Young people from under-represented groups will have improved access to volunteering following a £1.16 million funding boost for the Volunteering Futures Fund from NHS Charities Together and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – in a programme the Government describes as an ‘important step towards improving accessibility’ that will help ‘level up the country’.
Designed to offer high-quality opportunities to those experiencing barriers to volunteering, the new Volunteering Futures Fund will target underrepresented groups including communities facing socio-economic disadvantages, people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and disabled young people. These new projects will help further develop crucial skills like team working and problem-solving, increase confidence and self-esteem, and build relationships and social networks.
NHS Charities Together is one of three delivery partners, along with Arts Council England and Pears Foundation. In total, DCMS is investing £6.25 million in the Volunteering Futures Fund – with additional funding from NHS Charities Together and Pears Foundation bringing the total to over £7.4 million. Arts Council England will announce its grant awards later this year.
The past two years have highlighted the vital role volunteers can play in helping people, communities and the NHS recover from the pandemic. The Volunteering Futures Fund will create a range of challenging and rewarding opportunities for young people to build their future success in education and the workplace and, crucially, make these opportunities accessible to all.
With match funding from DCMS, NHS Charities Together will provide grants totalling £1,160,779 to 14 projects in England. Project activities will include digital-led opportunities such as content creation, sports leadership, and roles in clinical settings such as virtual visitor roles, building relationships with patients through meal companion programmes, dementia and mental health support, and other roles supporting essential hospital services and the long-term recovery of the NHS.
Over £90,000 has been awarded to the Youth Volunteering Champions project developed by Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust Charities. The programme will run alongside SCORE (Supporting Career Opportunities, Recruitment and Employment), a similar initiative in collaboration with Aston Villa Football Club Foundation, which offers 16–30-year-olds volunteer placements, giving them confidence and experience in a healthcare setting.
Funding for Moorfields Eye Charity will support volunteering at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Their new project, run in partnership with The Friends of Moorfields will engage young people to co-create and roll out digital workshops for 11–18-year-olds, educating them on the anatomy of the eye with advice from nurses, technicians, and other health professionals. Another area of volunteering at Moorfields will see young people sharing digital skills and knowledge with older patients, who may be experiencing digital exclusion from the health service and other parts of life.
Liam Bayes, Project Manager at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to share with young people at secondary schools across London and beyond our passion for eye health, the importance of research in improving eye care and the roles people from the most diverse backgrounds can play in the NHS. We hope that we will be able reach young people from all communities and show them that volunteering in the NHS can be flexible, a good use of their digital skills, and is, above all, immensely
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, we are delighted to partner with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Arts Council England and Pears Foundation, and together roll out the Volunteering Futures Fund.”
“As part of our commitment to tackle community inequalities, we believe the Volunteering Futures Fund will provide important, life-changing opportunities for young people from all backgrounds who are currently facing barriers to volunteering. We’re excited to be a part of it and see the difference it can make not only to those involved, but to the volunteering landscape overall.”
Thanks to generous support from the British public, we have been able to allocate over £110 million during 2020, with millions more continuing to be allocated during 2021 and working with the network of 238 NHS charities across the UK, we have been able to fund more than 400 new projects supporting NHS staff – including training for emergency response volunteers, helplines, counselling, and dedicated psychological support for post-traumatic stress disorder – and over 700 community partnership projects that support the long-term recovery of the NHS.
Minister for Sport, Tourism and Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston, said: “There are so many benefits to volunteering such as improving mental health, learning new skills and developing new interests, and becoming part of a community.”
“I’m delighted that this match funding boost from DCMS and NHS Charities Together is supporting 14 important projects making opportunities accessible to young people and others from under-represented groups.”
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