Plans to end British Girlguiding Overseas

In 2023, there were around 2,600 members of British Girlguiding Overseas (PDF) in 36 countries and territories.

In April 2023, Girlguiding UK announced plans to end British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) operations. The trust said its decision reflected the challenges and risks of running organisations across these different regions.  

On 1 September 2023, guiding in the Middle East and Africa, Asia, Benelux and France, and Europe regions, was ended. Girlguiding on military bases also ended at the same time.

Girlguiding UK said its Girlguiding activity will continue in the UK’s Overseas Territories for the “first few months of 2024”, after which a further update will be issued. BGO currently operates in nine of the UK’s fourteen Overseas Territories: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Saint Helena and Ascension, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  

In August 2023, the Executive of the BGO said it had made alternative proposals to Girlguiding UK to continue operations, but these were rejected:

We lobbied at the highest level of Girlguiding with a request to become a charity in our own right or to set up as a different charity as a franchise of Girlguiding. These alternatives, amongst many others, were repeatedly rejected by the Board and CEO. In particular, we presented a comprehensive proposal to become a charity in our own right on the same basis as the other regions.  Despite the inclusion of a dedicated risk manager, office staff and a detailed risk assessment, this proposal was ultimately rejected by the trustees.

Girlguiding UK’s Girlguiding in British Overseas Territories—practical questions, November 2023, and its Briefing on trustee’s recent decisions, September 2023, provide more on the decision.

Response in the OTs

The UK Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) has said the decision to end BGO will impact “over 600” girls and has called on MPs to “show their support” for the continuation of Girlguiding in the Territories.

Many individual Territories have called on Girlguiding UK to reverse the decision, including:

UK Parliament consideration

To 17 January 2023, 24 Members have signed Early Day Motion 212, on Girlguiding UK and the British Overseas Territories and military bases. This calls on Girlguiding UK to reconsider its decision:

That this House expresses its concern and disappointment in Girlguiding UK’s withdrawal of support in the British Overseas Territories and on military bases and the closure and sale of all their outdoor activity centres in the UK; notes this will have a detrimental impact on young women and communities within each Overseas Territory and military community; further notes that the Crown Dependencies are already part of Girlguiding regions in the UK (North West and South West), representing a disparity between the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies; also notes that these places are an important part of the British family; and calls on Girlguiding UK to reconsider its decision.

Jim Shannon MP, who proposed the debate topic to the Backbench Business Committee, set out to the Committee why BGO should be continued:  

[…] support for girls and young women, […] the promotion of inclusivity and diversity and global citizenship, which are all things that we try to build for our children and schoolchildren in our constituencies, as well as community building, social development, empowerment and leadership development. […] The last two reasons are positive impact on local communities and long-term relationships and partnerships—those friendships that are developed.

The Government says it shares the “disappointment” of Members for the decision of Girlguiding UK to end its support for BGO. In May 2023, then-Minister for the Overseas Territories, Lord Goldsmith, said that while the “issue of Girlguiding is beyond our control as a government”, he and others had raised its loss to the Territories.

In September 2023, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society, Stuart Andrew, said officials in the Department had been in “regular contact” with Girlguiding UK, alongside officials from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Ministry of Defence. The Minister said officials:

Have been exploring Girlguiding’s options for units in the British overseas territories and military bases to continue operating. We remain hopeful that a solution can be found to support this work and to ensure that the guiding experience in these locations continues in a way that is consistent with Girlguiding’s decisions about what is appropriate for the organisation.

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