Members living in poverty

Ways you can make guiding available to girls and women living in poverty

There are lots of different ways to define what poverty means. In the UK we consider any family where the household’s income is less than 60% of the national average to be a family living in poverty. This means poverty affects one in four children in the UK.

These families can struggle to buy the food that they need, to get suitable clothing or keep their homes warm.

Around the world, definitions of poverty can vary. If you are a British Guiding Overseas leader you should look at definitions in your country.

What you can do

Challenge stigma and bullying

The stigma of living in poverty leads many people to hide how much they struggle. They may not be getting all the support they are entitled to. Ask open questions and invite all parents and carers to talk to you if they have difficulties with any of the costs associated with guiding.

Children in poverty can be made to feel different, because they get free school meals, can’t afford to take part in activities or don’t have the right uniform.  This can be embarrassing for the child and can lead to bullying. It’s important that you take this teasing and bullying seriously.

Don’t make assumptions

People can be living in poverty for all sorts of reasons. Don’t make assumptions about anyone’s situation. We should make sure to offer the best experience for every child, no matter what is happening in their personal life or within their family.

Many of the social activities that a lot of people take for granted, like visiting the cinema or going swimming, can be too expensive for those experiencing poverty. Avoid leading questions about these activities like “Where did you go for your holidays?” or “Did you have a birthday party?”.

Instead ask open questions about “What did you do over the summer?” or “How did you celebrate your birthday?”.

Help with unit activities

Everyone involved in guiding should contribute to the costs of taking part. However, no young member should ever be left out for not having the right clothing or not being able to pay subscriptions.

Make your unit more accessible by

  • Offering a wide range of activities, with plenty that don’t have any attached costs.
  • Give lots of notice if your unit wants to do activities that you need to charge for.
  • Offer payment plans, allowing small payments to be made over a period of time. Don’t ask for large sums to be paid in one go.
  • Encourage girls to borrow and reusing uniforms. Don’t be worried if not everyone is wearing the latest version.
  • Use some of your unit funds to subsidise those who may not otherwise take part in these activities or to provide lower cost membership if  you know that a young member is in receipt of Free School Meals.

Tackle period poverty

One in ten girls in the UK has been unable to afford period products at some point. This can be embarrassing and worrying for young members. Your unit could collect period products and have them available for anyone who might need them. You can also try the activities from our End Period Poverty campaign to raise awareness in your unit.

Don’t expect all parents and carers to help

When you talk to parents or carers about volunteering or joining a parent rota, be sensitive in how you talk about the barriers to volunteering. Accept that it will be difficult for some adults to help. No one should experience different treatment if their parent or carer can’t help or volunteer.

Help people find the right support

People in poverty could be able to get more benefits or financial support than they realise. Citizens Advice Bureaus often have Benefits Advisors who can help people claim what they are entitled to. Learn more about local advice centres on the Child Poverty Action Group website. 

Apply for a Girlguiding grant

If your unit is in an area of depravation, you can apply for the UK Units in Need Grant. This can help with providing uniforms or go towards the costs of a trip or residential.

Donate to your local food bank

Help tackle poverty in your community by supporting your local food banks. The Trussell Trust has information about what food and non-food goods to give and where your local food bank is based. 

Refuse gifts and a culture of giving

Many parents want to thank Guiding volunteers for their efforts. This can include offering gifts. This is very thoughtful and kind, but it can make those in poverty feel guilty if they can’t contribute.  Try asking for donations to the unit rather than accepting individual presents.

Remember volunteers can struggle too

No one should ever be out of pocket by volunteering with Girlguiding. It’s important to encourage all volunteers to claim reasonable expenses.  Make sure the process for claiming expenses is clear and is shared with all your volunteers. Find out more about claiming expenses

Support organisations 

The Child Poverty Action Group - lots of information about poverty in the UK.

The Money Advice Service - set up by the government, they offer free and impartial money advice on issues like debt and benefits. 

UNICEF - the Seen and HEARD resource pack from UNICEF helps children explore child poverty in the UK.

Citizens Advice Bureau - offer free advice on benefits, debt and finance

Get advice on inclusion

Contact the info team at Girlguiding HQ for more information about including all girls and volunteers in guiding.

Email us