Letter: Scout leaders

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The Independent Online
Sir: 'Can you really trust Akela?', asks Sandra Barwick (8 December) in her article about stopping the wrong types of adult working with children. Based on the practical experience of the Scout Movement, which has 115,000 adult leaders and processes about 20,000 appointments each year, we believe you can. In 1987, a professionally conducted opinion survey showed that according to a substantial majority of adults interviewed, the Scout Movement has as its leaders 'people you would trust with your own children'.

This hard-earned expression of confidence has been achieved by the continuing development of procedures which ensure that adults offering to be leaders are checked against local knowledge, publicly reported offences against children and any history of previous scouting service anywhere in the United Kingdom. Next comes an extensive interview, followed by close continuing personal supervision while actually working with children. Our results demonstrate why parents can have confidence.

We continue to be involved with the Home Office on pilot schemes and a proposed code of practice for the vetting of voluntary leaders. These Home Office studies have involved scouting, the police forces and many other youth groups, and they aim to strengthen our existing safeguards.

There is an implication in the article that no effective safeguards exist. Can you relly trust Akela, asks the headline? We have about 1 million parents currently placing considerable trust in Akela and our other leaders, so it appears that they can.

Yours faithfully,

TONY BLACK

Chief Executive Commissioner

The Scout Association

London, SW7

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