Scouting Ireland now works with young people in over 500 local groups across the island of Ireland and with over 50,000 members is the largest and only cross border youth movement in Ireland today, the joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs heard today.
John Lawlor, Chief Executive, Scouting Ireland said; “Based on the most recently available CSO figures, Scouting Ireland currently reaches 5% of young people aged 6-17 years. The organisation’s 12,000 volunteers represent 30% of all youth volunteers in Ireland and no other organisation is comparable in scale when it comes to total number of trained and vetted youth volunteer’s working week in week out with children. Our ratio of professional staff to volunteers is the leanest and most efficient in the sector”.
Serving the young people of Ireland for 110 years, Scouting Ireland is co-educational, non-denominational, non-political organisation. Scouting Ireland is open to all and our membership reflects the communities we serve.
Addressing the Committee, Chief Scout Christy McCann said that Scouting Ireland’s objectives and programmes are aligned to the national policy framework for children and young people: Better Outcomes Brighter Futures and to the National Youth Strategy. “The targeted national outcomes of: being connected, being respected and contributing, of achieving in all areas of learning and development, being active and healthy, having economic security and opportunity and being safe and protected from harm are well served through the Scout educational method and programme”, he said.
“Positive outcomes for young people who join their local scout group include the encouragement of character development, of leadership skills development, of caring, of self- awareness and a sense of personal responsibility. Scouting develops young people to become the leaders of tomorrow in their own lives and in their community. Academic research shows that Scouts and former Scouts are more likely to vote, to be politically engaged and are more likely to be in positions of leadership across the communities and contribute to our society”, he said.
Additional research published in 2016, identified that those who engage in Scouting are more likely to report better mental health later in life. The results are based on a lifelong study of 10,000 people born in the UK in 1959. Scottish researchers found that those who had been active members of Scouts tended to have better mental health by the age of 50. In addition, it was noted that engaging in scouting activities seemed to remove the higher risk of mental illness in those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds.
John Lawlor outlined some of the significant projects being undertaken by Scouting Ireland including a Youth Employability Scheme in Limerick which is giving young people participating FETAC standard qualifications in skills such as welding and woodwork to prepare them for work.
Scouting Ireland is also working on a number of programmes aimed at supporting refugees in Ireland. A Refugee Access Programme run in conjunction with the City of Dublin Youth Services board is working to help integrate unaccompanied minors into Irish Society. Scouting Ireland is also establishing links with Direct Provision Centres around Ireland to break down the stigma that exists in relation to these centres.
Volunteer Youth Leader Ray Moran, aged 26, joined Scouting Ireland at 7 years of age. He told the Committee of his positive experiences in Scouting Ireland.
“I grew up in a disadvantaged area, where the easiest thing to do is get into trouble. My mother knew this and enlisted me in scouts with my two older brothers to try keep me busy and out of trouble. I can, without doubt, say that Scouting has been foundational in my upbringing. Scouting taught me to aim high, learn from failure, succeed beyond expectation. I am currently months from finishing my PhD in Computational Biology. I have been relentless in achieving my goals and I will be the best in the world at what I do. Scouting gifted me this. It taught me that I don't need to be the smartest person in the room. If I work hard, be prepared, do my best and be helpful, I will succeed. I always consider myself lucky for growing up with a local scout group, because without it I would have just followed the path in front of me, rather than creating my own and succeeding beyond my expectations”.
In 2015, Scouting Ireland won an international bid to host the World Scout Moot, to be held in 2021. This 10-day experience will see 6000 international Scouts aged 18-24 from over 120 countries travel to Ireland. 21 year old Rover Scout Ciara Keegan from Blanchardstown who was a key member of the team which won the Moot for Ireland asked for support from Government for the Moot which will showcase Ireland to a global audience. “But the single most important objective in winning and hosting this major international event, is to use its preparation and its successful delivery, as a platform for transformational development in Irish scouting; to leave a legacy that will benefit communities and young people throughout Ireland in the years to come”, she said.
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Click on the below image to watch the recording of the meeting.