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Survivors of child sexual abuse during their time in the Scouts fear that ‘systemic failures’ are still putting young people in danger today. Good Law Project is supporting a new campaigning organisation called ‘Yours in Scouting’, which is demanding The Scout Association improves its safeguarding practices.
TRIGGER WARNING: References to sexual violence and child abuse that some may find upsetting
Their stories reveal a similar theme of mismanagement by the Scouts. Lucy had to lobby the Scout Association for three years to carry out an internal review of her case. It wasn’t until she obtained private messages between Scout leaders in 2019, warning former scouts not to provide information, that the Scouts agreed to carry out an independent investigation. Those messages also showed that staff believed she was to blame for what happened and not the Scout leader. Lucy, and fellow victim, Sheanna, feel there are fundamental problems with how safeguarding is managed in the Scouts:
“I think there’s a large gap between the National Scout Association’s safeguarding policy, and the reality of what’s happening locally. The Scouts rely on safeguarding concerns being reported up through their volunteer network, but the fundamental flaw is that local leaders are often each other’s close friends and family…When faced with a disclosure that puts them in a difficult position they don’t really have anything to lose by not reporting disclosures about their fellow leaders. I believe this creates a systemic failure in their safeguarding system which puts children at risk” – Sheanna Patelmaster
Sheanna and Lucy are determined to improve safeguarding practices to protect other young scouts from abuse. So, with the help of Good Law Project, they have set up Yours In Scouting – a campaign led by people with lived experience of abuse in The Scouts – calling on other victims to tell their stories. They hope their efforts will give further exposure to the failures and lead to proper safeguarding within The Scouts. They also seek to create a support network of people who have experienced abuse.
The launch of Yours in Scouting comes off the back of a BBC radio File on Four documentary on Tuesday 13th June at 8pm, which hears from further abuse victims who have come forward to share their story.
Yours in Scouting wants to see The Scouts create a paid safeguarding position in every county, in order to ensure child abuse claims aren’t left to volunteers to manage. And for volunteers in uniformed youth organisations to be included in the Position of Trust definition, making it illegal for them to have relationships with 16 and 17 year olds in their care. Currently the definition only includes sports and religious leaders, as well as standard youth-facing professionals such as teachers and care workers.
Good Law Project will support Lucy and Sheanna to find stories, seek justice, and, if necessary, consider legal action to force The Scout Association to act to improve their safeguarding policies.
In response to the launch of this campaign, The Scout Association has told Yours in Scouting that safety is their number one priority. That they have taken many actions suggested by the campaign group and encourage anyone affected to get in touch with them.