Lord David Blunkett is leading calls for Theresa May to invest in a national programme of full-time volunteering for young people. The former Work and Pensions Secretary joins pioneering youth social action charity City Year UK in calling for a year-long programme and a legal status for full-time volunteers.
The call follows a report by volunteering organisation Pro Bono Economics, commissioned by City Year UK, which found that encouraging 10,000 young people to volunteer full-time for a year could earn the UK economy from £28m to £119m, or a return from £1.20 to £1.60 on every Government pound invested.
The net return takes into account the cost of training, recruiting and providing expenses for volunteers, estimated at £13,500 each. This cost would be met by charities who engage full-time volunteers – such as City Year UK – and their funders, with an additional proposed £3,000 contribution from the Government.
The report coincides with the Government-commissioned Youth Full Time Social Action Review, which is looking into the merits of a legal status for full-time volunteers and how to increase the number of programmes and participants. It is due to release its recommendations in December.
Lord David Blunkett is joining City Year UK in leading calls for the Government to create a national full-time volunteering programme as well as a legal status for full-time volunteers, who are currently classified as NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training). Legal status could increase the level of financial support volunteers can receive and give them access to sick pay and National Insurance credits.
Lord Blunkett said: “Organisations such as City Year UK which already run programmes of full-time volunteering have proved that the activity can improve the employability of young people and better engage them with society.
“The success of the National Citizen Service and Government-backed full-time volunteering programmes from Germany, France and the USA – which can engage up to 100,000 participants per year – has taught us one thing above all else, build it and they will come. Tens of thousands of young people up and down the country are ready to make a meaningful contribution to their communities.
“Armed with the evidence from this report, the question must now shift from whether we can afford such a programme, to whether we can afford not to invest right away?”
Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of City Year UK, said: “This report further proves the benefit to the Government of a structured full-time volunteering programme. We have long known that the economic value far outweighs the costs.
“I’m delighted that Lord Blunkett is joining us to call on the Government to introduce a programme. The case is clear; full-time volunteering benefits everyone, from the participants to public services and the overall economy.”
Additionally, the report found benefits relating to well-being, later employment and earning for volunteers; key skills development; confidence and empowerment; civic engagement and social integration. It also found wider societal benefits based on the impact of full-time volunteers on public services in sectors including education; health; social care; the environment; disaster relief and homelessness.
City Year UK commissioned the report as part of its wider work lobbying the Government to introduce a programme of full-time volunteering.