Supporting families during the cost of living crisis
Families across Scotland will be facing the challenge of rising costs more and more over the next year. Our challenge as volunteers – no matter our role – is to make sure cost is never a barrier to young people participating in Scouts.
Many families are already making difficult decisions about things to cut out of their weekly budgets, and activities for children is often one of the more expensive items. Although we know Scouts is good value for money, it can also be costly at times – for example buying new uniforms or lump sum payments for camps and trips.
It’s important as the cost of living impacts families that we are prepared to remove any barriers and provide support so that all young people can continue to take part in Scouts
Michael Shanks, Deputy Chief Commissioner Perception
This page has some quick things you could think about in your section or group to try to make sure Scouts is poverty aware. Some are very easy to implement with a bit of thought, others will take a bit more effort but will be worth it in the end.
At any time if you have questions, or any other suggestions we could share, or comments from parents/carers about the cost of Scouts, please get in touch with Michael who is the volunteer lead on this work – email@example.com
Action 1: Understand poverty and how it impacts your Scouts
Being poverty aware is a really important first step. Living in poverty has a huge impact on young people and we need to understand that impact so we can work to make sure Scouts is a place where families don’t have to worry about money being a barrier. Making it clear in all our communications with parents/carers that we understand the impact of the cost of living and are open to discussions with them about anything we can do to support their involvement in Scouts is our main aim here.
Getting to know families as much as possible so we avoid making assumptions is also crucial – poverty, especially in the current climate, can affect any family at any time, even those that previously had no issues paying for things. The suggestions below are some practical ideas but unless families know we are open to all and willing to be flexible on financial matters they might not have the impact we hope they would have.
It’s also important that we maintain the dignity of people who might ask us for support – coming forward to ask for help is hugely difficult for most people, so we need to ensure confidentiality and be open to listening and providing whatever support we can.
Action 2: Be flexible in the way families pay for Scouts
We know Scouts isn’t the most expensive activity many young people participate in, but sometimes it isn’t the actual amount that is the barrier, but the way it gets paid. Many groups have moved to lump sum payments for termly or even annual fees and this could pose challenges to families if they can’t afford it all up front.
Some actions you could take:
mention in communication that you are open to alternative ways of payment – weekly if that works better for families
Consider a discount for second or third siblings to reduce the overall burden on an individual family
Be clear up front what other costs might arise over the year (see the next action!)
Offer some hardship funds to families really struggling, or agree to discount fees for a few months
Try to separate out additional costs – e.g. split the cost of the HQ membership fee over the whole year and don’t make it a one-off cost.
Action 3: Let families know what your plans are
One family told us recently they had no difficulty affording camps but it was the short notice that caused them issues. Really difficult budgeting will be happening in a lot of families this year, so planning in advance is key.
Some actions to think about:
Could you draw up an outline calendar of the year and circulate to all families at the start so they know when big costs will be likely to appear?
Could you offer payment by instalments for events like camps so they can spread the cost over a longer period of time?
Have a rule that you won’t invite young people to events that have a cost with less than a month’s notice so nobody feels excluded (remember some people might not tell you they felt excluded, they just won’t sign up in the first place – the young person still misses out)
Can you circulate a kit list early on in the year too for any camps or activities so families can try to borrow or buy at a cheap price or spread the cost over several months? Often camps involve clothes and equipment that young people don’t necessarily already have so that is an additional cost on top of any camp fees.
Action 4: Reducing the cost of uniform and equipment
We know that uniforms are one of the more expensive things about Scouts for families. We want all our young people to have a uniform but they are expensive and often young people grow out of them so quickly and then have no use for their old one.
Could you start up a uniform recycling scheme that everyone participates in so there isn’t any stigma associated with using a recycled jumper or shirt? This is also good for our climate change objectives!
You could get some parents together to organise a mass de-badging of uniforms. This could be organised at a group or district level, or even in one example we saw recently a uniform drop off point at a local supermarket.
Could you incorporate a ‘return your uniform’ as part of a moving on ceremony?
Think about how you could loan out equipment too – sleeping bags or camping mats or waterproof jackets are expensive to purchase for a one off use, but collectively could form a great “Scout Library” that families could borrow from when they needed it. Funding may even be available locally for setting up this sort of thing.
Action 5: Thinking about your own funding
We know that being flexible about families paying for activities also means potentially a cost to your own sections and groups.
There are some actions you could take to alleviate the impact:
Make sure you are claiming Gift Aid on every possible permissible bit of income – many groups are still missing out on this easy to receive income
Could you ask families who can afford to pay a little more to make a donation on top of any activity fee? You would have to emphasise that this is strictly voluntary but even a single donation could make a difference.
Look at funds that are available to local charities – your local cooperative shop or supermarkets with charity token schemes, or local authority ward level funding schemes. For specific development projects remember there is the Scouts Scotland Development Fund which would very much welcome applications around the cost of living
Think about prioritising activities that are free or very low cost – we’ll add a list of some ideas here soon! Sometimes the best memories are made at activities that cost nothing – and have a positive impact on being fully inclusive too.