Young people who completed the National Youth Agency’s Social Action Journey Fund programme reported improved attitude and ability as a result of their involvement in the volunteering programme, a new evaluation has found.
The programme which ran from January 2014 to March 2015, was funded by the Cabinet Office to increase the level of social action amongst young people. NYA’s project was delivered in partnership with O2 Think Big, who provided support for young people’s social action ideas.
By the end of the programme young people indicated they had benefitted from their involvement– demonstrating improved levels of cooperation, empathy and problem solving and also wellbeing, educational attainment and grit.
The findings, from research carried out by Professor Tony Chapman at Durham University, are significant given the focus of NYA’s SAF project was young people from deprived or socially marginalised backgrounds who do not often engage in voluntary social action.
“Social action brings benefits to both young people and communities but it’s often perceived as being aimed at just a high achieving, middle class group. This evaluation shows that young people from all walks of life can benefit,” said Professor Chapman.
The challenge is that young people from marginalised backgrounds often need more assistance, the report states. “These young people often require more intensive intervention from youth work professionals, who need to compensate for the lack of support young people may receive from families, friends or school,” Professor Chapman continues.
The greater the support required, the more expensive the programme is to resource – but this must not be allowed to mean disadvantaged young people are overlooked in favour of young people who require less help, the report concludes.
Amanda Fearn Think Big programme manager at the National Youth Agency said, “Social Action Journey Fund was a great programme because it allowed Think Big to focus in on young people who require more support to engage in social action.
“With government targets to increase the number of young people who regularly volunteer it’s important we continue to support social action for all young people. Otherwise the benefits will only be felt by a small minority and not society wide as they should be.”