Bob-a-job rebooted! Scouts go back to work

With the launch of Community Week, a very British tradition has been revived

It is two decades since scores of boys in shorts routinely went from door to door soliciting money from absolute strangers in return for manual and menial labour.

The Scout Association's "bob-a-job" scheme, an annual ritual for much of the last century, came to an end in 1992, amid fears of predatory paedophiles and harm to the health and safety of children working unsupervised.

Twenty years on, and with a new generation of youngsters, the spirit of bob-a-job is to return. Tomorrow is the start of Scout Community Week – with an army of young people being put to work in return for donations.

In a concession to safety concerns the youngsters will not wander the streets knocking on doors. Instead, they will work in supervised groups, focusing on local projects.

And unlike the old bob-a-job week – where scouts offered to do a job in return for the old shilling (5p) – there is no fixed rate.

Scout leaders are being given a target of £500 as an "achievable fundraising goal" if they plan "a week-long activity with an entire group".

Despite mutterings from critics that the scheme could be construed as exploiting boys in the name of charity or the Big Society, Justin King, the chief executive of Sainbury's, defended the scheme as "a tradition well worth resurrecting". Mr King, one of the Scout Association's "ambassadors", added: "As generations of ex-scouts know, bob-a-job builds character and connection in our communities. Through simple tasks, young people get a formative taste of the value of work, and a positive experience with people in their neighbourhood."

More than 150,000 young people will be taking part in the week, and Bear Grylls, the UK's chief scout, has pledged that their efforts will "make a huge difference to communities up and down the country".

In contrast to the car washing and garden clearing done in the past, today's tasks range from clearing woodland to help to create a bee habitat in Shanklin, the Isle of Wight, and cleaning up a swimming pool in Bude, Cornwall, to building bird tables for the garden of a care home in Eastleigh, Hampshire, and getting rid of graffiti in Bristol.

Six former scouts speak about their memories of bob-a-job

John Nichol, former RAF navigator and military author

"I remember knocking on one door and an unshaven man in a sweat-stained vest opening the door, and there's a young 11-year-old boy in uniform on his doorstep. Most people said just sweep the steps and I'll give you 10 pence, but I went in and had to clean his bloody kitchen – he had weeks and weeks of washing up piled up."

Gyles Brandreth, former MP and broadcaster

"It was not especially onerous, though I have a vague recollection of a grand lady who said 'Do you polish silver?' and then produced a vast canteen that had once been used by the Duke of Wellington. And there was an old gentleman who kept all his shoes all year just waiting for us to turn up to clean them."

David Lammy MP

"I remember a powerful sense of neighbourhood: because you were knocking on the doors of people in and around the community you met people and were encountering each other in a way that was really healthy. There were also jobs like clearing out people's front yards and cutting back overgrown gardens and stuff, which wasn't always great."

David Wickham, TV producer

"I remember once having to sweep the whole of a long, long drive and all I got was a shilling – the old guy seemed reluctant to part even with that! But equally, many's the time there was a glass of orange juice after the job, and more than a shilling. One particular old lady just kept me talking for ages... and then she gave me five bob – a fortune!"

Peter Duncan, former Blue Peter presenter and former chief scout

"The days when you could fearlessly knock on someone's door and ask if you could do a job for a shilling are long gone. When you had completed your task you provided your temporary employer with a curling yellow sticker to put in their window. There was always a scramble to find stickerless houses."

Boy George, singer and DJ

"We did bob-a-job and it involved going mostly to elderly people's houses and doing stuff like washing windows, sweeping paths or fetching a bit of shopping. I'm not sure how it would work these days. Kids seem much cheekier, and we certainly never got away with being cheeky or answering back. I remember being a scout as a time of great innocence."

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little