A wall full of clocks

One million hours of volunteering boosts social integration in England

A new report has revealed that young people in England volunteered more than 1 million hours in the past year with leading charity The Challenge, helping to promote social integration across the country.

The first impact report by The Challenge shows that more than 47,000 youngsters aged 15-18 volunteered in their community in 2017-18 through the charity’s programmes.

As part of their time on National Citizen Service (NCS) – run by The Challenge on behalf of the NCS Trust – and HeadStart – a programme that bridges the gap between education and employment – the teenagers carry out voluntary work in their communities for charities or local organisations, such as care homes, alongside people who they might not ordinarily meet in their everyday lives.

Having taken part in HeadStart, 75 per cent of participants said it was likely or very likely that they would continue volunteering. Around 50% of NCS participants felt the same – an increase of 13% from when they were asked before the programme began.

Chief executive officer of The Challenge, Oliver OBE Lee, said: “The Challenge’s vision to create a more integrated society has never felt more critical, more resonant or more relevant. Strong communities are the heartbeat of thriving societies. But Britain today is threatened by division, and the problems and solutions this report describes are critical to us all.

“Our findings show that embracing our differences, strengthening our communities, and building trust and confidence in each other help us realise the immense benefits of living in a diverse society.”

The report demonstrates that the percentage of young people who felt connected to their communities before and after completing the HeadStart programme rose by a staggering 54%, going from 33% to 87%.

The Challenge’s programmes are designed to bring people from all different backgrounds together in a way that promotes meaningful mixing and develops their development and skills in connecting with others.

Raishay, who lives in a care home in London, took part in NCS after being encouraged by his social worker and enjoyed so much he signed up to HeadStart. He said: “At first I was nervous but I got along with everyone. I made new friends I still talk to now and also developed skills such as communication and teamwork.”

The report found:

  • HeadStart created a huge uplift in the way people felt about and related to people from different walks of life to them: the significant amount of time people spent with those different to them went from 30% before HeadStart to 67% – a rise of 37%, while those who felt comfortable working with diverse groups hit 97%.
  • Seventy-nine per cent of young people said NCS helped them make friends with people from different backgrounds to those of their friends outside the programme.
  • Seventy-five per cent of NCS participants either agreed or strongly agreed that NCS encourages people to respect the experiences and viewpoints of people from different backgrounds.

The report also looks at the important work the organisation has done on with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, chaired by Chuka Umunna MP; the Government’s industry placements scheme where 91% of participants felt more confident in their skills and abilities after doing the programme; and its apprenticeship programme, Step Forward, where 93% of people completing the course went on to full-time employment, training or further and higher education.

Download the impact report and share it on social media.