Dear Scouts & Scouters,
I am writing to you today to address the contents of articles which have been featuring in the Irish Times.
In June 2017, Scouting Ireland retained a recognised expert to guide us in reviewing our child safeguarding procedures and to report to the National Management Committee (NMC) as part of a continual focus on ensuring the highest possible standards in the area of child protection and safeguarding.
As part of this review, a sample number of cases were examined to understand how they were processed with a view to providing more tangible feedback and help us to improve our processes. The examination of the processing of these cases was highly confidential as you would expect. As you now know one particular case involving adult scouters came into the public domain via a leak from within the NMC to the media. The motive for this is unknown but we suspect that it was a personal attack on certain individuals in Scouting Ireland.
The disclosure of confidential information, draft reports and minutes of NMC meetings is not only unlawful but is a complete and deliberate disregard for the Scout Promise and Law. The disclosure of such highly sensitive information in a case file as part of a confidential report with the sole purpose of having it published is a betrayal and a breach of trust.
The impact on our Association‘s reputation remains to be seen. A key part of mitigating any negative effect, both in the eyes of our members and wider society, will be to act decisively, openly and fairly to seek to address concerns which may be expressed as a result of the spotlight we find ourselves in and from our own members within Scouting Ireland. I wish to assure you, on behalf of the National Management Committee that our procedures, protocols and systems for safeguarding are in place and in operation and in compliance with our Child Safeguarding Statement issued and signed by our CEO in a National Mailing on the 8th March last.
As can happen with media coverage, the full story is often not presented, and this can mean that aspects of a story are out of context. It is important to understand that because of the sensitive and confidential nature of the case file, which has been the subject of the disclosure and our ongoing review we are restricted by our legal obligations to those concerned. We have been unable to comment or contradict the content of the article because in all probability doing so would prevent or at least impede our ongoing internal processes. I can say that the NMC has taken necessary steps to investigate the facts. This process must be allowed finish without further interference. I want to assure you that whatever recommendations come from this report will receive the full attention of the NMC.
As is the case with most large organisations, Scouting Ireland has a Crisis Management Procedure. This is to deal with the occurrence of an extra-ordinary event which requires the immediate reaction of the Association. It is the procedure where such reaction is required before the next scheduled meeting of the NMC or of the National Team for Policy Implementation & Co-ordination (NTPIC) - as the properly constituted bodies in our Constitution and Rules to make decisions for the Association in all such circumstances. The Crisis Management Procedure allows for the convening of an ad hoc team of senior personnel to take action urgently in a crisis situation. There are certain and specific terms of reference. It
is not the role of this team to make, nor is it empowered or authorised to make, recommendations as to how to proceed with any crisis; it is a team for urgent action only. In a crisis if there was time to consider and make recommendations then there would be time to convene a meeting of the NTPIC or indeed the NMC and then there would be no role for this team. The making of recommendations by this ad hoc team is what happened recently and this is what was reported in the newspaper. What is not reported is that the team had no role, authority or mandate to make any recommendation. The NMC has already recognised this in the decision it made having considered the issue carefully.
In my role as Chief Scout, I have sought to restore more balance to this office by a focus on leadership, as opposed to a managerial focus. I’ve set out to meet people, to lead by example, champion the duty of care which the Chief Scout has towards all members of our Association - and leave many of the details of day-to-day management to others elected and employed for this purpose. I believe that a partnership model is the most effective way to provide leadership for the organisation. Those who carry authority in Scouting Ireland must accept the accountability that comes with it. We must lead as a team and be seen to lead. The correct resources will be identified, and the highest standards will be applied, together with stricter adherence to accountability for all those carrying authority in key areas for Scouting Ireland, to ensure Scouting Ireland gets the service and standards required.
The National Management Committee and I are fully committed to ensuring Scouting Ireland is a national leader in terms of providing a safe environment for our youth members. That is why we review our safeguarding procedures. We must continue with our work and complete the review. We depend on the cooperation and the work of all our members to ensure we can realise this aspiration and are appreciative of the efforts you constantly make in this important area.
I will do my very best to be as open as possible over the coming days, within the limits of my responsibilities to others and to the ongoing process. Your understanding at a difficult time is appreciated. Working together, in the spirit of Scouting, we can get on track to build an organisation at all levels that delivers on our Scout Promise and commitment to our youth members.
Yours in Scouting,