Matt Mills is the Regional Commissioner for the East of England. In that role he leads and supports the County Commissioners across the Region (Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire) to help ensure that there are plans in place to grow and develop Scouting, striving to give every young person a chance to take part.
How long have you been volunteering in Scouting?
I have been volunteering in an adult role since I turned 18 when I became an Assistant Scout Leader, a role I had for about ten years. During that time I got more involved with various District and County initiatives and became Deputy County Commissioner for Essex in 2008. I started my current role in October 2012.
How did you get involved in Scouting as a volunteer?
I had been helping out on a fairly regular basis with Beaver Scouts and the Scout Troop at my local Group as part of my Chief Scout and then Venture Scout and Queenís Scout Awards. It was therefore a natural step from helping out to taking out a full appointment as a Leader.
What do you for a living outside of scouting?
I work for the British Red Cross in a role that focuses on strategy, performance management, business planning and programme management. I started that role in April 2014 and before that I worked in local government in a similar business improvement role.
Do you have any hobbies or skills you share in Scouting?
Over the last six or seven years my roles in Scouting have been more focused on strategy and management. I have been able to use my experiences from work to help my Scouting, and equally have been able to use the skills and experiences Iíve gained in Scouting to help my work.
I volunteered as a Governor for an NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust for several years and lead on the workstream focused on young people. I think the governance and strategy role I played there gave me new insights and has helped my fulfil my responsibilities in my Scouting roles.
I have been responsible for delivering some really interesting projects for work, and the skills I gained there helped me take on some exciting initiatives for the Scouts. I have been involved in work around sexual health education and more recently the consultation which resulted in us launching an additional alternative Promise so that atheists and humanists would be more easily able to join Scouting. The project management skills I gained outside of Scouting helped me manage this complex piece of work.
Are you out as lgbt in scouting and why?
Do people know Iím gay? I suppose so! Itís not something Iíve ever really given much consideration to as I donít particularly talk about my own personal relationships very much. When I have Iíve always spoken about my partner, I say ďheĒ or use his name. I have led some work on LGBT projects and represented the organisation on GayStar News as a gay adult in Scouting. A long time ago I even had the opportunity to contribute to an article on Scouting in Attitude Magazine. I guess that means Iím out! But I suspect there would be people who would say, ďoh, I didnít knowĒÖ and then carry on with their usual business.
What difference does it make being able to be yourself in Scouting?
Every adult and young person needs to feel comfortable in being themselves in Scouting. We are a movement full of amazing people wanting to make a difference, make friends, learn new things, take on a new challenge. It is in our nature to be friendly and supportive and everyone must be able to express themselves and know that they will be supported. The Scout Association has done a lot to help break down any perceived barriers to LGBT people being involved, and Iíve been privileged that Iíve been able to be a small part in some of that.
When an individual is able to express themselves freely, in the way that works for them, they are more able to thrive and develop. People mustnít feel they have to hide anything about themselves, nor must they feel pressured to share personal information they want to keep personal. Scouting is a place where adults and young people must, and can, be themselves and know they will be supported whatever.
What would you say to another lgbt person interested in becoming a volunteer in Scouting?
Do it! Whatever an individualís sexuality, background, scouting knowledge, time availability etc there are opportunities to take part, make friends and most importantly make a difference to the lives of young people.
What three words would you use to describe your experience of scouting?