This has been an extremely trying and worrying time for UK Scouting, COVID-19 has turned the world on its head, and caused many things to happen, that have never happened or been though possible before, such as suspension of face to face scouting activities.
The suspension of Scouting was totally unprecedented, when it occurred in March 2020, as nothing like this had ever been brought in, in the history of Scouting.
For many, it was a sad day, with leaders unsure of how to move forward with their program, and having to cancel events and camps that were already arranged. For the members, they were unsure if they would be able to return to their groups, and if so, if they would get back to their current sections, or progress to the next section within the group.
Where some leaders managed to adapt to virtual meetings, others were in despair, and lost for how to progress. With in my own group, the 12th Eastleigh Scout Group, it was only the 2 Cub sections that managed to continue activities via Zoom, with the Scouts and 2 Beaver sections unable to garner enough interest to make it worth while.
Over the summer, we were given extremely vague information, regarding our abilities to return to face to face scouting, to begin with it was a need to create a risk assessment for meeting outdoors only, within a week or so this shifted to risk assessments to then meet inside again, with a number of caveats that needed to be met and assessed. Each risk assessment had to be signed off by the Section Leader, the Group Scout Leader, the Group Chairman, the District Commissioner, and the District Chairman, meaning it took time for the assessments to be checked over and signed off all the way up the chain.
Thankfully for our members, the 12th Eastleigh are now fully back up and running, with all sections returned to face to face meetings, but it is so different to the situation we knew at the start of the year. We are still banned from camping, and do not know when we will again be able to arrange camps and trips away from the hut. We have to maintain social distancing (quite understandably), in an organisation witch prides itself on teaching sociability and teamwork, it is a totally alien environment, and certainly, for the Beaver and Cub members, quite difficult to understand and keep to the new rules.
Currently, Scouting is following a 4 tiered system, red, amber, yellow & green, with red meaning no face to face activities allowed, and green meaning business as pre-COVID. Currently we are at amber status, so still very restricted, and unable to camp again until we reach green.
At this time it is more important than ever that Scouting is able to continue, not just for the young people, but also for the leaders, who get as much out of it as the kids do. Part of the issue being faced now, is that leaders are having to self isolate due to medical condition, or upcoming procedures, meaning often activities are put on hold, as leader to kid ratios must be maintained.
Prior to lockdown, the Eastleigh District were running a massive drive to recruit more new leaders, as there were nowhere near enough leaders at that point, and this has not improved. Our district are not the only ones impacted by this issue, Scouting worldwide relies on leaders to run activities, and in nearly all cases, there are long waiting lists of young people wanting to get into Scouting, who are being turned away due to a lack of leaders. It is now more important than ever, that we are able to recruit new leaders, but being unable to do so in a traditional way, makes this quite difficult. My hope is that through the help of people reading this blog, we will be able to not just recruit on a local level, but highlight the issues worldwide, and help all of our Scouting family to find the extra support and leadership that is much needed.
If you, or anyone you know, has even an hour a week that can be spared, please search on google for your local scout group, and give a little time. We need people of all backgrounds, who are able to pass on any form of life skills, no matter if its how to bake a cake, how to pain a room, or how to build a website, Scouting has a need for people of all backgrounds, and skill sets, with all cultures, faiths and physical abilities now very well represented within the movement.