Take the Youth Volunteering Pledge
Who has signed the pledge?
The following groups have stated that they will accept volunteers from the age of 16*:
Crossness Engines Trust
The following groups have stated that as well as accepting volunteers from the age of 16 they will consider potential volunteers under this age*:
North West Kent Countryside Partnership
*Organisations will have to satisfy themselves that the role is both safe and appropriate for younger people – and of course as with potential volunteers of any age that they feel the person is right for the role. This means that for some organisations who sign the pledges it might only be a small number of their roles that are open to younger people.
What is the youth volunteering pledge?
Is your organisation excluding younger volunteers? Many organisations in Bexley will not accept volunteers under the age of 18, and almost none under the age of 16. By doing so they are missing out on huge potential, and denying young people the opportunity to support their community. In addition, they are excluding young people from the benefits volunteering has to offer.
We are inviting Bexley organisations to sign up to our Youth Volunteering pledge, either committing to accept volunteers from the age of 16, or in addition to accept volunteers under this age where appropriate.
Involving younger volunteers (especially those aged 16 and above) should not present a problem to most organisations. Volunteer Centre Bexley has guidance on what to consider when engaging younger volunteers and are happy to talk through how it could work in practice for your organisation.
Why involve younger volunteers?
Young people have a lot to offer. They can bring enthusiasm and a fresh outlook to the role and the wider organisation, encouraging innovation and new forms of volunteer involvement. They can act as ambassadors among their peers, passing on information about the work of their organisations.
Loosening age restrictions also widens your potential pool of volunteers. The Understanding Society UK household longitudinal study found that 52% of young people between the ages of 10 and 15 volunteer at least once a year, of these 19% do so at least once a month. Given the lack of voluntary opportunities for young people these are encouraging figures, and suggest more potential is waiting to be tapped.
There is a moral case too. We should avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on volunteering. This applies to age as much as it does to gender, ethnicity or disability. This is not to say that all roles should be open to young people - some will be inappropriate for that age group - merely that any decision to exclude them should be based on reasonable grounds.
Involving young volunteers is also an investment in the future for the sector as a whole. Volunteering at an early age can make people more likely to volunteer in later life, and if young people benefit from volunteering they will tell friends and family. Our goal should be to make volunteering something that people naturally consider throughout their life when they want to learn new skills, make friends, support their community and so on. The earlier people catch the volunteering bug the better.
What do I need to consider?
For volunteers from the age of 16+ there is little to consider in addition to what you would have in place for people who are over the age of 18. You should however:
- Check that your employers/public liability insurance covers volunteers from 16 upwards
- See below on parental consent
- Judge each young person on their merits. Some 17 year olds might lack life experience or confidence and need a little extra support – of course the same applies to older volunteers too.
For volunteers under the age of 16 there is more to consider, but it needn’t be a barrier to their involvement. Greater London Volunteering have produced a great good practice guide for involving young volunteers which goes into more detail, but we have set out some brief answers to common questions:
Is there a lower age limit on volunteering?
No – unless the young person will be volunteering in a charity shop. Some organisations offer ‘family volunteering’ activities in which very young children can have the opportunity to lend a hand alongside a parent or guardian.
However, roles offered to young people should be appropriate for them, bearing in mind issues such as the amount of time demanded, physical effort, risk, safeguarding concerns and the level of skill or experience needed for the role.
In addition while you are not bound by the law on child employment you should take care to avoid making too many demands on the time of young people, particularly during term time.
Charity shops may need to obtain a child employment from the local authority; the relevant child employment legislation applies where a young person ‘assists in a trade or occupation which is carried on for profit’. Obtaining such a permit simply involves carrying out a risk assessment which takes into account the volunteer’s age, ensuring that they are not working too many hours, and obtaining parental consent.
Do we need to obtain parental consent?
Yes. You definitely should for volunteers under the age of 16. Opinion differs on 16-17 year olds (parental responsibility exists until a child is 18, although more autonomy is assumed the older a child is), but it won’t hurt to seek it at these ages too. Parents/guardians should be given the role description and advised on the training and support that volunteers will be given. They should also be told where the volunteering will take place, and what is in place to keep young people safe from harm.
What about insurance?
Your employers/public liability insurance may not currently cover volunteers under the age of 16, so check your policy. It should be straightforward to change the policy, but do be clear with your insurer what the young volunteers will be doing, and what risk management measures you have in place.
Do we need to carry out a DBS check on anyone supervising or working/volunteering alongside young volunteers?
You would only be allowed to do so where you have recruited someone specifically to train, supervise or support volunteers under the age of 16.
People working or volunteering alongside young volunteers do not need to be DBS checked (in fact you would not be allowed to obtain them).
Supervisors and trainers of volunteers aged 16 and 17 are specifically exempt from DBS checks, as are people who may incidentally supervise younger volunteers (as opposed to being recruited or moved into a position specifically to supervise them). See paragraphs 2(2) and (3): http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/47/schedule/4 .
What is the pledge and how does my organisation sign up to it?
The pledge is a public declaration that your organisation will accept younger volunteers. We want to let young people in Bexley know that they have the opportunity to get involved in their community, learn new skills, help others, and make a difference.
There are two levels of pledge, the ‘Youth Pledge’ and ‘Youth Pledge Plus’.
The Youth Pledge means you commit to accepting volunteers from the age of 16. The pledge does not mean you have to accept every young person – as with any potential volunteer you must satisfy yourself that they are right for the role – simply that you will not view the person’s age in itself as a barrier. It also does not mean that every role you offer has to be available at this age where there are health and safety or safeguarding concerns.
Youth Pledge Plus means that in addition to accepting volunteers from the age of 16 you will consider volunteers below that age. Again, this does not mean taking on any younger person into any role. As well as the suitability of the potential volunteer you should also consider the suitability of the role and be satisfied that it is a safe and appropriate volunteer opportunity for the young person.
stating which pledge you are making, and we’ll publicise it on our website.