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Diversity dictionary

Scouting is inclusive. This means we respect and appreciate differences in ethnicity, gender, age, origin, disability, sexual orientation, education and religion. This diversity dictionary is intended to help you in speaking and writing about this area by explaining the terms used.

If you have any additions or queries, please email the style guide team. For more information regarding diversity terms please email the diversity team.

To learn more about producing accessible written materials please view our accessibility guidelines.

Accessibility refers to the methods by which people with a range of needs, such as people with disabilities, people with caring responsibilities, people on low incomes or other socially excluded groups, find out about and use services, advice, information and opportunities.

Anti-Semitism can be defined as hostility towards Jews as a religious or minority group often accompanied by social, economic, and political discrimination. These actions may be verbal or physical and, can include insulting or degrading comments, taunts or 'jokes'.

The term Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) refers to people who have migrated into the UK from overseas – South East Asia, India, Pakistan and Caribbean but also from Ireland.  

Avoid the word ‘immigrant’, which is very offensive to many black and Asian people, not only because it is often incorrectly used to describe people who were born in Britain, but also because it has been used negatively for so many years.

The ethnic minority population in the UK (around 8%) comprises first, second and now third generation people.

Those coming into the UK may be from a whole variety of countries and of varied ethnicity – Eastern Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Disability is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and/or social barriers.

Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) provided certain rights for people with disabilities in terms of employment, access to goods, facilities and services, the management, buying or renting of land or property and education. It has now been incorporated into the Equality Act (see below).See also reasonable adjustments.


The term 'diversity' can be interpreted in many ways. It is often taken to mean the differences in the values, attitudes, cultural perspective, beliefs, ethnic background, sexual orientation, ability or disability, skills, knowledge, age and life experiences of each individual in any group of people. Valuing diversity refers to developing an accessible and inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and valued and can contribute to their fullest potential.

Equality Act (2010)

The Equality Act replaced previous anti-discrimination laws (such as the Disability Discrimination Act) with a single act to make the law simpler and to remove inconsistencies. The act covers nine protected characteristics, which cannot be used as a reason to treat people unfairly. These are: age, disability, gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.

Equal opportunities
Equal opportunities refers to the development of practices that promote the possibility of fair and equal chances for all to develop their full potential, in all aspects of life, and the removal of barriers to discrimination and disadvantage experienced by certain groups.

Ethnicity is an individual's identification with a group sharing some or all of the following - nationality, lifestyles, religion, customs and language.

A concept that refers to the social differences between women and men that have been learned, are changeable over time, and may have wide variations both within and between cultures. It should not be confused with sex, which is a biological construct.

Gypsies and Travellers
Based on the Housing Act 2004 definitions, ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ means: persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently, and all other persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism and/or caravan dwelling.

For most purposes the travelling community includes groups such as Travellers (Irish and Scottish), Gypsy (English, Welsh and Scottish), Eastern European Roma, Showmen, Circus People, Bargees, New Travellers.

Homophobia refers to any hostile, offensive or discriminatory action against a person because they are gay/lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, or because they are perceived to be. These actions may be verbal or physical and can include insulting or degrading comments, taunts or 'jokes', and excluding or refusing to co-operate with others because of their sexuality.

Impairment is the loss or limitation of physical, mental or sensory function on a long-term or permanent basis. Most impairments or disabilities are not visible. Hidden disabilities include mental and cognitive disabilities, some hearing and visual impairments, epilepsy and diabetes.

Inclusion describes embracing all people irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, medical or other need. It refers to processes aiming to remove the barriers and factors which lead to exclusion, isolation and lack of opportunity.

Islamophobia describes prejudice against, hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims. Islamophobic actions may be verbal or physical, and can include insulting or degrading comments and taunts or 'jokes'.

LGBTQ is the abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning. Spell it out completely on first use.

Monitoring form
A monitoring form is a form which organisations use to collect equality monitoring data – from, for example, job applicants or service users. It records information about a person’s sex, age, disability, race, religion, or sexual orientation. It is kept separately from any identifying information about the person.

Prejudice is an adverse prejudgment or opinion about another group, formed without knowledge or examination of the facts.

Under The Race Relations Act 1976 a 'racial group' means a group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins. However, since then it has been established that ‘race’ is, in fact, a social construct and that it is impossible to classify people according to any other category than that of ‘human being’. Therefore, racism exists even though ‘race’ does not. See also racism.

Racism is a conscious or unconscious belief that discrimination against a person on the basis of ‘race’ or ethnic grouping is justified. However, there is a problem in that the term ‘racism' presupposes the existence of different 'races'. See also race.

Reasonable adjustments
Where a disabled person is at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled, there is a duty to take reasonable steps to remove that disadvantage by changing provisions, criteria or practices. What is 'reasonable' depends on the nature of the adjustment required.

Sexual orientation
Describes a person's sexual attraction, which might be towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes.

Social exclusion
Social exclusion describes what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown. Those who experience social exclusion are, for whatever reason, prevented from participating in or benefiting from a range of opportunities available to members of society.

Social inclusion
Social Inclusion can describe the position from which people can access and benefit from the full range of opportunities available to members of society. Social inclusion is about removing the barriers and factors which lead to exclusion, isolation, lack of opportunity and choice.

Special needs
A special need refers to the individual requirements of a person with a disadvantaged background or a mental, emotional, or physical disability or a high risk of developing one. See also disability.

Stereotype is a fixed, widely-held image, belief or assumption about a group of people which is made without regard to individual differences.

Vulnerable adults

Anyone aged 18 years  or over who may be unable to take care of or protect themselves due to mental or other disability, age or illness, and so are more at risk to harm or exploitation.

Xenophobia means an aversion to strangers or foreigners. Xenophobia is a feeling or a perception based on socially constructed images and ideas and not on rational or objective facts. Xenophobic actions may be verbal or physical and can include insulting or degrading comments, taunts or 'jokes'.

These terms were adapted based on the following resources:


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