Who is a volunteer?

Usually the definition implies when someone ‘gives their time freely for the benefit of others’. The Scout Association is an organisation made up of volunteers who give freely of their time because they are committed to the aims and principles of scouting and enjoy working with young people in our informal educational context.

Scouting is made up of many different types of volunteers some are members, others are associate members or supporters and others are parents or young people wanting to do something to help achieve the aims and principles of the movement. Some are not even aware that they are doing this whilst others view this as their lifetimes challenge.

Volunteers come to us in various ways but clearly share these common objectives. As a member of your local scout group or explorer scout unit, scout district and Greater London South Scout County you may not recognise this volunteering aspect to your membership, however it is increasingly evident in today’s world that we need to understand some fundamental principles of volunteering and recognise, value and celebrate our volunteers and their achievements. 

This volunteering agreement has been developed with this in mind and complements the additional guidance available on roles and responsibilities to further develop our work with young people.


Adults in scouting

Adults are the lynchpin of scouting. All adults in scouting are 'leaders' in the sense of 'leading the young people'. Without the adult 'leaders' scouting would simply not exist. All people taking adult roles in scouting must be aged over 18.

Some of the ways adults support scouting are:

  • working directly with the youth membership, by being a leader, assistant leader, section assistant, occasional helper or by being part of an active support team

  • supporting adults in their roles, by providing technical or personal support, these people are usually group scout leaders, skills instructors, district commissioners or assistant district commissioners for a section

  • run the administrative side of scouting. Every group, district and the county has a 'business' side, and therefore people take on roles as chairs, secretaries, administrators and treasurers, or as a member of group, district or county sub-committees.

Adults in scouting are from all walks of life. The one thing they share is the enjoyment of working together and helping young people reach their potential.

Whilst all of our volunteers are passionate about what they do, many help out on a flexible basis due to other commitments. Some may help out once a week or fortnight whereas others help once a month, term or at the annual camp. This said, there are of course lots of people who help provide scouting on a weekly basis.

To carry out our work we seek to appoint effective and appropriate leaders and supporters, all of whom are required to accept fully the responsibilities of their commitment.

We recognise the important contribution that our adult volunteers make to our organisation. We believe that we should invest in our volunteers. To this end, we provide regular and on-going support, supervision and training, to enable volunteers to develop their skills, both in order to enhance their volunteering work with us and to help them contribute to the wider community.

Our overriding consideration when making all appointments is the safety and security of our young people, and their continued development in accordance with the purpose of the association.

Accordingly, all those whom we accept as volunteers must be “fit and proper people to undertake the duties of the particular role to which they have been appointed (including, if relevant, meeting the requirements of the appropriate sponsoring authority) and, where applicable, the responsibilities of membership.

All volunteers, regardless of their level or length of involvement, have rights and responsibilities to work within the policies of The Scout Association. This includes any involvement in a variety of decision-making bodies, the payment of out of pocket expenses (where possible), and access to grievance procedures.


Definitions of Adult Membership

There are two types of adult membership of The Scout Association – Member or Associate Member. Adults who are prepared to follow the Association's principles may become Members or Associate Members of the Scout Movement (subject to the rules contained within POR).


Adults who, by choice or because of the requirements of their appointment, become members of The Scout Association and make the scout promise.

Members of the movement may:

  • wear the approved adult uniform and associated badges, (see below)
  • wear the World Membership badge
  • receive benefits provided by any group, unit district, and county to which they belong and of The Scout Association and the World Organisation of the Scout Movement.

When an individual becomes an adult member that person becomes a member of a group or unit, district and county (as appropriate). They also become a member of The Scout Association and of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement.

Associate Members

Adults who volunteer with scouting but do not have the requirement of being a member of the association as part of their appointment may choose to become associate members of The Scout Association. This involves signing an associate members declaration, but they do not have to make the scout promise.

Associate members of the movement may:

  • wear the approved adult uniform and associated badges, (see below) but cannot wear the World Membership badge,
  • receive benefits provided by any group or unit, district, and county to which they belong.

When an individual becomes an associate member that person becomes an associate member of a group or unit, district and county, (as appropriate). They also become an associate member of The Scout Association.


There is no maximum age limit for adult membership, but all appointments are subject to a minimum age limit of 18 years. No individual aged 18 or over may be permitted to undertake any responsibilities or unsupervised involvement within scouting until the appointment’s procedure and/or appropriate enquiries have been made, (see below).

Members and associate members do not have any rights, actual or implied, to take part in the national management of The Scout Association or the World Organisation of the Scout Movement.