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Campaigning: should we or shouldn't we?

I was just taking a look at the Speaking up for Scouting article on identifying our campaigning priorities and was interested to see that many of the initial comments by members are questioning whether or not this is something we should be actively developing.

It is perhaps difficult to cast our minds back just a few years to when the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) procedures were first being implemented and the Government of the day were adamant that the voluntary sector would not be exempted from the proposed fee.

At the time, it was estimated that this alone would cost Scouting £750,000 per annum and with our number of annual CRB enquiries now hitting 70,000 one can only begin to estimate what it would cost us today!

The fact that this fee was avoided and the Government persuaded to provide them free to the voluntary sector was only as a result of a highly effective campaign, orchestrated by a small number of staff and volunteers at the time, to enlist local support in lobbying Members of Parliament directly.

I mention this because it is an example where effective lobbying in respect of proposed legislation, one which we could all get behind a common view on, heralded a significant benefit for all in Scouting.

Similarly, the recent campaign against rain tax (albeit effecting only certain regions of the UK) would have had a significant direct impact on many Scout Groups had we not successfully lobbied with other organisations to avoid it.

Effective campaigning might also assist us in a number of ways that may affect our ability to recruit additional volunteers. For example, in my recent blog about volunteering by civil servants, it is interesting that there is a variety of different policies with regards to paid leave for things like residential experiences.

This is not unique to the civil service and so, perhaps, concerted lobbying and campaigning to encourage employers generally and Government in particular to recognise the value of volunteering could have a significant impact on our ability to recruit and retain good volunteers.

I fully agree that Scouting must remain non-party political and indeed to campaign on a topic for which the Movement is not generally united in our view could be significantly damaging. That is why the highly successful Public Affairs Team is going to some lengths to ensure that we obtain the views of members, such as through the questionnaire and the focus group discussions.

Just imagine how we might significantly change the ability to deliver Scouting to all those 30,000 young people on our joining lists if we were to successfully campaign for Government to endorse paid leave for all Scout Leaders to undertake five days' residential experience each year!

Wishful thinking perhaps but there was a large number of doubters who didn’t believe that CRB checks could be made free to volunteers…




By David Rossall
on 27/01/2010 22:49

I was one of the commenters on the survey. My comments were not really directed at campaigns that address the ability of the Association to carry out its work, such as the issues you mention. However, the suggestions in the survey are much wider, and imply our becoming an organisation campaigning on (say) the environment, whereas I see our role as in influencing the views of the next generation. Even where we took young people to Parliament, it would typically be to encourage their future participation in the political process, rather than to be seen as a campaigning organisation - except on the issues above.

By John Sweeney
on 28/01/2010 21:27

Should we campaign - well the simple answer is yes of course we should if we want to get fair treatment and improve the movment. However we do need to tread with caution and ensure we don't become involved to the detriment of the ethos of and the good name of Scouting so we need to chose our campaigns as we have done so far caefully ie as mentioned and also the ISA discussions currently going on. I am sure we all do campaign in our on way now anyway with our local councillors and business and if we don't I would highly recommned this as it can make a huge difference to Scouting in the community. By way of an example in my local town now at remberance day all youth Group are lined up at the front of the war memorial and church and not the back as in previous years so the kids can actually see what is going on. Low key simple campaigning at a local level delivering the results we wanted in Scouting but also benefiting all youth based organisations in the town.

By Moz
on 02/02/2010 12:00

Personally, I'm a little uncomfortable about this. While I agree that we should a) be encouraging young people to thing about issues that effect them, and b) lobbying Parliament about laws that get in the way of us providing top quality Scouting, I think we need to be careful about combining the two.

Yes, we were right to speak to the government about CRB charges - something that would have crippled us financially - I think this is something that should be done by senior members of staff and senior volunteers, not by Cub Scouts outside Parliament.

I'm also concerned that it appears that we might be getting a little to cosy with the government, making it appear that we support one party over another.

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