Harnessing the power of young people to transform health and social care services

By Fiona Ellison, Voluntary & Public Sector Campaign Manager, Step Up To Serve

 The #iwill campaign has developed recommendations for health and social care organisations that will enable more young people to support the vital services they provide. 

Volunteers are crucial in health and social care, and there is increasing evidence that volunteering can help transform health and social care services, and bring about real improvements for patients and the wider public.

Young people can make a powerful contribution, simply by bringing enthusiasm and a fresh outlook.

Showcasing what works

The report from the #iwill campaign, run by the charity Step Up To Serve, highlights the potential value of increasing social action opportunities for under-20s in health and social care settings. By opening up more opportunities for young people to volunteer, campaign, and fundraise in health and social care settings, a new generation could be developed who are more aware of how to look after themselves and those around them.

The report showcases examples from 20 organisations across the UK that successfully use young people as volunteers, campaigners and fundraisers.

The report argues for the creation of a shared vision for the voluntary and health and social care sectors, to ensure opportunities are supported and promoted. Another recommendation is to grow already proven programmes and strengthen links between education institutions, health and social care providers and other employers. The final recommendation is to empower young people to develop social action opportunities they see a need for through consultation.

Louis Stokes, Youth Trustee at Step Up To Serve, the charity behind the #iwill campaign, said:

As a young person who actively volunteers, I feel strongly that giving my time to is absolutely fundamental. This report begins to address the barriers to youth social action in health and social care organisations, which has huge potential. It will enable more volunteers to get involved, and help relieve some of the pressure on already overstretched services.”

Youth volunteering in action

The main barriers to providing volunteering opportunities in a health and social care environment were found to be: a lack of funding; investment in time spent in offering training; and the perception of volunteers. The report indicates the importance of role clarification to allay fears of job substitution with an emphasis on volunteers to providing an additional service. The barriers specific to the provision of opportunities to under-20s are identified as issues of flexibility, safeguarding, and – in the case of under 16s – the suitability of roles. Highlighting best practice from providers across the UK, these barriers are addressed and followed by recommendations to overcome them.

It is hoped that by highlighting the double benefit of youth social action more young people will get involved, which supports the #iwill campaign goal of increasing the number of young people participating in quality social action by 2020.

If you want to find out more about the #iwill campaign and join the campaign as a partner please get in touch with fiona.ellison@stepuptoserve.org.uk

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