Young Volunteers in Health and Social Care

Our Director of Strategy Paul Buddery reflects on what we can learn when we focus on empowering young volunteers in health and social care.

I recommend that anyone suffering from low mood should be prescribed a day at a youth social action and volunteering event. Last Friday’s Empowering Youth People in Health and Social Care was a fantastically energising curtain raiser to #iwillWeek. It showed how young people are bringing their time, ideas and commitment to improving health and social care services. It suggested that with the right vision and support, they can do even more.

Members of the NHS Youth Forum co-chaired the event. Young people who have been leading social action – including from Volunteering Matters’ WASSUP project – ran workshops. National leaders, clinicians and volunteer managers came with stories of projects that are taking the power of social action and volunteering into new areas, bringing community to the heart of social care services and our NHS.

No-one was complacent, but there was a palpable sense of momentum. Three years ago, Volunteering Matters worked with #iwill and NAVSM to create a toolkit for youth social action and volunteering in health and social care. Hot on the heels of the Five Year Forward View, we could see that tomorrow’s NHS couldn’t be a passive, care-and-repair service, but instead had to harness the ‘renewable energy’ of patients and communities. We thought that youth volunteering and social action needed to be part of the transformation. With funding and support from the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, we launched a revised and updated toolkit at Friday’s event.

What’s new in the toolkit?

The range of new case studies suggests widening confidence. For example, projects are starting to find responsible ways of including children as well as young people. In the right context, and with the right preparation and support, it is never too young to start. Some of the new case studies also show how well designed youth volunteering and social action can go hand in hand with broader inclusion and diversity objectives, connecting services – and potentially employment – and all sections of local communities.

If we were to update the toolkit in another three years, what might we expect or want to see more of? More and better community support – including youth support – for social care is only going to be more vital, in preventing or mitigating loneliness for example. The power of peer to peer support in the context of good mental health is also likely to come to the fore. Can we ensure that we are gathering and reflecting on the best evidence of what makes a positive difference, in the short term but also in the medium and long term?  And if serious youth violence is really going to addressed as a public health issue, what support do young people need to ensure solutions that work in a variety of settings – support that fits with the reality of young people’s lives, whether they live in Totnes or Tottenham.

What next?

If you’d like to be part of this conversation, or want to work with a partner to help bring ideas to life, do get in touch. We believe youth volunteering and social action are part and parcel of a healthier society, and look forward to building momentum (and possibly even the next edition of the toolkit) together.

Read the toolkit