14 June 2006
Cardiff, Wales, UK:
A huge renaissance in the popularity of the Scouts and Guides is causing a shortage of leaders, with apathy being blamed by officials.
Forget the stereotypes of teenage hoodies playing havoc in our neighbourhoods - scouts and guides are where it is at for many young people in Wales.
Despite the movements being close to a century old, there are 50,000 on the waiting list to join the Guides and around 30,000 queuing for a place with local Scout groups across the UK.
But this surge in popularity is causing new problems in Wales, with too few leaders for the numbers of youngsters wanting to join up.
The figures are in conflict with the perception among many of teenage hoody gangs roaming the streets and causing annoyance.
According to Chris Foster of the Scout Association, the movement is growing at a pace not seen for years.
But that demand means there are not enough leaders volunteering to help out, especially with many adults leading busy lifestyles and having less free time.
He said, "There are 7,500 Scout groups across the UK and it may be that for a period of time there is a leader shortage or a Scout group has become so popular there is a bit of a waiting list.
"Parents are putting their children's names on the waiting lists from the time they are born."
Foster said the Scout Association has changed its image and has become more popular with youngsters as a result - a victim of its own success.
And there are 2,500 girls on the waiting list for the Girl Guides in Wales with the organization in constant need of new leaders.
Cathryn Brooker, chief commissioner for Girlguiding Cymru, blamed the busy lifestyles led by women for the lack of volunteers.
Brooker said, "We have waiting lists and we are always looking for new leaders. I think it is hard finding volunteers - today's woman is very busy.
"In days gone by she probably was not going out to work which now, of course, most women are doing. But being a leader is a very rewarding job to do."
Girlguiding UK - the country's largest voluntary organization for girls and young women - has called on the business community to show more commitment to Employer Supported Volunteering schemes.
"We train our leaders and we have our own Girl Guide UK leadership qualification. Once a person volunteers and they are prepared to do that, they work their way through the qualification.
"Girls want to join - it's one of those situations where if you have the leaders and units in place, the girls will want to join.
"We are always looking for volunteers and there is a growing demand, not just in Wales but across the UK. We have come a long way from the world of knitting and knotting.
"This year we have more than 60 girls going abroad to international camps, which proves that."
David Goldsmith, Scout Field Commissioner for South Wales, said, "We could increase the youth membership very dramatically if we had enough adults.
"It is a problem throughout the voluntary sector, it is not just scouting. Every voluntary organization is struggling to get enough adults to keep the show on the road.
"We have several thousand adult leaders in Wales, but we could do with lots more."
With around 2,500 adult leaders in Wales covering an estimated 400 groups, Goldsmith estimated the movement needed up to 1,000 extra leaders.
He added, "The numbers are going up overall, we have a fabulous programme, which if it is delivered enthusiastically and imaginatively means the kids recruit themselves.
"The fact that the movement has been around for 99 years indicated that the young people love what they are offered.
"If they thought it was old-fashioned and old-hat, they would vote with their feet. The big problem is the question of delivering for the youngsters."