Today the Government announced it will launch an independent review into full-time volunteering. The Full Time Social Action Review will consider how to grow full-time volunteering in the UK.
It will investigate the legal and regulatory barriers to full-time volunteering and consider whether the Government should take action to encourage more young people to undertake year of voluntary service opportunities, like those offered by City Year UK.
The announcement comes following years of campaigning by City Year UK, calling on the Government to give better recognition and support to full-time volunteering through granting a legal status. We believe this review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to realise the potential of full-time volunteering in the UK.
In America, France, and Germany full-time volunteering – referred to as service – has a legal status and engages not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands of young people every year. Britain lags behind these countries because our full-time volunteers have no legal status.
Young people doing long-term, full-time voluntary service in the UK (such as our volunteers) are classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and are denied access to National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and personal development training, amongst other rights. We think this is wrong. That’s why we are campaigning to give full-time volunteers the recognition and status they deserve.
As the Government announced its Full Time Social Action Review, new research from City Year UK found overwhelming support for a recognised programme of full-time voluntary ‘National Service’ for young people in Britain. The polling conducted by Censuswise on behalf of City Year UK showed that over half (55%) of 16 to 25-year-olds and parents aged 40 to 60 would definitely back a scheme, with only 8.8% against the idea.
We are thankful for support from a number of politicians including Lord David Blunkett, Baroness Jan Royall and Dan Jarvis MP who continue to give our campaign a voice in parliament and put pressure on the Government to act. We are also grateful to our early stage funders Big Change Trust and The Queen’s Trust for helping us grow our efforts.
Announcing the review, Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP said: “By helping others, young people can also transform their own lives. Full-time volunteering can provide meaning and purpose, as well as allowing young people to gain the skills they need to transition into full-time work or study. I want to make sure that we encourage as many young people as possible to get involved and make a difference in their communities, building a society for everyone”.
Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of City Year UK said: “For too long, full time volunteers have been punished for giving their time to worthwhile causes. They’re in legal limbo, unable to claim even the most minor of benefits enjoyed by the unemployed or those in work.
“I’m delighted that this review will now look at the legal status for full time volunteers and how best to support and recognise young people who want to gain experience whilst giving back to their communities.”
City Year UK alumnus, Kwame Gyambibi, said: “When I told people I wanted to do voluntary work, everyone was telling me to volunteer abroad so I thought that was the obvious choice. But when I looked into it, I found it was very expensive and I realised that what really motivates me is improving my own community.
“Then I came across City Year UK. I couldn’t believe I could tackle inequality in my own community and that they would support me financially to do it, rather than having to pay. Much more must be done to recognise and promote full-time volunteering in the UK. Then more people like me would get involved. It would be incredible if this review could be the start of that.”
Reaction from supporters:
The Rt Hon Lord David Blunkett, City Year UK’s Patron, said: ” A year of service has the potential to fundamentally change the attitudes and values of young people in our society. Young people have already shown they can be part of the solution to some of our biggest problems, such as educational inequality, through programmes like City Year UK. This review could form the vital catalyst for the expansion of full time volunteering in the UK.”
Dan Jarvis MP, who has supported City Year UK in its mission to get the Full Time Social Action Review on the agenda, said: “When the bonds of community are weakening, full-time volunteering brings young people together to serve the common good.
“This review provides an opportunity for the Government to be more ambitious with its vision for full-time volunteering and build on the foundations laid by the National Citizen Service. Service should be a lifetime mission rather than a month-long programme, and full-time programmes like City Year UK help achieve that ambition.”
Baroness Jan Royall, City Year UK trustee and parliamentary supporter, said: “It’s vital now, more than ever, to give the next generation the chance to play their part in shaping our country and themselves through service to others. That is exactly what City Year UK and full-time volunteering does.
“I am passionate about a year of service, and the need for greater recognition grows by the day. City Year UK currently utilises full-time volunteers in education, but there is so much more we could do in health and social care, in environmental protection and in heritage. We need look no further for inspiration than the wonderful AmeriCorps programme in the US which currently engages 75,000 young people every year, in just about every sector of public life.
“The difference between the UK and US? A legal status and Government support for full-time volunteers. I hope this review is a major step towards securing the respect, support and recognition that the UK’s full-time volunteers deserve.”