Scout boom as cash-strapped parents shun costly kids' clubs
Cash-strapped families are enrolling their children in the Scouts and Girl Guides in favour of costly after-school clubs, it has been revealed.
The recession has driven a boom in membership, with the Scouts growing by almost 10 per cent since 2008, from 467,351 to 508,570.
Meanwhile the number of Girl Guides has risen from 528,000 in 2007 to around 530,000 now.
Affordable fun: Scout and Girl Guide numbers are up as parents shun more
expensive Kids' clubs
It is thought that the growing popularity has largely been driven by the low cost of joining. Scouts typically charge £70 to £90 a year, while Girlguiding UK’s termly subscriptions cost as little as £15.
In comparison, an eight-week block of swimming lessons can set parents back over £100 for just ten half-hour sessions.
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And some can end up paying more than £50 a term for after-school football, drama, chess and tennis clubs in state primaries.
A spokesman for the Scout Association said its activities were far cheaper because staff are all volunteers and the sessions are run for 25 to 30 young people at a time.
He said: ‘We find that when times are tough, scouting is an area that continues to grow because when parents are faced with choices for spending money, it’s usually the big items that go.
‘The value we offer members means that we are low on that list.
‘It’s not just about cost but also the number of activities we offer such as sailing, canoeing, climbing and orienteering that you don’t get with other organisations.’
For one group of Beaver Scouts, the latest expedition planned is to the Downing Street garden, for a charity sleepover tonight.
The 15 six to eight-year-olds, from Wandsworth, South West London, will tour No 10 before pitching their tents to raise money for the Sparks children’s charity.
The spokesman added: ‘Parents see us as an organisation that provides adventurous activities at very good value. They’re getting the activities they want at a price they can afford.’
Demand for places in the Girl Guides is so high that some 44,000 girls and young women are waiting to join and around 900 new groups opened across the country last year.
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Chief Guide Gill Slocombe said: ‘We want every girl to benefit from the guiding experience and so we ensure that cost is not a barrier in preventing girls from taking part.
Keeping subscriptions low and subsidising activities in areas of need through fundraising and grants ensures that guiding is certainly one of the best value for money activities that girls and young women can do.’
Christian organisation The Girls’ Brigade England & Wales, which has 600 groups charging an average of 75 pence a week, has also seen rising numbers in some areas.
National director Ruth Gilson said: ‘The current financial climate is hitting families all over the country in different ways.’
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