Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Scout group could disband altogether as leaders leave

THE future of the 2nd Watlington scout group may be in jeopardy just six months after it was forced to close one of its sections.

It closed its beavers group, which catered for 15 children aged six to eight, in January but could now have to shut its cubs division and the whole organisation may fold if new leaders are not found to help run it.

Closing the cubs would mean another 12-to-15 young people aged eight to 10 would lose their place in scouting and would leave just the group’s scouts section.

Group leader Nicholas Irving said it had lost two leaders — the chief cub scout leader has moved to Wales and the assistant cub scout leader has started a nursing course — with a third leader due to leave at the end of term.

He said: “We do not currently have enough volunteers to function as a scout group and, if we cannot recruit more, we will have no alternative but to close another section or possibly the whole group this summer. It doesn’t really become viable. We don’t really have enough leaders to take the young people to scout camp and that’s a requirement of the scouting association that we provide all our young people with at least one camping experience each year.

“If you don’t meet this for two consecutive years then the scout group can be closed down automatically by the association.

“We’re in quite a fortunate position, we’re just past half-term so we haven’t got that many weeks before the summer holidays. During the summer holidays people would need to come forward otherwise we would have to close.

“I’d feel really bad if it had to close on my watch and I’m determined it’s not going to happen.

“It’s been going since the First World War, it’s part of our heritage in Watlington and scouting. The opportunities we provide to young people and the experience of being part of a worldwide committee of scouts have a positive effect on young people.”

Mr Irving said its scout group catered for children aged 10 to 14 but most of the children were at the younger end of the spectrum meaning there would be very few places to accommodate children moving up from cubs if that section had to close.

He explained: “We won’t have many people leaving the scout group. Until they are old enough to move on we won’t be able to offer any places to the younger cubs.”

Group chairwoman Steph Anders is also stepping down, but the group believes it has found a replacement and the role does not require the person to deal with young people in the same way a leader would.

It has also managed to recruit one more leader, but this person is not yet able to work independently.

Mr Irving added: “It’s slim pickings but we have had a few people come forward so we’re hopeful for the future and that’s a direct result of the press stories. These people are just people we’re speaking to – they have not signed up, they haven’t had a Disclosure and Barring Service check. It’s just initial discussions.

“We need people to rally around if they want to keep scouting going in Watlington, we need people to come forward. It’s no good just sitting back and thinking someone else will do it.

“We had a big discussion about this and I thought long and hard about it and said ‘if our scout group folds, I’m not giving up’. I’ll find another group to join or help with administration. I’m committed to scouts and I’m not giving it up.”

The entry level beavers group had welcomed 10 new children annually and there were eight on the waiting list when it folded.

Mr Irving said the lack of leaders was a national problem with 50,000 children currently on the waiting list to join the organisation. If you can help, call him on 07557 737630 or email info@2ndwatlingtonscouts.org

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