Dame Caroline Dinenage, Member of Parliament for Gosport, has hosted a debate in Parliament on the role and future of youth programmes and Girlguiding.

This comes after the announcement in May that Girlguiding has proposed the closure of five Training and Activity Centres (TACs) by the end of this year. The TACs provide thousands of young people across the United Kingdom the opportunity for fun adventure activities such as kayaking, bushcraft, archery and camping.

There are five centres throughout the UK ensuring that all Guide groups, including in Gosport, have the opportunity to access these activities. The centres are Foxlease (Hampshire), Waddow Hall (Lancashire), Glenbrook (Derbyshire), Blackland Farm (West Sussex) & Ynysgain (North Wales). The closure of all five centres means that this provision will no longer be available.

A further announcement also confirmed that Girlguiding is ending its overseas operations, which offers opportunities to thousands of girls across the world.

Caroline hosted the debate in order to give Members of Parliament the opportunity to highlight to the government the importance of youth activities, and extracurricular activities to build social skills and character. The debate also gave Caroline the chance to thank the hundreds of volunteers in the Gosport constituency who provide opportunities for young people, from Guides, to Scouts, Duke of Edinburgh, and Cadets.

Speaking at the debate, Caroline said: “We are so lucky to live in a country that gives our young people so many opportunities to learn new skills, have adventures and make lifelong friends. From Guides to Scouts and D of E to the Cadets, volunteers across the country devote so much of their own time and energy to youth programmes which add so much to the formative experiences of our young people.

“Now is the time to be providing more opportunities for young people to get out, do something fun and adventurous, build a raft and see if it sinks, go abseiling or learn life skills like cooking. Now is not the time to be pulling away from providing these opportunities.”

“I ask the Minister what his department is doing to provide more opportunities to young people which gets them out and about, learning new skills and help them build those friendships?”

The Minister for Sport, Tourism & Civil Society, Stuart Andrew, said: “Approximately 85% of a young person’s waking hours are outside of school, and it’s during this time that thousands of youth workers and volunteers make a tremendous difference to those young people’s lives.

“We have provided Girlguiding over £2 million to create more opportunities to take part in Girlguiding, and they’ve already created over a thousand new places and recruited hundreds of new volunteers and over 40 new units, with more to come.

“I will ensure that I write to Girlguiding to highlight this debate today and the contributions from the Hon. Members, and I will then happily send Members here present the response that we receive.”

Commenting on the debate, Caroline said: “The proposed closure of all 5 Girlguiding outdoor activity centres across the country, as well as the full shutdown of British Girl Guiding Overseas, is deeply concerning to hear.

“As we move further out of what has been an incredibly difficult few years for children and young adults, it is becoming clearer and clearer the damage which has been caused to the mental health of young people.

“Now is not the time to be pulling away from providing those opportunities, but we should instead be providing more opportunities for young people to have fun, spend time outdoors, socialise and be children.”