Norfolk Scout groups see numbers fall by a third during pandemic
- Credit: PA
The number of Scouts in Norfolk has fallen by a third in the past year as the lockdown and social-distancing rules ruled out face-to-face activities.
Youth membership in the county fell from 6,822 last year to 4,810, while the number of adult volunteers was also down from 2,374 in 2020 to 2,074 for 2021.
Some groups have been left at risk of closure.
The last time the scouts experienced such a drop in numbers was at the start of the Second World War when youth membership nationally fell from 394,615 in 1938 to 284,678 in 1941.
Matthew Burrell, county commissioner for Norfolk Scouts, said it was “heartbreaking” to see numbers fall especially as membership had previously risen by 1,500 between 2006 and 2020.
“Young people have lost out on so much in the past year and our membership numbers show how many were unable to continue with scouts due to lockdown,” he said.
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“However we’re seeing lots of interest in young people wanting to become Scouts, and thankfully some who we lost touch with returning.
“We owe it to the next generation to help restore some normality to their lives and support them to become better citizens for tomorrow.”
The Scout Association has now launched a #GoodForYou campaign designed to recruit over 150 volunteers in Norfolk to help young people to reconnect.
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Chief Scout Bear Grylls said: "Scouts plays a fundamental role in the lives of thousands of young people and our goal is to build back our membership by welcoming thousands of new volunteers across the movement."
Mr Burrell said: “Our future volunteers might be parents of young people already in the movement, people who remember their own days as scouts or those who want to better support the young in their community.”
Despite the pandemic, Norfolk scout groups have provided thousands of hours of Zoom sessions, organised at-home events like the ‘Scout in the House’ challenge and connected with people around the world during three 'online Jamborees’.
Scarlett, a member of Explorer Scouts in Norwich, said: “Scouting has given me something to look forward to, it has helped me from feeling quite isolated to knowing there are a lot of people out there to help me.
“My group has done lots of different activities on Zoom, anything from bingo to scavenger hunts, to cooking and also camping at home in our gardens or front rooms.”