The Scout Association is consulting staff about redundancies because it faces a “very challenging financial climate” and has been put under pressure by increased regulation.
In an email to staff seen by Civil Society News, chief executive Matt Hyde said the charity had “reluctantly” concluded that it needs to reduce its staff costs in an effort to become more sustainable.
Hyde said: “Like most other UK charities, we've been working hard to respond to a world that is changing around us and increasingly working in a very challenging financial climate.”
He highlighted an increase in regulation and volume of safeguarding work as the reason that costs had increased.
“Many of the challenges we are facing are outside of our direct control; for example, increased regulation (such as GDPR/data protection and resulting data subject access requests), a continued increase in the volume of our safeguarding and vetting work, more and higher compensation claims and associated legal costs, increased litigation (such as for local breaches of the Equality Act or personal injury) and more pressure on our income streams (such as membership fees and our commercial subsidiaries).
“Put simply; these increased costs, primarily driven by claims, litigation and regulation, are outstripping our income,” staff were told.
A spokesperson confirmed that the consultation process had begun: “Like all charities we are required to regularly review our staff structures to make sure they are aligned to our strategy and the resources we have available.
“The staffing changes we are proposing are part of a set of measures we are undertaking to ensure we are in a stronger financial position for the future.”
Staff who are at risk of redundancy have already had meetings with their line managers and the formal consultation process has already begun.
Hyde said that the charity felt it had no choice but to reduce staff costs.
He said: “So we can reach a sustainable operating model, we have had no choice but to review our most significant area of expenditure – our staffing. We have done so reluctantly, and we have tried to minimise the impact as much as we possibly can.”
He appealed to staff to come forward with ideas about saving money, adding: “These are never easy proposals to make, and I know this will be an incredibly difficult time for those affected, as well as unsettling for other colleagues. I would ask that you show compassion and support for each other throughout this difficult time."
Other cost saving measures
Hyde told staff that a range of other cost-saving measures are also being implemented.
“Over the past few months, our Leadership Forum has been leading initiatives to identify how we can save money, including reviews of catering, travel, expenses, printing, use of buildings, meetings, vehicles and accommodation. They have also been identifying potential new income streams. We will be communicating more about these initiatives over the coming week,” the email said.
For the financial year to March 2019, the Scouts had an income of £37m, with spending of £37.5m. Some £29.7m was spent on charitable activities.
Staff costs were £13.6m and the charity employed the full-time equivalent of 337 people.
Demand for the charity's services is high, with waiting lists for places. Over the last ten years its youth membership increased by 22 per cent, and in 2018 when it launched its current strategy it said that by 2023 it is aiming to reach an extra 50,000 young people through opening more groups and recruiting more volunteers.