Memorandum submitted by V
1 About v
1.1 v is The National Young Volunteers Service. We fund and work with
national and local organisations to provide hundreds of thousands of
volunteering opportunities to 16-25 year olds in England; helping to harness the skills
and talents of young people by matching them with a relevant volunteering
1.2 With growing recognition
of the vital role that volunteering can play in supporting young people to
build confidence, self-esteem and transferable skills, and with rising levels
of youth unemployment, v is committed to developing new
opportunities that respond to the needs of young people, especially the needs
of more vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
1.3 Over the last 12 months v has seen a surge in demand in volunteering opportunities - online
applications to vinspired.com have increased by
nearly 200%. Volunteering is proving to be a lifeline for young people to
contribute their talents to their communities, develop their skills, gain
experience, make friends and have fun.
2. Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of
falling into the "NEET" category. Falls
outside of v's experience and
3. Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming
"NEET", and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who
have become persistently "NEET"
3.1. Much has been done to increase and improve
training, education and pre-employment programmes, apprenticeships and jobs for
young people, however v believes far
more could be done to harness the potential of structured volunteering to
support those at risk of becoming NEET, to reduce the NEET figures and to
address the needs of those that have persistently become NEET.
supports a range of volunteering projects from one-off volunteering
opportunities to longer term full-time volunteering opportunities. v has 107 vinvolved teams covering every local authority area in England
to broker young people into volunteering opportunities and work with
organisations to create new volunteering opportunities. The teams work with a
range of local partners, including Connexions Services, to promote
3.3. One of the difficulties that some vinvolved teams encounter when working
with Connexions is that volunteering does not count as a 'recognised outcome'
for young people. As a result Connexions does not always refer young people to vinvolved teams when volunteering might
be more beneficial than other activities that do count as a 'recognised outcome'.
would urge flexibility in what counts as a recognised outcome to include
volunteering in order to ensure that the best interests of young people are met.
Volunteering should be recognised as a key vehicle for helping NEET young
people to re-engage into society and gain skills and experience to help them
back into education or the work-place.
is committed to developing new opportunities and interventions that respond to
the needs of young people, especially more vulnerable and disadvantaged young
people. One such intervention is v's £20 million vtalent year programme,
being piloted in 32 local authorities, 28 Further Education colleges and 2
charities. The aim is to give almost 2,000 volunteers aged 16-25 the
opportunity to directly influence and enhance public sector services and gain
skills to improve their employability.
3.6. The programme was set up partly to address
the needs of NEET young people but involves young people from a range of
backgrounds. The opportunity to mix with young people in different situations
and from different backgrounds was a key objective for the programme.
3.7. The high quality, structured placements in
areas such as nursery education, play, youth work, care leavers, health and sexual
education and learner support last 44 weeks, lead to a minimum of a level 2
qualification and offer personal development grants of up to £1,500 for young
volunteers on completion of the programme to assist with progression into
education, training, employment or further volunteering. Each local authority
and FE college is working with 15 young people per year for 2 years to add
value to existing services by providing activities and support which would not
3.8. Residential weekends, delivered by Duke of
Edinburgh's Award, prepare young volunteers for their placements, enable them to
undertake a skills audit and encourage young people to develop social
networking groups so they can keep in touch with each other during their
placements and foster a group identity.
6.1. In drafting this response we have spoken
to some of the v talent year
placement supervisors based at local authorities and captured the opinions of
some of the young volunteers on the programme. v talent
year is being formally evaluated as part of v's full organisational evaluation. Interim findings for the
programme will be available in Spring 2010. The full evaluation is due in Spring
3.9. Below are some of the key learnings
emerging from the project and its work with NEET young people.
Pre programme and
3.10. Each project had a target of engaging 40%
NEET participants in the first year. On average the projects have engaged 60%
NEET young people. Some had recently finished Entry to Employment programmes,
some had been long term NEET and others had dropped out of post-16 education
because their course did not meet their needs. There are also a handful of
3.11. The programme is proving to have a
transformative impact on the young people taking part as the quotes below
3.12. The first cohort finishes
the programme in February 2010. A key element of the programme is early
consideration of progression after the programme ends. Each volunteer can apply
for a grant of up to £1,500 to assist with their progression. Some volunteers
have already secured further placements or jobs within children and young people's
services, continued education to NVQ level 3, are applying for university, or
have decided they would like to volunteer abroad.
Support from staff
3.13. The support from placement supervisors and
staff managing volunteers while on placement has been crucial to the outcomes
for the people on v talent year. Placement
supervisors can see volunteers anything from 2-3 times per week to once a
fortnight depending on their needs, especially as the programme is such a big
commitment. A number of the volunteers are young parents who need support
juggling childcare arrangements and their volunteering hours, some need help
developing their confidence, developing a positive attitude or dealing with
personal circumstances such as becoming homeless. The investment in staff time
has been essential.
3.14. Each volunteer receives up to £100 in
volunteering expenses and subsistence. Volunteers are not eligible for Job
Seekers Allowance (JSA), and despite undertaking a level 2 qualification as
part of the programme, DCSF's view is that the volunteers are not eligible for
Education Maintenance Allowance.
3.15. Spending a year volunteering with out of
pocket expenses and a modest living allowance is a tremendous commitment for
the young people taking part. If the volunteer lives independently they may be
worse off financially than staying on benefits and doing nothing. This situation
seems particularly unfortunate.
3.16. For older NEETs claiming JSA, the lack of
financial support is a significant barrier to taking advantage of the
experience that full-time volunteering could provide. v's research, 'Young people Speak Out: attitudes to, and
perceptions of, full-time volunteering' found that that the modest financial support
offered to cover living expenses would not compensate for the loss of JSA and
other benefits such as housing benefit and council tax exemption.
3.17. v would
like to see the scheme fit within post-16 options and options for young people
on benefits, with the same financial support available, alongside
reimbursement of out of pocket volunteering expenses. The scheme has the added
benefit of work-based experience, staff support, a qualification and
progression beyond the scheme built in. This approach would make better
economic sense than incentivising young people to do nothing or stay in
learning provision that does not meet their needs. The case is further
illustrated by the early indications of progression routes for the young
Progression and destinations
3.18. The first cohort does not complete the
programme until February 2010 but the placement supervisors begun working with
the volunteers on their progression from day one, starting with their personal
development plans. More recently, more intensive support has been given to
progression with some early indications of success.
3.19. Some volunteers have already secured or are
applying for jobs within children's or youth services - children's centres,
young offenders services, play services, youth work, sports coaching, admin or
Connexions. Some are moving onto apprenticeships, different placements,
starting a level 3 qualification, moving onto further or higher education,
training, applying to university or to do international volunteering. The vast
majority of the young people would not have progressed in this way without the v talent year programme. The experience
has increased aspirations, broadened the volunteers' minds to new opportunities
and better prepared them to make decisions about their future.
3.20. The progression routes show that for some young
people the job specific skills developed through v talent year are vital to their intended destinations. The
importance of developing job specific skills through full-time volunteering for
some young people is supported by v's
'Young People Speak Out' research. Amongst those who said training would be
important in encouraging them to consider volunteering on a full-time basis,
job-specific skills were most popular (55%), followed by team-working skills
(46%) and leadership skills (45%).
3.21. One placement supervisor noted that some of
the volunteers looked visibly healthier since starting the programme. One
particularly had become far less pallid and decreased his smoking because he
wanted to step up to his new professional role.
3.22. The social mix was also noted as a key
benefit to the programme. The residentials were particularly helpful in mixing
young people from different backgrounds, different ethnic groups and helped to
improve some volunteers' confidence, giving them experience of working together
4. The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy
4.1. The Government's NEET strategy makes a
valiant attempt to bring together provision for 16-18 year old NEET young
people. We believe the lack of reference to the role that volunteering can have
in preparing young people for education and employment is an unfortunate
4.2. Instead of being seen as a stepping stone
into sustainable employment or a gateway into education or training,
volunteering has often been regarded as a 'soft option'. Volunteers can often
gain valuable qualifications and skills, as well as developing the
self-confidence and practical experience that is required to move into paid
4.3. v talent year and v's other
full-time programmes have successfully engaged and retained high numbers of
NEET young people, helping them to develop their confidence, skills and
employability. Structured full-time
volunteering should be regarded as legitimate alternative, or be integrated
into the New Deal and Flexible New Deal for 18-24 year olds and into post 16
options with the financial support to remove barriers to engagement.
4.4. The NEET strategy also fails to highlight the
important role the local authority can play in bringing together public,
private and voluntary sector partners to draw on the strengths of each to
create the best provision and options to move young people into education,
training or employment. This approach would also build a better picture of
provision available in the local area, not just in education, employment and
training but in activities such as volunteering that can be particularly
beneficial for NEET young people as illustrated above.
5. The likely impact of raising the participation age on strategies
for addressing the needs of young people not in education, employment or
5.1. Local authorities will need to ensure that
the options available in local areas meet the varied needs of young people. v is pleased that full-time
volunteering remains an option for young people when the participation age is
raised and believes that there is considerable scope to expand the provision of
full-time volunteering opportunities in both the voluntary and public sector.
For example one v talent year
project recently received 157 applications for just 15 places and some of the
local authorities see the potential to open up the programme in other services.
5.2. As mentioned previously, early indications
are that v talent year is
particularly helpful for young people that need the support that the programme
provides in order to realise what they can achieve whether this be moving into
apprenticeships, jobs, training or education.
5.3. v talent
year is just one example of where innovation created by the voluntary sector
has led to new opportunities for NEET young people in the public and statutory
sectors. In the years leading to the raised participation age, far more of this
should be incentivised and encouraged by government in order to create
provision that best meets the needs of young people.
7. The opportunities and future prospects in education, training and
employment for 16-18 year olds
7.1. The early indications ahead of a full
evaluation show that there is significant scope to extend the provision of v talent year. Where it
works, it works particularly well. After learning from the first year pilot,
many of the projects will be making changes particularly to the way that the
volunteers are recruited. For example, they are now better able to identify
those young people that will benefit most from the programme.
7.2. To make the programme work better, 16-18
years olds living independently would have to be assured that they would not be
any worse off from starting the programme than being on benefits and doing very
little. 16-18 year olds living with parents or guardians would need to be
assured that being on the programme would not impact on their family's
benefits. We recommend that parent(s) of
participants should be able to continue to claim child benefit without question
while their child is on the programme.
strongly believes in the power of volunteering to improve outcomes for young
people. We are currently scoping a longitudinal study to develop a better
evidence base on the personal, economic and social impact of volunteering. In
addition the independent evaluation of all of v's programmes should provide some evidence to support a greater
role forf volunteering in tackling the NEET problem. The first of two annual
reports is due in Spring 2010.
people speak out: attitudes to, and perceptions of, full-time volunteering June
2009, page 26 http://vinspired.com/system/datas/9/original/Young_People_Speak_Out.pdf
people speak out: attitudes to, and perceptions of, full-time volunteering June
2009, page 40 http://vinspired.com/system/datas/9/original/Young_People_Speak_Out.pdf