Boom time for Scouts

Scouts and guides from the Portsmouth area enjoy a weekend of activities at the Solent Scout training centre in Shedfield. Darling [cor] Duffield (15), and Sam Thane (10), enjoy the climbing wall. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (123111-2)
Scouts and guides from the Portsmouth area enjoy a weekend of activities at the Solent Scout training centre in Shedfield. Darling [cor] Duffield (15), and Sam Thane (10), enjoy the climbing wall. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (123111-2)

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Many people hear about the Scouts and think of the same old things – campfires, woggles and knots.

But the Scouting movement is trying hard to move away from these outdated stereotypes, and it must be working.

Hundreds of young people in Portsmouth are now members of the organisation, and the numbers keep on growing.

Between 2012 and 2013, 11 out of 21 Portsmouth Scout groups saw their membership numbers expand.

But while the amount of young people getting involved in Scouting is on the increase, the same cannot be said for adult volunteers.

In some places, there is a waiting list of young people who want to join the organisation.

So the movement is now turning its attention to recruiting more adult volunteers who can offer a little of their spare time to help run groups, events, and days out for young people looking for a little adventure.

Assistant district commissioner and Explorer Scout leader Joe Hunter, 22, from Portsea, said: ‘Scouting is more popular today than ever before and more young people are wanting to experience the fun, challenge and everyday adventure of Scouting.

‘Whether you want to get involved in sports such as rock climbing and kayaking, learn new skills like first aid or DIY, or simply make new friends, Scouting offers something for everyone.

‘However, it’s because of this success that there’s now a huge waiting list of young people wanting to join.

‘We can’t open all this up to them without the support of our adult volunteers, who can get qualifications themselves, learn new skills, explore the outdoors, have fun and help their local communities.

‘All this looks brilliant on the CV too.’

Scouting isn’t just about putting up tents anymore.

The Scouting movement recently commissioned an independent report into the impact it has on its young members.

It found 88 per cent of young people said Scouting helped them improve their social skills, ability to work in a team, leadership qualities and confidence.

A further 92 per cent of them said Scouting helped them build friendships.

And 88 per cent said Scouting helped them at school and in employment.

As for adult volunteers, 93 per cent of them said Scouting helped improve their physical skills, including the ability to cope with outdoor conditions.

In wider community organisations, 41 per cent said that if Scouting was on a job applicant’s CV it would be a positive influence on their appointment.

There are now 1,095 young people and adult volunteers taking part in Scouting in Portsmouth, and the number continues to grow.

Every year, the Scouting movement takes a snapshot of its membership – a Scouting census – to assess how well they are doing.

The top five growing groups in the city in the last 12 months are: the 1st Portsmouth Scouts (Old Portsmouth), which increased its numbers by 62 per cent; the 44th Portsmouth Scouts (Southsea), which increased by 44 per cent; the 43rd Portsmouth Scouts (Hilsea), which increased by 41 per cent; the 22nd Portsmouth Scouts (Copnor), which increased by 30 per cent; and the 62nd Portsmouth Scouts (Cosham), which increased by 23 per cent.

Phil Jones, 25, from Southsea, is a Scout leader with the 1st Portsmouth group.

He said: ‘Scouting gives young people the opportunity to do things they wouldn’t normally get to do, for much cheaper than if they were to do it themselves.

‘So it’s not surprising more young people are wanting to get involved.

‘Scouting has changed a lot in the last 10 years, it’s more adventurous now and there are more activities to take part in.

‘Obviously there’s some of the traditional things in there as well but the opportunities are far greater.’

According to the national Scouting movement, membership is growing at its fastest rate since the 1970s.

But nationally there are 33,000 young people unable to join because there aren’t enough volunteers.

Robert Stewart, 59, from Old Portsmouth, is the group Scout leader for the 1st Portsmouth group.

He believes that changes in people’s working patterns – where many adults are working longer hours with less free time – is responsible.

He said: ‘I was very happy with the number of people who joined our group recently, and we have a fantastic adult leadership.

‘Thankfully our group does well for adult volunteers, but I know it is a problem for others in the area, and nationally.

‘These days people just don’t have a lot of free time.

‘And even though being an adult volunteer doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of time, it still requires a commitment.

‘People are working longer hours these days and they just don’t have the same amount of spare time as they once did, so I think that might be partly to blame.

‘But being an adult volunteer is a very rewarding experience.

‘You get to do all of the things the young people do, and help them grow into well-rounded individuals.

‘Scouting has so much to offer.’

There are been a number of notable figures who have been Scouts, including: Queen Elizabeth; actress Emma Thompson; footballer David Beckham; former prime minister Tony Blair; singer and songwriter Paul McCartney; Virgin boss Richard Branson; US President Barack Obama; and film director Steven Spielberg.

Young people aged six to 25 who want to join the Scouts, or adults who want to volunteer, can visit portsmouthscouts.org.uk or call 07842 436772.

If you would like to donate to the Scouting movement in Portsmouth, visit mydonate.bt.com/charities/portsmouthscouts.