Chief Scout Bear Gyrlls backs new "Squirrels" group aimed at helping four and five-year-olds recover from pandemic lockdowns

·2-min read

The Scout Association is opening a new group for four to five-year-olds called "Squirrels".

It is the first new section of the Scout movement in 35 years and in part is aimed at helping children who have struggled due to lockdowns.

Squirrels will join the Beavers, Cubs and then Scouts.

"Squirrels is part of our commitment to help young people, families and communities come back stronger from the pandemic," said Matt Hyde, chief executive of Scouts.

"What we learn up to five years old lays the building blocks for everything that follows. If you're four, you've spent a third of your life in lockdowns.

"We know this has especially impacted children in communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

"That's why we are opening the first Squirrel dreys (nests) in the communities that need it most."

Hundreds of Scouts groups faced closure due to the pandemic and fundraising efforts were badly affected.

The opening of 200 news Squirrels branches follows a successful trial - which the association says was popular in ethnically diverse communities.

The skills Squirrels will learn includes pitching a blanket tent, planting seeds or learning how to spend 50p in a local shop.

Badges Squirrels can earn include Feel Good, Be Active, Explore Outdoors, Brilliant Builder and Exciting Experiments.

Chief Scout Bear Grylls said: "I'm so glad that younger children will now have the chance to join our family of Scouts and develop skills for life.

"All of us at the Scouts believe that by offering opportunities at this early age, inspiring a sense of wonder, fun and curiosity, we can have a long-lasting, positive impact on young people's lives.

"To make this work we need more volunteers to join the team and donors to get behind us."

The Scout Association aims to reach at least 12,000 families in the next three years with the new programme.

They also want to recruit more than 5,000 volunteers to help run the programme.

Funding for the programme includes contributions from the #iwill Fund, The Department for Education and the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington.

Jess Fortune was a group leader for a Squirrels pilot group.

She said: "Being a Squirrels volunteer is amazing. I have learnt so much. I hope more people volunteer so that children everywhere can experience these brilliant opportunities."

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