Scouting Ireland has funding restored for three months

Minister will review progress made on child safeguarding protocols in September

The review of Scouting Ireland makes a number of recommendations which the Minister says must be implemented before full restoration of funding can be considered.  Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The review of Scouting Ireland makes a number of recommendations which the Minister says must be implemented before full restoration of funding can be considered. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Scouting Ireland will have three-month’s worth of funding restored after the group said it would implement the recommendations of an independent review.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone confirmed on Monday she will restore limited funding to Scouting Ireland for three months after receiving commitments.

The organisation is in the middle of a controversy over its handling of a rape allegation made in 2016, concerning two adult leaders, following an incident in 2009.

Last January, a confidential review by child safeguarding expert Ian Elliott found the organisation’s handling of the allegation was “deeply flawed”.

In April, Ms Zappone suspended State funding to the organisation, following reports in The Irish Times detailing Mr Elliott’s findings.

In May, the Minister appointed Jillian van Turnhout, as an independent expert, to review the governance and related issues within Scouting Ireland.

The Review of Scouting Ireland report carried out by Ms van Turnhout makes a number of recommendations which the Minister said must be implemented before full restoration of funding can be considered.

On Monday, Ms Zappone said the board of Scouting Ireland had “confirmed and affirmed that they are willing to, and very committed to, implementing all of the recommendations.”

As a result, she said State funding worth around €220,000 will be released to cover a three-month period.

Several of the proposed reforms are already “in train,” Ms Zappone said.

“Scouting Ireland has said they will be providing me with a report in September, and on the basis of that, I would hope to be in a position to be satisfied with the governance arrangements, to restore the funding in full,” she said.

The van Turnhout report found safeguarding failings in Scouting Ireland were the symptom of a “deeply rooted dysfunction” within the culture of the organisation, with blind loyalty shown to some figures, and a “deep distrust” between professional staff and the board of volunteers.

Welcoming the partial restoration of funding, the board of Scouting Ireland said the decision “will allow us to continue to function as a national organisation.”

Top priority

In a statement, the board said safeguarding “is a top priority,” and progress had already begun on five of Ms van Turnhout’s six recommendations in that area.

“Scouting Ireland apologises to our members and to the public who have been let down by the shortcomings in our organisation,” the statement said.

The organisation will vote on a package of governance reforms, including changing the size and appoitment process for their board, at an EGM on Saturday in Dublin.

The nomination process for future members running for board positions will include an assessment of their competency.

On Sunday, the entire board announced it would resign effective October, when a new board will be elected at a second EGM.

Ms Zappone said the board’s decision to step down was welcome, and “an integral aspect of the recommendations” made by Ms van Turnhout.

In her report Ms van Turnhout said to ensure a “fresh start” for the organisation, “it is essential no member of the current board should seek re-election or reappointment.”

Sean Sherlock TD, Labour Party spokesman for children, said the partial restoration of funding was welcome but added there was a “long way to go in this process.”

“There is a long way to go before all volunteers can feel confident in this change management process, but it does augur well for the future of scouting in Ireland,” he said.