Time Well Spent

New research exploring the volunteering experiences and perspectives of people from the global majorityy. Find out more

Noama Chaudhry


Engaging and supporting young people to volunteer

Noama Chaudhry


There are many people aged 13 to 17 with the time and drive to help their community and volunteer - though too often - volunteering opportunities are aimed at people over 18

In my experience, I was only able to volunteer through schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, National Citizen Service and a sports initiative in my local area at the time, all of which I found out through school.

So, how can we make more volunteering opportunities for younger people that are accessible and varied?

As part of NCVO’s strategy, we’re looking to support charities by bringing members together to find solutions to common problems. We also aim to create connections across our membership.

So we looked for the expertise and put on an online event to find out how we can engage and support young people to volunteer.

Sharing experiences, inspiring others

We heard from East Riding Voluntary Action Services (ERVS), St John’s Ambulance and Reclaim about a range of programmes aimed at people from as young as five years old.

These programmes were best achieved through collaboration with schools, local authorities and wider partnerships to make sure they’re accessible to those from a variety of backgrounds.

This can also be done by focusing on specific areas and making sure programmes are written by and for these groups through co-creation and collaboration.

Funding can come from a variety of sources depending on the programme type or the young beneficiaries, such as schemes with green objectives or aimed at young carers.

Some projects also came about through informal volunteering, which was then developed into more structured opportunities.

Here are some case studies we found below.

  • Uniformed programmes – we heard about Humberside Police Cadets and St John’s Ambulance youth opportunities where young people can gain valuable skills and support the most vulnerable people in our communities. This was particularly effective during the height of the pandemic, from helping in vaccination centres to organising national conferences.
  • Green Influencers Scheme – this programme supports 10–14-year-olds to create social action and environmental change. In this case study, they created an app and educational resource packs for primary school children among a range of other activities.

Contributions that young people can make shouldn’t be underestimated, with young people under the age of 18 co-creating projects and gaining national recognition for their work.

Not only is it helpful to the community, but volunteering can transform lives by giving young people the opportunity to gain valuable transferable skills.

The experience I gained volunteering provided me with examples to use in my interview to get the apprenticeship role I have at NCVO.

Practical areas to consider when engaging young people

Community First shared insight on the practical areas to consider when engaging young people in volunteer roles.

  • Law – it’s worth checking your insurance policies so young people are included in this as well as looking into child employment law for best practice. Staff working with anyone under the age of 18 will need a DBS check (those under 16 will need an enhanced DBS). It’s free to carry out these checks on volunteers. People under 16 also cannot make house-to-house collections for charities.
  • Risk assessment – this is needed anyway for volunteers, but a separate risk assessment needs to be completed the first time you involve young volunteers. This is because they have different needs, capacities and pressures to adults.
  • Responsibility and safeguarding – particularly for those under 16, you should get parental permission and photo consent before they start volunteering. This should also include the young person’s consent. This can be done using a written consent form making them aware of safeguarding policies, the volunteering activity and emergency contact information. At least one person should be present at all times who has DBS clearance.
  • Code of conduct and volunteer policy – all volunteers should sign a volunteer agreement to show they've read understood the volunteer policy.
  • Support – it may make sense to give young people enhanced induction, training and supervision as this may be their first experience with volunteering. They may also require more appropriately-sized equipment.
  • Roles – create exciting different and engaging roles young people are interested and have expertise in. This could be social media, a topic like sustainability or a specific field they wish to gain more experience in.

Read more about Community First and their work.

Starting the conversation about young volunteers

At our online event, we then had a breakout session where it was great to hear from many enthusiastic organisations that want to engage more young people in their work.

We hope this webinar provided an excellent sounding board to start conversations and reading this has done the same!

Further resources

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