Scouts waiting list grows to biggest on record as 51,000 children unable to join due to volunteer shortfall

Olivia Rudgard
Children are joining the Scouts in order to improve their CVs and get into university  - (c)jonchallicom

Teenage girls joining the Scouts to improve their CVs are behind a growing waiting list for places as the movement faces the biggest volunteer shortage in its history. 

Around 17,000 new volunteers are needed to enable the 51,000 children waiting to join a group - the largest waiting list the Association has ever had. 

The movement's annual census shows that the number of girls joining more than doubled between 2015 and 2016. 

The number of new girls doubled from 3,283 in the 2015 census to 6,728 in 2016. In the 12 months to January this year 5,626 girls joined - almost four times the 1,502 boys who signed up. 

Simon Carter, a spokesman for the Scouts, said that teenagers were increasingly aware that they had to look attractive to employers and universities. 

"Young people want a way of demonstrating to future employers the skills that they have got, and young women are particularly good at that," he said.

Bear Grylls said in 2013 that the Duchess of Cambridge had drawn more people to scouting  Credit: Martyn Milner/Scout Association

One of the largest growth areas has been Explorer Scouts - those aged between 14 and 18, where numbers have more than doubled from 17,000 to 40,000 over the past decade.  

Girls and women now make up more than one in five members of the organisation, a change which has been reflected by the most high-profile members of the Association.

Last month the movement launched a star-studded recruitment drive fronted by five celebrities, four of whom were female. 

Ellie Simmonds, Helen Glover, Anita Rani, Steve Backshall and Megan Hine signed up to become ambassadors for the movement in order to encourage a greater diversity of members to join.

In 2013 the Association said that the Duchess of Cambridge's move to start volunteering at her local Cub group was behind one of the largest increases in volunteers and members it had ever seen. 

But despite this Tim Kidd, the Scout Association's Chief Commissioner, said that it was hard to get enough volunteers to keep the groups going because volunteers were increasingly trying to juggle full time work, family and volunteering. 

Our adult volunteers today seek much more flexible volunteering arrangements than in the past, so that they can fit it around their busy lives

Tim Kidd

He said: "Our adult volunteers today seek much more flexible volunteering arrangements than in the past, so that they can fit it around their busy lives. 

"Many adults who are signing up with the Scouts have a limited amount of time to donate to us, and so we need more volunteers as a whole in order to accommodate the continued demand for Scouting among young people."

The Association said that it attempts to preserve a ratio of one adult to every three children. 

It currently has 154,000 volunteers, the highest number ever in its history, but would need 17,000 more to be able to maintain this ratio. 

The greatest demand for volunteers is in Surrey, where 3,433 children are waiting to join.

Last month ONS figures revealed that people aged 25 to 34 were giving up just six minutes a day on average to volunteering - a significant drop since 2000, when the figure was 15 minutes. 

Experts in volunteering said that economic uncertainty and the high cost of living meant they had less time to give up. 

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