Scouts urged to improve safeguarding practices by campaigners who were abused

13 Jun 2023 News


Campaigners including people with lived experience of child sexual abuse at the Scouts have urged the charity to improve its safeguarding practices.

Yours In Scouting, supported by the Good Law Project, is calling on the Scouts to address “its past failings” and ensure it takes further action to “prevent the abuse of young people in the future”.

Survivors of child sexual abuse in the Scouts set up the campaign to call on other victims to share their stories and demand that the charity addresses “systemic failures” to protect children in its care.

A spokesperson for the Scouts told Civil Society that it has “robust safeguarding policies, training and procedures in place” and apologised “for anyone who has suffered because of the actions of abusers”.

In 2021, the Guardian reported that over 250 people in the UK and Ireland had been convicted of child sexual abuse offences perpetrated while they were Scout leaders or in other positions of responsibility since the 1950s.

The Scouts recently announced that an internal investigation was underway after two women who were sexually abused by their Scout leader when they were teenagers accused the charity of “silencing” them.  

Lived experience board 

As part of the campaign, survivors of child sexual abuse in the Scouts launched a petition, which had garnered over 3,000 signatures at the time of writing, urging the charity to address its safeguarding practices and take further action to protect children under its care.

The petition is calling on the charity to set up a lived experience board as part of its governance, comprising people who suffered abuse while members of the Scouts.

It is also asking the organisation to create a paid safeguarding lead position in each county in the UK “to be responsible for monitoring the conduct of volunteers and ensuring that the safeguarding escalation pathway doesn’t go via the district or county commissioners, as these are voluntary roles”.

‘Systemic failure puts children at risk’

Sheanna Patelmaster, who was sexually abused as a teenager in the Scouts and helped set up the campaign, said: “I think there’s a large gap between the National Scout Association’s safeguarding policy, and the reality of what’s happening locally.

“The Scouts rely on safeguarding concerns being reported up through their volunteer network, but the fundamental flaw is that local leaders are often each other’s close friends and family…When faced with a disclosure that puts them in a difficult position they don’t really have anything to lose by not reporting disclosures about their fellow leaders. I believe this creates a systemic failure in their safeguarding system which puts children at risk.” 

Scouts: ‘We’re deeply sorry’

A spokesperson for the Scouts said that “96% of the claims against the Scouts highlighted by the Good Law campaign relate to cases where the offences occurred prior to 2013”.

“In the UK almost half a million young people enjoy Scouts every week and nothing is more important than their safety. Any form of abuse is abhorrent and we are deeply sorry for anyone who has suffered because of the actions of abusers,” they added. 

“We have robust safeguarding policies, training and procedures in place. These are now reviewed every other year by the NSPCC, following three in-depth, independent reviews since 2007. 

“Our procedures and training change as a result of these reviews. We exclude anyone who is proven to not follow our processes. We are continuously learning, we will always be open to challenge and that’s fundamental to what we do.”

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