Making adjustments means more girls and volunteers can take part in our activities
To include disabled members in our activities, we need to remove the barriers they experience.
These barriers may be physical – like stairs can be a barrier to a wheelchair user needing to enter a building - but may be due to negative attitudes, prejudice or stereotypes. When we remove these barriers, disabled people can be fully included, have independence, choice and control. This is often called the ‘social model’ of disability.
Girlguiding’s vision is an equal world where all girls can make a positive difference, be happy, safe and fulfil their potential. Being inclusive is a core value at Girlguiding. All volunteers have a responsibility to make guiding accessible and inclusive for disabled members. To enable this, all volunteers need to follow our internal policies, and we have legal obligations too.
In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, we're required to make reasonable adjustments to include disabled people.
All members also have a responsibility to follow Girlguiding’s Equality and diversity policy. While the Equality Act 2010 applies to England, Scotland and Wales, these principles should be used by all members as a guide to best practice. Members guiding overseas should consider making adjustments in the context of the country in which they are guiding.
What are adjustments?
Making adjustments means that we will do what we can to remove the barriers that disabled people can face.
Disabled people can encounter many different types of barriers. These can be related to how we do things, the environment or even our attitudes.
- How we do things (systems and procedures): For example, if a member with a hearing impairment is asked to call someone on the phone to fix a problem in the unit, this could create a barrier for them.
- The environment (physical and sensory): For example, stairs can be a barrier for a wheelchair user who needs to get inside a building. Likewise, using a room with no natural light may create barriers for a member with a visual impairment.
- Attitudes: For example, assuming that a blind member won’t be able to take part in a cooking activity. Preempting a scenario and making assumptions about a disabled member’s capability can create a barrier for them.
To enable a member to participate fully in our activities, we must make adjustments. Adjustments are changes which remove, or significantly reduce, a barrier faced by a disabled person.
Talk to any new or current disabled members in your unit. It’s important to recognise, value and act on the member’s knowledge and expertise based on their lived experience. Such as trying to find out about the barriers they experience and discussing with them what changes they would find most useful and what has worked for them in the past.
For young members you could also ask parents or carers what has worked well before. They may have some creative ideas that can help.
- Ask them to tell you about their disability or health condition and how it affects their day to day activities. You don’t need to know all the details but knowing if it’s constant or changes and how it affects them at guiding can help you create the right plan together.
- Ask what they can do with the right support, rather than what they are unable to do. Where appropriate, ask what can be painful or tiring to do or what they would need some help with. You can ask questions like: These are the sorts of things we do in Guides… what do we need to think about so you can join in? ‘We'd like to take the unit camping, which involves these things... what do we need to have in place so you can come along? If you're getting anxious or upset, would a quiet space to yourself help? What would that look like?’
- Work together – make the changes and adjustments collaboratively with them. Ask for their ideas and if they can tell you what has worked for them before. Share any ideas you have and check if they think they will work. Remember, it’s not their responsibility to make these changes.
- Be positive and honest - With a positive attitude and a flexible mindset, you can achieve a lot! Be open about what will be difficult to do, but always work on alternative ideas for next steps.
- Don’t make assumptions- what’s worked well as an adjustment in one place, like at school, won’t always work well or be possible in guiding where we have fewer resources and are run by volunteers. Also remember that people are different. Just because a certain adjustment worked in one case, it doesn’t mean it will be suitable for a different person who has the same, or similar, impairment. Talk together about previous experiences and how you can adapt them to work in guiding.
- Keep a record - It’s useful to keep short notes of any ideas you’ve tried, conversations you’ve had, and what has worked well. Use our adjustment plan template to write your plans down and agree with everyone involved what will happen. The information must not be shared without consent. If you'd like more information about handling data safely, read our managing information procedure. If you need any advice on handling data, contact [email protected].
An autistic Brownie, Snita, finds change very difficult. She’s just moved schools and is now due to move up to Guides. She’s worried about making this change and is finding it distressing.
After talking with her, her parents and other volunteers, you decide to let her stay in Brownies for a bit longer and slowly introduce the idea of moving up. Within a few months Snita starts to attend some Guide meetings. She initially visits at the start of their session first, then is able to attend a full meeting accompanied by a volunteer she knows. Finally, she feels ready to move up sections. You have made reasonable adjustments for Snita’s transition to Guides, at her own pace with no negative impact.
The law requires us to consider and make changes in advance to include disabled people.
Don’t wait for someone to ask you to make a change, we need to be proactive.
We need to make adaptations for our current members (young members and volunteers) but should aim to remove barriers for anyone who would like to get involved or might visit the unit.
- When looking at venues, think about the physical space and how people might use it. Is there an accessible toilet? Does it have a loop system installed?
- Before buying new equipment consider how accessible it is. Would another model be easier?
- If planning a trip, does the venue allow a disabled member to participate with the rest of the group? For example, could they share a room if they wanted to? Can they travel to the event with the rest of the group?
- Before using any resources consider alternative formats. For example, would printing out a larger handout or using a different colour help?
- When making signs, think about using icons and symbols as well as text. Some units use pictorial signs for drink, biscuits, toilet and big crosses to mark the no-go areas like cupboards, kitchen etc.
- Share what works. When new volunteers join your unit, let them know what you’ve done to make adjustments for your members.
A unit wants to go to the cinema to see a new film about a woman superhero. One of their members has a visual impairment. The local arthouse cinema provides audio description of films, but they only do this on a Wednesday. The usual unit meeting night is Tuesday, but with some forward planning they can move the meeting so they can all go to the cinema together.
Alex is a volunteer who has severe arthritis. She can experience a lot of pain if standing still for too long, and sometimes being active can be painful. Usually the volunteers in her unit take turns to supervise different activities during the unit meeting. To adjust things for Alex, the team agrees that she can sit and supervise one activity, so she doesn’t need to move around a lot, or stand too much, during the meetings. This means Alex can stay within the unit as a volunteer.
If you’re concerned that you might not be able to make an adjustment that’s been identified in a member’s adjustment plan, please speak to your local commissioner or contact [email protected].
Making an adjustment means changing the way we do things to remove barriers and make sure a disabled person can be involved and included. There are usually always some small steps that you can take that will help include more girls and volunteers in guiding.
Some disabled members may not need any adjustments, some may ask for a few changes and others may face more barriers and you'll need to make more than one adjustment. Your overall aim should be, as much as possible, to remove or reduce any disadvantage faced by a disabled member.
The Equality Act 2010 says that we must make “reasonable adjustments” to remove barriers for disabled people. Every effort must be made to make adjustments, but sometimes a suggested adjustment might not seem reasonable, for example, a need for additional volunteers.
It's always our aim to make guiding as accessible and inclusive as possible. Remember, all volunteers have a responsibility to make guiding accessible and inclusive for disabled members. Disabled people can take legal action if an organisation fails to make a ‘reasonable’ adjustment. Any instances of a disabled person not being able to access or participate in guiding must be taken seriously.
The Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice outlines the various factors that determine whether a particular adjustment is considered reasonable.
There may be times where you can’t reasonably make adjustments for some members, for example if an extra volunteer is needed. But every effort must be made if it's reasonable to do so.
The Accessible Guiding grant can provide financial help to support young disabled members access all areas of guiding, from unit meetings through to international trips. It can also help volunteers who need additional support to carry out their guiding role.
Some criteria you can follow when making an adjustment
For simple adjustments and changes, you should think about the following questions:
- Can I make this adjustment?
- Can I keep making this adjustment?
You should also consider:
- Effectiveness: An adjustment must be effective in removing or reducing any disadvantage the disabled member is facing. Ask yourself, is this going to support the member to fully take part?
- Practicality: The more practical an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. This might involve thinking about suitability of your venue and equipment, or deciding whether you need additional volunteer support. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable.
Various factors influence whether a particular adjustment is considered reasonable. The test of what's reasonable is ultimately an objective one and not simply a matter of what you personally think.
When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable you should consider:
- How effective the change will be in avoiding the disadvantage the disabled person would otherwise experience.
- Its practicality.
- The resources and size.
Your overall aim should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any disadvantage faced by a disabled member.
- You can treat disabled people better or 'more favorably' than non-disabled people and sometimes this may be part of the solution.
- The adjustment must be effective in helping to remove or reduce any disadvantage the disabled person is facing.
- In reality it may take several different adjustments to deal with that disadvantage, but each change must contribute towards this.
- You can consider whether an adjustment is practical. The easier an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. You need to balance this against other factors.
To help manage expectations, make sure that parents and carers are aware that we are a charity, and that all our activities are run by volunteers. This means we may not be able to offer the same support as a young person’s school, for example.
If you are in any doubt about whether an adjustment would be reasonable, or are concerned that you might not be able to make an adjustment, please contact [email protected]
As a volunteer, you should only be carrying out tasks that you are competent (and suitably trained, where necessary) to carry out.
Any personal care that needs to be done away from the main unit should not be done one-on-one, in line with our Safeguarding policy.
If you would like to discuss a specific aspect of someone’s care, contact HQ who will confirm whether you are insured to carry this out.
If an adjustment is complex and you are concerned you may not be able to make it, you need to follow these steps. You must follow these steps before making a decision:
- Contact your commissioner to share your concerns. Depending on the situation, they may be able to offer support, guidance or signposting.
- If you and your commissioner are still concerned that the adjustment can’t be made, contact [email protected] to get advice from the inclusion team at HQ.
Recording adjustments in an adjustment plan
By completing an adjustment plan with a young member or volunteer, you can identify the barriers they face and the adjustments you can make to remove these barriers.
An adjustment plan will help you make changes in meetings, trips, and residential events to ensure Girlguiding is accessible. It's a personalised, practical plan which will help you identify and record adjustments for disabled young members and volunteers.
Check out our guidance on what to include in your adjustment plan, along with templates for young members, volunteers and events.
You can use an adjustment plan as a starting point for a discussion between you, the young member (and their parents/carers if under the age of 18 or 16 in Scotland) or volunteer about adjustments you can make for them.
The adjustment plan and discussion will help you make adjustments in meetings, trips, and residential events.
As the plan is about supporting the member or volunteer, it’s important that their views are heard. They should be actively involved in the completion of the plan, based on what they know about their own experiences, rather than the plan being completed on their behalf.
This plan should be completed and used in addition to any other relevant Girlguiding forms such as starting Rainbows/Brownies/Guides/Rangers information and consent for event/activity, and Health information forms.
If the discussions about adjustments raise any concerns, safeguarding allegations or disclosures, including difficulties engaging parents/carers with adjustments, please contact the HQ safeguarding team, as per our safeguarding policy.
The plan should be reviewed regularly. At least every 12 months, but we recommend you do it termly. Hold the review with the young member (and their parents/carers where necessary) or volunteer to ensure it is up to date and any adjustments are appropriate.
Adjustment plans should be signed off by your local (district/division) commissioner.
When not in use, this form must be kept securely at all times, on a password protected device or in a locked storage unit.
The information must not be shared without consent. If you'd like more information about handling data safely, read our managing information procedure. If you need any advice on handling data, contact [email protected].
Unit leaders will use this adjustment plan as a starting point for a discussion with you and the young member about how best to support the young member.
The adjustment plan and discussion will help unit leaders to make adjustments in meetings, outings, and residential events to ensure Girlguiding is accessible for the young member.
Girlguiding is a charity and our activities are delivered by volunteers. Girlguiding will do our best to make all adjustments that are reasonable. But it might not always be possible to make an adjustment, or in some cases it might take a while to make an adjustment.
To ensure that our members and volunteers can enjoy their Girlguiding experience safely, volunteers are not permitted to carry out any tasks that they are not competent to carry out (which may require specific training depending on the task).
This adjustment plan will be used as a starting point for a discussion with you about how best to support you in your volunteer role. The adjustment plan and discussion will help your unit leader or commissioner make adjustments in meetings, outings, and residential events so that Girlguiding is accessible for you.
This adjustment plan will be reviewed regularly with you to ensure it is up to date and any reasonable adjustments are appropriate. You should let your unit leader/commissioner know as soon as possible about any changes that are likely to affect the support or adjustments you need.
Girlguiding is a charity and our activities are delivered by volunteers. Girlguiding will do our best to make all adjustments that are reasonable. But it might not always be possible to make an adjustment, or in some cases it might take a while to make an adjustment. To ensure that our members and volunteers can enjoy their Girlguiding experience safely, volunteers are not permitted to carry out any tasks that they are not competent and comfortable to carry out (which may require specific training depending on the task).
As you know, Girlguiding is committed to inclusion and supporting all volunteers to make a contribution to Girlguiding. Safeguarding is our first priority at Girlguiding.
In recognition that there are some adult volunteers with significant support needs, we have created two new roles:
A supported volunteer will be supported by an individual volunteer supporter. Their individual volunteer supporter will provide them with tailored support to help them carry out their supported volunteer role enjoyably and safely.
A supported volunteer role will be suitable for those who would otherwise be unable to carry out the full responsibilities of another volunteer role, including safeguarding responsibilities.
A supported volunteer will always be paired with their individual volunteer supporter. A supported volunteer will not have any safeguarding responsibilities and will not need to complete A Safe Space. The role will only be assigned in exceptional circumstances, and with prior approval from the HQ Safe practice team.
Individual volunteer supporter
An individual supported volunteer will be paired with a supported volunteer. This person will carry out their regular role, while providing support for a supported volunteer. They'll make adjustments during unit meetings and events to enable the supported volunteer to carry out their role enjoyably and safely. The individual volunteer sSupporter must be a member and will need to have completed A Safe Space Level 3.
As you’re aware, from 1 January 2021, all volunteers must have the appropriate level of A Safe Space training for their role. Ahead of this date you should think about any volunteersyou know who might benefit from moving to a supported volunteer role, so they can continue guiding safely. We hope to have these roles in place by the 22 November (when mitigating circumstances would be applied if needed before membership is affected).
To find out more about the supported volunteer and individual volunteer supporter roles and how to apply when the roles are live, please contact [email protected]
Making reasonable adjustments isn't a one-off process. It's something you should revisit again and again. Where you have made an adjustment, you should review how well it’s working to check it's still the best solution. And a person’s condition or impairment can change over time. If this happens, you’ll need to consider new adjustments. It’s a good idea to regularly ask for feedback and proactively think about what more you could do.
Alisha is a Ranger who has a hearing impairment. Her unit has made sure that their meeting space has an emergency alarm with a flashing light, that volunteers always try to face her when they speak, and they don’t rely on sounds only when doing activities. Every term the leaders ask Alisha how she is finding Rangers and if they can do anything more to help her be included.
Paying for adjustments
No disabled person should have to pay for any adjustments. Any costs should be covered by the unit or region. To help with this we offer grants to support disabled members. These can help with transport, training and the development of an accessible programme. You also may be able to find additional funding locally, for example through your local authority.
Be flexible about moving up
We know that moving up to a new section can be challenging for some disabled young members. Being flexible about when they need to move up can be a simple reasonable adjustment to make - we allow flexibility about the upper age range of each section until the member's 26th birthday. See the information about disability and guiding for more detail.
Accessible programme books and resources
Our programme resources, including activity cards, skills builders, badge books and handbooks, are available in a range of accessible formats.
If a member needs these resources, email [email protected] with details of the access need and the format you'd like resources in. Your request will be processed within two weeks.
If someone raises a concern
Any worry or concern about the lack of access or failure to make a reasonable adjustment must be taken seriously.
If an adjustment is complex and you're worried you may not be able to make it, you need to follow these steps. You must follow these steps before making a decision:
1. Contact your commissioner to share your concerns. Depending on the situation, they may be able to offer support, guidance or signposting.
2. If you and your commissioner are still concerned that the adjustment can’t be made, contact [email protected] to get advice from the inclusion team at HQ.
Remember that disabled people can take legal action if an organisation fails to make a reasonable adjustment. If you need any advice about managing a concern, contact [email protected].
Leonard Cheshire - empowering people to live their lives as freely and as fully as they choose.
Scope - disability charity which provides more information about the social model.