Research from The Kings Fund found that three million people regularly volunteer in health and care. Young volunteers can make a special contribution. Their new ideas, energy and enthusiasm can transform the atmosphere in a care home or hospital ward. They can take on a diverse range of roles, such as mealtime buddies, hospital guides and providing activities and entertainment for patients. 

However, there are a number of barriers to successfully engaging the under-25s, including a perception that young people won’t stick around, safeguarding concerns, and young people simply not knowing how to access volunteering opportunities. 

To help address these barriers, Volunteering Matters produced a youth social action in health and social care toolkit, in association with the #iwill campaign and the National Association of Voluntary Service Managers (NAVSM). We also held seminars and webinars, in collaboration with the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services and NAVSM, to bring together more than 100 professionals across health, social care, education and the youth sector, to explore how we can work together to realise the potential of youth volunteering. 

We were particularly interested in widening inclusion and involving more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our events challenged delegates to consider how we can ensure that our volunteer programmes are not ‘hard to reach’. We need to work closely with youth services, offer easy routes into volunteering, hold taster sessions, and provide mentors who can support and encourage new volunteers. Luckily, some of these measures are already in place.

On our developing youth volunteering in health and careweb page, we have published our youth social action toolkit, webinar podcasts and seminar presentations from our events, and a range of best practice case studies. We hope these resources will inspire you to set up meaningful youth volunteering projects. We have some great examples of best practice: for instance, At Youth Focus North East, young people design and lead Wellbeing Challenge days to promote positive mental health in their communities. Visit our web page for more examples of inspiring youth volunteer programmes.