Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage ‘deeply concerned’ by Girlguiding plans to shut five activity centres, including one in Hampshire
This comes after the announcement in May that the Girlguiding organisation has proposed the closure of five Training and Activity Centres (TACs) by the end of this year.
The TACs, including one in Hampshire, provide thousands of young people the opportunity for fun adventure activities such as kayaking, bushcraft, archery and camping.
The five centres are Foxlease (Lymington, Hampshire), Waddow Hall (Lancashire), Glenbrook (Derbyshire), Blackland Farm (West Sussex) and Ynysgain (North Wales).
A further announcement also confirmed that Girlguiding is ending its overseas operations.
Gosport MP Dame Caroline hosted the debate in order to give MPs the opportunity to highlight the importance of youth activities and extracurricular activities to build social skills and character.
Speaking at the debate, she said: “We are so lucky to live in a country that gives our young people so many opportunities to learn new skills, have adventures and make lifelong friends.
"From Guides to Scouts and D of E to the Cadets, volunteers across the country devote so much of their own time and energy to youth programmes which add so much to the formative experiences of our young people.
“Now is the time to be providing more opportunities for young people to get out, do something fun and adventurous, build a raft and see if it sinks, go abseiling or learn life skills like cooking.
"Now is not the time to be pulling away from providing these opportunities.
“I ask the Minister what his department is doing to provide more opportunities to young people which gets them out and about, learning new skills and help them build those friendships?”
The Minister for Sport, Tourism & Civil Society, Stuart Andrew, replied: “Approximately 85% of a young person’s waking hours are outside of school, and it’s during this time that thousands of youth workers and volunteers make a tremendous difference to those young people’s lives.
“We have provided Girlguiding over £2 million to create more opportunities to take part in Girlguiding, and they’ve already created over a thousand new places and recruited hundreds of new volunteers and over 40 new units, with more to come.
“I will ensure that I write to Girlguiding to highlight this debate and the contributions from the Hon. Members, and I will then happily send Members here present the response.”
Commenting on the debate, Dame Caroline said: “The proposed closure of all five Girlguiding outdoor activity centres, as well as the full shutdown of British Girl Guiding Overseas, is deeply concerning to hear.
“As we move further out of what has been an incredibly difficult few years for children and young adults, it is becoming clearer and clearer the damage which has been caused to the mental health of young people.
“Now is not the time to be pulling away from providing those opportunities, but we should instead be providing more opportunities for young people to have fun, spend time outdoors, socialise and be children.”
The Girl Guides movement was founded in 1910 by Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes.
Announcing the decision to close the TACs, the organisation said: “The activity centres have been used by less than 10% of our membership over the past decade. We know most of our members are choosing to have adventures within their units, near their home, and in other locations and facilities.
“There has been historic underinvestment in the activity centres, and they have been running at an overall loss for some years.
"The centres would need significant funding of over £20m in the coming years to be fit for future use. We cannot afford this level of investment.”