Youth Social Action in Health and Social Care

Roxanne Ohene, Step Up To Serve (originally posted March 2015)

#iwill is a collaborative UK-wide campaign with cross-party and cross-sector support which is led by HRH The Prince of Wales with the aim of making social action a normal part of life for 10-20 year-olds by the year 2020.

About the campaign

Youth social action is defined as young people taking practical action in the service of others to create positive change.  It creates a double-benefit, strengthening communities and
developing the character and skills of young participants.

As a campaign we believe in the power of young people to make a difference supporting local health and social care services.  #iwill Ambassador Grace Chaplin (18) volunteers in the A&E Department of Southampton General Hospital and you can see the benefit that she has had on YouTube.

The #iwill campaign is supported by a range of organisations across the sectors including NHS England, St John’s Ambulance, The Association of UK University Hospitals (AUKUH), local Trusts and CSV – all of whom have pledged in support of the campaign.

Learning from experience

Working in partnership with NHS England, the Department of Health, CSV, BiTC and Capgemini the campaign held a cross-sector workshop with over 40 representatives from across the health, social care, voluntary and business sectors. The workshop aimed to understand the current situation and explore opportunities for the VCSE sector to develop youth social action opportunities.

The workshop heard from Katherine Joel, Head of Volunteering, at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.  The volunteering programme at King’s College Hospital has 1,700 volunteers, 70% of whom are under 30.  The programme has benefited both patients and the hospital with marked improvements in patient satisfaction results.  Participants at the workshop recognised the positive potential of youth social action supporting and working to improve services and improving patient services.  The group identified the following opportunities and challenges to develop a thriving social action programmes in health and social care settings:


  • Cross-sector collaboration with a shared language to learn from the best in the health, social care and VCSE sectors
  • Capitalising on the youth voice to improve services, particularly for families, young people and children
  • Developing young people as part of the pipeline for the future workforce of health and social care service
  • Developing a strong evidence base including case studies of the breadth of opportunities that young people are engaged with


  • Identifying and overcoming actual and perceived barriers (e.g. DBS checks)
  • Overcoming negative perceptions of young people

Case Study: Hannah Palmer-Davis (19), Isle of Wight

I’m passionate about helping others, especially in healthcare. I was inspired to start my social action journey by my Dad, who sadly passed away from cancer when I was 17. He encouraged me to help, support and befriend people going through tough times and be the reason someone smiles every day. So, I became part of my local NHS Trust’s Check it Out team – a group of 11-19-year-olds helping make healthcare services more accessible to young people. We identified barriers preventing young people from accessing services, and to overcome these we set up a website for young people to access health information, and a one-to-one ‘Live Chat’ app where young people can get confidential health advice.

I loved being part of Check it Out and decided to keep supporting the NHS, volunteering in my local hospital’s Eye Department. It inspired me to study Medicine at Plymouth University, and become a St John Ambulance volunteer. I still remember what my Dad used to say to me, and whenever I’m chatting with a patient who is lonely or upset, I try my best to give them a little sense of normality by making them smile and feel valued.

Hannah’s social action pledge: #iwill continue to help make the NHS more accessible for young people, and inspire more young people to help those who might be in need, even if it is just to provide a friendly face to talk to.

Next steps

The group identified the following priorities for action:

  1. Vision – Establishing visionary cross-sector leadership with a clear ambition for youth social action
  2. Collaboration – Recognise and value the expertise of the VCSE sector to work collaboratively to add value to health and social care services
  3. Make the case – Develop a robust evidence base including showcasing the many ways that young people can help to improve services including through youth voice, volunteering, befriending, mentoring and advocacy.

Going forward the #iwill campaign will work collaboratively with partners across the sectors to develop and deliver a plan take forward the priorities above. You can find out more about the campaign on our website – if you’d like more information please email

We would encourage VCSE organisations supporting activity in the health and social care sector to pledge to support the campaign and enable more high quality social action opportunities that embed the six quality principles.

As part of the VCSE review we would like to see:

  • The Department of Health and NHS England continue to support the campaign’s vision with Public Health England.  Collectively we ask them to act as leaders to recognise the positive contribution of young people and work to open up more opportunities for youth social action across the health and social care sectors.
  • Embedding of youth social action provision in future VCSE funding grants that support sustained growth in opportunities
  • Commitment to funding organisations that embed the six quality principles of high quality youth social action in their opportunity design and delivery

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