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Voluntary work, is it worth it?

(117 Posts)
maddyone Mon 26-Mar-18 13:48:55

I’ve just seen an item on the news, in brief, it concerned an autistic ten year old with unpredictable behaviour in certain circumstances. Apparently he attended a local Scouts group, and the Scouts Master had asked that the boy’s parents to provide supervision when certain activities were being engaged in, and in particular during a forthcoming scout camp, where there would be a camp fire, and other dangers which required the children to follow instructions in order to remain safe. The parents disagreed with this, and raised a complaint through the courts for discrimination. The judge awarded the boy £42.000 in compensation, and The Scouting Association have been ordered to pay this amount to the boy.
Bearing in mind that all the adults running Scouts Groups are volunteers, giving up their time freely, and without any any expectation of any reward, save that of feeling that they are putting something ‘back’ into society, is it reasonable of the parents to bring such a claim? Had this been my son, I would have felt that both his safety, and the safety of the other scouts, was of paramount importance, and as such I would have been prepared to accompany my son to camp in order to ensure his safety, the safety of the other children, and to ensure that the Scoutmasters were able to take appropriate care of all the children, and they had sufficient time to organise activities effectively. I would also have been more than willing to attend certain Scout meetings to supervise my son, and ensure his safety, if activities planned were likely to lead to problems with my son.
If this type of reaction continues to become more and more frequent, there will few people who will wish to volunteer for anything, and society will be all the poorer for it.

lemongrove Mon 26-Mar-18 14:00:17

I agree maddy and would have been prepared to help with our autistic DGS at such a group, and in fact have done for different outings and meetings ( not scouts.)

annsixty Mon 26-Mar-18 14:09:43

Bearing I mind the parents are both said to be lawyers, we shouldn't be surprised.
I was somewhat surprised to see the amount of damages
awarded although some were given to a charity concerning autism.
The child was clearly not able to fully take part in such activities as camping.
When my friend was a support worker in a school with care if one child, she always went on day trips and school activities with him,this included school holiday trips.

annsixty Mon 26-Mar-18 14:13:58

To add, no I wouldn't volunteer in those circumstances.

kittylester Mon 26-Mar-18 14:16:59

My answer to the opening question is definitely yes.

But not in the circumstances quoted.

OldMeg Mon 26-Mar-18 14:30:56

Might have been wise to talk to the parents beforehand and see if, in their opinion, their child would be able to cope without extra support.

OldMeg Mon 26-Mar-18 14:33:46

Having said that, I do think the parents were totally out of order to sue.

Situpstraight Mon 26-Mar-18 14:45:19

I think it goes further than should we volunteer, Organisations are now unable to exclude children and adults, even if they are unable to take part in all activities due to physical or mental disabilities. This probably means that they will have to provide one on one supervision, just in case there is a problem, as in this case. Volunteers are hard enough to find as it is.
Is it unreasonable to expect the parents or other family member to go along to these clubs and help their own relatives?
I can’t believe that they have been successful in their court case, if they were just doing it to make a point then they should not accept the money from the Scouts.

Situpstraight Mon 26-Mar-18 14:48:42

BTW I used to volunteer in a Charity shop and we were often asked to accept people to work in the shop who would need the other volunteers to take them to the loo etc.(and I don’t mean to just open the door for them) I know it’s a difficult subject and somebody will probably shoot me down in flames for even talking about it.

SueDonim Mon 26-Mar-18 15:34:31

From what I read about this case, the boy involved didn't require the one-to-one supervision the Scouts wanted to give him. Like many autistic children, he found it hard to adjust to change and all that seems to have been required was that things were explained to him so he could understand.

Instead, the Scouts wanted him to have a one-to-one, which he didn't want or need and which was oppressive. He didn't need one-to-one at school so why would he need it at Scouts? He had also previously attended Beavers without incident.

In this case, I think the Scouts were making a mountain out of a molehill, the issue could have been solved with some minor adjustments.

I don't blame the volunteers, they were let down by the Scouts Association, which should have trained them to deal with an issue which is becoming more and more common in society as we aim to become more inclusive.

maryeliza54 Mon 26-Mar-18 16:57:39

The full story is of course much more nuanced and complex than the huffers and puffers on this thread would like to know - what on Earth makes you think it’s acceptable to post without knowing some facts - sorry if this spoils your fun - do feel free to carry on fulminating and don’t click on the link if you want facts to get in the way of a good story.

Nannarose Mon 26-Mar-18 17:05:36

Having worked with children with special needs, both as a volunteer and professionally, I think the differences between schools and youth groups are :
The environment,including potential dangers
The skill, training and experience of the adults in charge

Schools, and groups aimed at younger children tend to have fewer dangers, and the environment means unpredictable behaviour is less concerning.
In theory, the adults should be supported and trained to be able to accept children with special needs. In practice, volunteers are rushing back from work to run these groups, fitting in paperwork at odd moments, getting their families to help prepare for camps and outings. Trying to be a proper support worker in amongst all of this is asking a lot.
Many years ago, our local council employed casual support workers to attend groups and go on outings in exact these circumstances. In the current climate, I'd be surprised if they still exist. Does anyone know?
I am unable to help at such groups now, and am hugely grateful for those who do. They need support, not suing.

lemongrove Mon 26-Mar-18 17:10:40

Excellent post Nannarose I compeletely agree.

maryeliza54 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:23:55

Read the full story FFS

Day6 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:31:16

I don't blame the volunteers, they were let down by the Scouts Association, which should have trained them to deal with an issue which is becoming more and more common in society as we aim to become more inclusive.

I am not sure many who volunteer - ie: give their time and efforts without pay - would accept that they also have to be trained in dealing with children with special needs. That opens up a massive can of worms.

Given special needs can be many and varied and some more complex than others, how on earth would volunteers become competent?

It can take years of practise and experience as well as specialist knowledge to become conversant with special needs. It is such a broad field.

Then of course, 'incompetence' of volunteers could be blamed for any accidents. There is also the matter of a child with special needs requiring a disproportionate amount of the volunteer's time and efforts.

Given those who work for the Guiding/Scouting movement want to provide fun and worthwhile activities for large groups of children, for no reward, I would suggest parents really do owe it to their children who need more time, attention, specialist approaches, handing and understanding, come along to the sessions with their children. They may well be on the sidelines as their child joins in and fully participates, but should any difficulties arise they can be quickly and expertly dealt with, allowing the leaders and children to carry on.

I do hope these short-sighted parents who've been awarded a huge sum in compensation do not scare off all those wonderful people who give up so much of their time in preparation, organisation and leadership. These clubs do not just happen. Leaders spend so much time (with no pay) preparing for group activities which bring pleasure, adventure and learning to so many children.

maryeliza54 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:32:32

Read the full story

maryeliza54 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:38:48

Some more inconvenient facts

maryeliza54 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:44:59

The Scouts don’t seem to be in learning mode - this case is from 2014

Day6 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:46:29

Instead, the Scouts wanted him to have a one-to-one, which he didn't want or need and which was oppressive. He didn't need one-to-one at school so why would he need it at Scouts?

Because the structure of a school day is more rigid than being outdoors, at night, sleeping in a tent, with no mod cons, with lots of noise and activities around a blazing fire? There are also a limited number of (unpaid) adults available to ensure ALL the children are safe, aware and happy.

SueDonim Mon 26-Mar-18 17:47:45

Day6, many volunteers already manage to be inclusive of people with special needs so I don't know why this one group was different. The story on the BBC tells us that the child had previously attended Beavers without a problem.

He needed very little in the way of support anyway, just a little time spent on explanation. The Scout Group overreacted by stating that he needed a one-to-one, which seems to have been a ploy to stop him attending.

As I said, I admire volunteers. I've done enough of it in my time to know it can be a thankless task. In this case, I think the volunteers weren't being well-supported themselves. The Scout Association themselves have said they got it wrong this time.

Day6 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:48:35

Read the full story

Stop preaching. I have and so have others. Viewpoints about volunteered leadership and parental responsibility are pertinent.

jura2 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:52:16

maryeliza- I have. And I have been a teacher all my life and taken kids on so many school trips, both in school time and my own time.

'The dispute stemmed from a short episode Ben had at a cub scout camp in 2016, in which he became distressed, trying to run a short distance from the rest of the group after being asked to change into a pair of shoes he couldn't find, and later on he said he did not want to join an egg-and-spoon race because of a phobia of spoons.,

and the answer is NO, you cannot ask volunteers to take children they think they cannot control and therefore can put themsleves, and the others in danger. I am sure the parents would sue the pants of those poor volunteers if the kid run away and got hurt, fell off a cliff, or when caving, or with fire, or from a boat, or into the road, etc.

One of the great memories of my career was taking the risk of taking kids away on YHA trips, or ski trips- whom other staff would have point blank refused- making sure I had an extra helper above the numbers required to keep a special eye on them.

To sue I think was truly disgusting and unfair. And the implications are massive - and likely to deprive 1000s of kids from such volunteer activities. Volunteers have to be able to set conditions and limits- or just stop.

And schools too - the finance is just not there to be able to pay for extra staff to take every child with a problem. This sadly applies to my grandson, who is severely allergic to eggs- and one of his parents has to go on every trip and cook separately for him- the only way to be safe.

Day6 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:53:17

The Scout Group overreacted by stating that he needed a one-to-one, which seems to have been a ploy to stop him attending.

That was the parents view, and the judge obviously agreed with it, but I'd have sided with the Scout leaders. They have to be responsible for all the children who camp and they only have the parents' words for it that their son would have been okay with mere explanations. I imagine they also had to do a risk assessment and a child with special needs would have to be catered for.

jura2 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:54:20

Day6 - hurrah, we agree smile the school environment is totally different to the great outdoors, where knives might be used, fire, very unusual situations, noises, and acitivities- like caving, climbing, etc.

maryeliza54 Mon 26-Mar-18 17:58:30

It was settled out of court