County Commissioner’s Christmas Message 2022


By Paul Bell, County Commissioner for Hampshire Scouts

As I type this, the world is in a cost-of-living crisis caused by soaring energy prices as a result of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.  The Scout Movement is not political, so I do not wish to get involved in the rights and wrongs of what is happening there, however, my thoughts and best wishes are with all of the innocent people whose lives have been turned upside down by what is going on.

But back to our own country, it is costing more and more to heat and light our homes, and Scout Headquarters, people are finding it increasingly challenging to make ends meet as costs rise, and it is becoming harder to put food on their tables.  As I type this, the Postmen are on strike, as are the railways, the Border Forces are talking about it, as are the Nurses, School Teachers, the list goes on and on, as people protest in an effort to make ends meet in their households.  There has not been such a demand on Food Banks for a long time.  So how does this affect us and why am I typing it here ?  Because of the challenges elsewhere in their lives, Scouts have become more and more relevant to the young people around our county, by doing the things that you all do fantastically well, you are giving these young people some respite from the challenges in their daily lives and for that you can all be really proud and I would like to thank each and every one of you for what you are doing.

Hampshire is the largest county, based on the number of young people and adults that we have involved in Scouts, the next county below us (Kent), has 5,000 fewer members than we do.  That makes this role and being involved in Scouts in Hampshire an amazing pastime, from the point of view of my role, it is the equivalent of managing a massive company, or steering an enormous oil tanker, an incredible responsibility, but it can also be so rewarding.  For me to be able to do this role I have an amazing team around me and for that I am truly grateful.

Over the next couple of years there are some amazing changes in the pipeline for the Scout Movement.  These range from making Adult Training easier for people to complete, improving the welcome processes that we use with new volunteers, implementing a new Adult and then Young Person’s Information System, reviewing our role titles, the way that we manage Governance will be changed, there is a review just starting on our provision for the 14-25 Programme, there is a uniform review just starting, in our county we have a Race Equity project underway.  Loads of things will be changing in order to keep our Movement relevant to today’s society.  Some of which will be quite evocative for people’s emotions, but please understand that as a County we will be working together with the Sections, Groups, and Districts in order to help make these changes happen as painlessly as possible.  The role title of Commissioner is going, but that is because most people have no idea what it means, the way that our Leadership teams are structured is changing, but that is in order to spread the load more.  Everything happens for a reason, sometimes change can be quite difficult, but together we can take the Scout Movement in Hampshire forwards.  My intention is that later next year we will organise an event where we can invite people from around the county to outline these changes and how it will affect them.  We will be calling this event HantsCamp and it will hopefully be in the Autumn of 2023.

This year, our new Section Squirrels celebrated its first birthday, we hosted a fantastic Activity Day in Ferny Crofts to celebrate.  When I took over the role of County Commissioner,  I set the challenge for there to be a Squirrel Drey in every Group in the county by the end of 2023, all 253 of them.  It is a well proven fact that if opened correctly, a Squirrel Drey brings its own leadership team, some of whom then filter into the Sections above.  Our only challenge should be about having an available place for a Drey to meet.  If we were to totally meet my challenge, then by the end of next year we could have over 3,700 Squirrels in the county.  That is 3,700 young people that are new to Scouting and also a minimum of 3,700 parents that are available to do something within our Groups, if we are willing to ask.

Another challenge that I set during this year, is that the Section events that we offer as a County, should either be scalable, or repeatable in order that potentially every young person in the county can attend a county event if they wish, rather than us being limited by numbers.  My County Team have a Strategy Day in January where we will all get our heads together and plan how we can achieve this.  It is not realistic to expect this to happen for the 2023 county activities, but certainly by 2024 our County activities should be running at a different scale.  If anyone out there would like to become involved in this type of thing, please send me an E-Mail and let me know.  These things cannot be achieved by a very small team, but will need to be the result of many people, young and old, working together.  There is an amazing amount of Leadership talent around the county, it would be great to have everyone involved.

Currently around our county we have over 4,000 young people on Want to Join Lists, that is equivalent to 200 Sections with 20 young people in it.  That is 4,000 people that would like to become members of the Scout Association, that cannot, and that is not a statistic that we can be proud of.  During 2023 the County Team will be working with the District Commissioners and the Growth and Development team, in order to try and address this issue.  The reality is that most Groups are full, have a lack of leadership, or a lack of available meeting places.  My intention is that together we will develop a District Development Plan for every District in the county and together we will work towards finding a home for those people on the Want to Join lists.  It will mean recruiting new Leaders, opening new Sections and starting new Groups, liaising with the Local Authority if necessary, working together we can make this happen.

Summer 2023 we are organising a County Award Celebration event in June.  Every Leader and Adult volunteer that has been awarded a Good Service Award between April 2022 and April 2023 will be invited to the event.  Plans are currently being made and if it is a success, I would like it to become an annual event that celebrates the achievements of our Adult volunteers.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, for all that you do to make Scouts in Hampshire as successful as it is today.  Please take a well earnt Christmas break with your families, and I look forward to working with you again in the New Year.  I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas.


Headshot of Hampshire Lead Volunteer Paul Bell
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