Full-time social action update

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) conducted an independent review into full-time social action late last year. The review explored ways in which government could support growth in full-time volunteering for young people, inspired in part by large national schemes in countries like the USA, France and Germany.

The government has now responded to this review, offering its support to some of the recommendations and work that is already underway to grow and improve social action.

Achieving best outcomes

The government response reiterates the recommendation made in the review, which directly called for NCVO to lead an exercise – along with NNVIA, Volunteering Matters, the Association of Volunteer Managers and V-Inspired – to develop ‘non-mandatory guidelines specific to 16–25 year olds’.

There is a lack of good practice guidance aimed at organisations which support full-time social action programmes, and who must grapple with challenges that are different and distinct from other forms of volunteer management. Many issues take on heightened importance in the full-time context. For example, managers must negotiate complex legal issues around stipends and training. They must meet additional expectations of personal and professional development. They must also think carefully about the relationship between paid staff and full-time volunteers.

We’ve already started discussions with the organisations mentioned above, as well as a broader group of volunteering experts from charities such as City Year UK, Wildlife Trusts and the Scouts Association, with the aim of identifying exactly what these distinctive challenges are and how best to address them. Based on these discussions, we will develop the good practice guidance needed to fill the gap, which we hope will support more organisations to deliver consistent and high-quality opportunities, with best outcomes for young participants.

Something to build on

We largely welcomed the Steve Holliday review as a sensible approach to growing full-time social action as part of an approach to create a broader, more accessible landscape for young people to give their time in.

Some organisations however were disappointed by the review for not calling for large-scale change, particularly around the issue of a new legal status. It is likely that there will again be some disappointment with the government’s response. There is little in the way of firm commitments, particularly around a proposed pilot scheme and the recommendation that DCMS should commission further research and evaluation over impact.

Nonetheless, the response does outline important work already being carried out to take forward recommendations from the review.

For example, the Careers and Enterprise Company, in conjunction with Step up to Serve, have secured significant funding to develop a toolkit of interactive resources to embed social action in school careers plans. Steve Holliday is also taking forward work with Business in the Community to coordinate businesses commitment and support to youth projects in their communities. Meanwhile, there are soft acknowledgements of how JCP staff can be better informed of rules around volunteering on benefits.

While there is nothing ground-breaking here, and no quick-wins for full-time providers, there is much to build on and develop. We can expect a much fuller idea of the government’s vision on the role of social action, from micro-volunteering to full-time social action, in the upcoming Civil Society Strategy.


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Avatar photo Up until July 2018, Will supported NCVO’s policy work on volunteering development. His interests include the role of volunteering in public services and removing barriers to youth volunteering. He produced the monthly volunteering round-up blog and supported Volunteers’ Week.

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