Scout Association overhauls safeguarding procedures after years of sexual abuse claims
The Scout Association is strengthening its safeguarding measures after a campaign by abuse survivors. My experience acting for scout abuse survivors proves how important these changes are.
I have represented survivors of abuse in claims for compensation for over 12 years and during this time I have been shocked and saddened by the number of scouts who have reached out to me to disclose their horrific experiences of sexual abuse, perpetrated against them by their scout leaders and other adult volunteers within the Scouts.
Sexual abuse within the Scouts is not an historic problem and sadly new stories are coming to light all the time. I spent the past few years delving into the extent of the problem the Scout Association faces and compiling data.
To highlight just how many sexual offences have been committed by those involved with the Scouts Association, I created an interactive map which shows all known UK sex offenders connected to the Scouts along with information on each case.
The aim of the map was not only to illustrate to survivors that they are not alone, but also to provide the Scout Association with some very stark figures to make them sit up and take notice in the hope that this might lead to positive changes in their safeguarding policies.
I was not alone in my goal. Lucy Pincott and Sheanna Patelmaster, two brave survivors of abuse, set up Yours In Scouting to campaign for change and allow other survivors to share their stories. This led to a BBC investigation and in June 2023, the BBC’s File on 4 Scout’s Honour highlighted not only that abuse is an ongoing problem within the Scouts, but also that the Scout Association was failing to properly deal with complaints.
The Scout Association has now confirmed its plans to overhaul its safeguarding procedures, with membership fees increasing by £2 to help pay for these new measures.
Under plans, a team will inspect whether safeguarding measures taken by local scout groups align with national policies, training and procedures. There are also plans for additional scrutiny at local, county and national level.
Under the new measures volunteers will also now be told they must report safeguarding concerns directly to the national safeguarding team rather than through other volunteer line managers. This is a key change as so many of the survivors I have spoken to said when they reported their abuser, their allegations were brushed under the carpet. They told me there was a culture of victim blaming, with a focus on protecting the reputation of the accused and the organisation rather than the child.
It is also reported the Scouts will set up an independently-run panel of abuse survivors to ensure survivors have access to support and counselling. Accessing the right kind of support can often be a fundamental part of a survivor’s journey to eventual healing and so the importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Making the world a safer place for children and obtaining justice for survivors of child abuse is at the heart of what I do. I am heartened the Scout Association is finally making positive changes to protect children from abuse within their organisation and I very much hope that going forward the Scouts will be a much safer place for children.