The full-time social action review has concluded that legislative change to allow a legal definition of full time volunteering is not needed at this time, despite the situation being “not ideal”.
The review, which was chaired by Crisis chair Steve Holliday, was published over the weekend. It concluded that the evidence base “is not strong enough at present to recommend legislative change to widen access, given competing government priorities for Parliamentary time”.
The consultation on full-time social action ran from September to October 2017 and aimed to seek views on the benefits and barriers for young people. City Year UK led a campaign for more rights for young people who want to volunteer full time and a legal definition of full-time volunteering.
Concerns had been raised that a legal status for full-time volunteering would be open to abuse.
City Year UK has criticised the quality of Holliday's report and said that the time has come for “decisive action”.
The Steve Holliday report into Full Time Social Action made eight recommendations and has been delivered to Tracey Crouch, minister for civil society. It concluded that there is “more that government can do without legislative change to unlock the role of the private sector, statutory services and civil society in order to embed full-time social action into life in the UK, and ensure that the least advantaged young people are able to take part”.
The report, which drew upon consultation responses from over 180 organisations and individuals, said that due to a mixed response to full-time social action and limited experience of it, more evidence is needed before the government could instigate a major drive to increase social action programmes that involve over 16 hours of work a week for six months or more.
Social action plays role in improving job prospects and wellbeing
The review concluded that committed forms of social action over an extended period have been shown to play a “critical role in developing a young person's life chances, improving job prospects and wellbeing”.
It said they can add value to government-supported programmes such as the National Citizen Service, the International Citizen Service and commitments to the #iwill campaign. It said that there is an “enhanced role for government to support the private sector, statutory services and civil society in embedding social action into the lives of all young people in the United Kingdom”.
However, it said there was not enough evidence for legislative change.
The review said that cross-departmental work is key in achieving greater social mobility and social inclusion through full-time social action. It called for a ministerial group to be brought together which would collate the interests of all government departments in optimising the value of youth social action.
Time and cost a ‘significant barrier’
The review also noted that young people from the poorest backgrounds “tend to be the least likely to access structured social action opportunities, even though they may benefit significantly from participating”.
It said that increased level of time and potential cost required for full-time social action is a “significant barrier for this group, as well as knowledge about and access to local opportunities”. It said more action needs to be taken to involve young people in the design and delivery of programmes.
Leo Watson, public affairs manager at City Year UK, said: “The quality of the report is disappointing. Despite acknowledging that the government should do more to support, encourage and recognise full-time volunteers, it hasn’t painted a broad enough picture of how youth full-time social action could be successful in a UK context.
“Whilst we at City Year UK hold firm that a legal status is the best way to provide support and recognition for full-time volunteers, the time has come for decisive action. We will work closely with the government to build an enhanced evidence base by implementing some of the more practical recommendations made by Steve Holliday and the panel.”
Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, said: "I am pleased to see that the independent report clearly acknowledges the value of full-time social action. The recommendations are closely aligned with what is already considered best practice in volunteering, and I’m confident that they will be an important tool in making full-time social action, and indeed all forms of volunteering, even more accessible and inclusive across all sections of society. At NCVO we’ve long believed that we need to do more to make it easier for people to get involved in their community.
"The recommendations on greater clarity for job centres are especially welcome. Young people are often unsure of their rights around volunteering while job-seeking, so NCVO has been calling for better support for job coaches for some time, so they can help young people harness the opportunities that volunteering provides.
"We look forward to continuing our work with the department for work and pensions on this matter. We’ll also work with our partners to take forward the proposals on developing guidelines for organisations involving young people in full-time social action and on encouraging charities to better support young people in their social action journey."