LETTER: Hands on in the local community

VOLUNTEERING is what makes local communities tick. Every hour of time is precious and the difference volunteers make in terms of improving the lives of the vulnerable is incalculable.

That’s what makes some new research which reveals that the UK may be losing out on over 15.4 million hours of youth volunteering time each month all the more shocking.

The new poll, commissioned by The Scout Association and conducted by ComRes, discovered that 82 per cent of young people in the UK believe it is important for today’s youth to tackle social issues.

That in itself is a good thing. However only 36 per cent of one thousand 12 to 24 year olds we spoke to believe that they have the opportunity to do so, with one third (37 per cent) participating in social action once every week. That’s a sobering thought.

In Scouting, we believe in changing lives, which is why we encourage young people to get involved in volunteering early on. Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of Scouts in the UK volunteer in their local communities every week, well above the national average.

Scouts have always helped other people – after all it’s in our Scout Promise, and in the past this has manifested itself in many ways, from litter picking to washing cars.

However we want to move from being merely ‘useful’ to having a life-changing impact. That’s why The Scout Association has launched A Million Hands, a new campaign to mobilise half a million Scouts to help inspire more youth volunteering and social action across the UK.

Our young people themselves have identified four key issues to take action on: improving the lives of those affected by dementia, improving the lives of the disabled, improving the mental wellbeing and resilience of families and ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation. Across West Sussex 3,161 Scouts have already signed up for this.

And this sort of activity is not just good for local communities, it helps young people too. By getting involved in volunteering projects they acquire the character skills they need to succeed in life. When young people develop leadership and team-working skills, resilience and initiative, that’s good news for their future employment prospects and life outcomes.

Across the region and in their groups, Scouts are deciding which of the issues they will be focusing on. They will be helped by some of the UK’s biggest charities including Mind, Alzheimer’s Society, WaterAid, Guide Dogs, The Canal & River Trust and Leonard Cheshire Disability, who are the key partners for the project.

Bear Grylls, UK Chief Scout, who is launching the campaign, said: ‘The Scout Association is pledging one million hands, to support four of the biggest social issues currently facing the UK and the wider world. But we can’t do it on our own. We want all young people to give Scouting a try and to get involved. This is how we can all play a vital role in shaping tomorrow’s world for the better.”

Find out more about the Scouts at www.scouts.org.uk/get-involved

Irene Orford,

County Commissioner

West Sussex Scouts