2014 22:28

Glad you're still smiling Wayne, and hope you enjoyed Scotland this weekend. I sense some frustration with those people who value Scouting enough to volunteer their time, but then forget what we're all about... Providing great Scouting to our young people!

By me
on 23/06/2014 10:09

Please contact me through the Info Centre concerning your post. Many thanks, Wayne

By Conrad
on 02/07/2014 12:02

The only Union that should exist in Scouting is the bond that unites us as members of an amazing International Fellowship.

Should exist.

I firmly believe in Scouting. I have met some amazing people; young and not so young. To enable the delivery of an amazing programme of activities, Scouting requires the support of a kaleidoscope of volunteers. Each volunteer is unique.

Of course, with so many supporters there are going to be differences and each individual will display a characteristic. Somme of these characteristics I have noted below.

The first characteristic is the petulant child. These people want Scouting to respond to their needs, their wants, dictating the terms. Perhaps it is these people asking for a Union that Wayne speaks of in his blog?

Then there are volunteers that are exasperated, perhaps they feel unsupported, never listened to, feel left out and over time their manner changes from jovial team members to someone that is perceived as a complainer. Are they asking for a Union?

Perhaps the person wanting a Union is someone that is being poorly supported. No one has ever told them what is expected of them, how to do something, donâ??t know which way to turn so makes it up as they go along, believing what they are doing is right.

Supporting our frontline volunteers are volunteer managers. Each individual is, again, different. Some face real issues that, whilst addressing, upset people to get the delivery of Scouting back on track. These managers proactively seek out learning opportunities that develop their skills; e.g. participating in Webinar.

Some managers attend training that they have to do, feel that they are doing everything correctly; they have a group with members, what more can they be expected to do? They never received an induction, and since theyâ??ve been doing the role for some time what can anyone tell them that they donâ??t know already.

We have an eclectic bunch of volunteers. Effective supervision with realistic expectations need to be provided from day one, with real, not token, support for all volunteers. I know that the Scout Association is really trying to achieve this.

Perhaps, since we do live in the real world and my desire to have a harmonious organisation where everyone gets on and can talk to each other is not always going to happen, a mechanism needs to be developed that addresses grievances (we have a complaints process but letâ??s catch it in the bud before a complaint arises) and get our valued volunteers on the right road that achieves the goals that we are promoting.

Some time ago Wayne mentioned in a blog Scouting Inspectors. Perhaps an independent team reviewing operational Units (e.g. Groups & Districts) ensuring compliance and suggesting ways that can enhance local performance, whether it be programme delivery, retention of adults, effective management of Unit affairs or developing infrastructure may be answer.

By David Hitchens
on 27/07/2014 18:32

Just been made aware of this thread.

Wayne, during my 30 years as a leader I think I heard the 'start a union' cry at least once a year.

As I think you said in one of your replies, a union represents employees. Volunteers are not employee - therefore how can a union represent them?

Some years ago, I looked into this in more detail - particularly at the report on the law and volunteers done by volunteering England. More recently, I have looked at it again for seminars I am currently setting up for community groups.

Simple fact is that volunteers have no legal rights of any kind whatsoever. If the organisation engaging volunteers wants to stop engaging them, they can do so - instantly. And there is nothing in law that a volunteer can do about it, no matter how long they have been volunteers. And as POR Rule 16 also points out, no reason has to be given either in the case of the Association.

So, I think sometimes that leaders who complain - when they ought to be spending their time doing what they are (not) 'paid' perhaps ought to remember this.

I think too that if they focus on that and always act according to Scouting principles, then disputes that might need a 'union' would probably hardly ever arise.

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