Young Scots top for social action

As Student Volunteering Week gets underway, a UK wide research report shows that young people living in Scotland have the highest levels of participation in activity that helps others.

Released today by the #iwill campaign, the independent study finds that just over half of the young scots surveyed (52%) report taking part in activities and causes that benefit others. This is higher than England (42%), Northern Ireland (18%) and Wales (48%).

Young scots were also more likely to use online tools or the internet (60%) while getting involved with causes they care about. This could be searching for opportunities, recording their journey, taking part in online activities or sharing their experiences with others. This is compared to nearly two thirds (59%) across the UK who don’t use the technology in this way.

Today’s report closely follows research by Volunteer Scotland that found 52% of young people (aged 11-18) had volunteered in the last year. The Volunteer Scotland research found youth volunteering is much more inclusive than we expected with the proportion of young people who volunteer in school time in the most deprived areas the same as the least deprived areas (both 33%).

Volunteering by young people with a physical or mental health condition (61%) was also greater than young people generally.

The #iwill research confirms the benefits to young people of taking part in activities that make a positive difference. Across the UK, those who are involved in volunteering and social action have significantly higher life-satisfaction than those who don’t, as well as having stronger personal networks.

Involvement was also shown to support confidence in gaining employment. The proportion of young people who felt it would help them to do so, rises steadily with the frequency of participation – 88% of those involved once a month thought social action would help them find work in future.

The study, carried out by Ipsos MORI, also indicates that just 17% of 10 to 20-year-olds are reluctant to take part in activities like fundraising, campaigning and volunteering. However currently 42% of this age-group are shown to be participating – suggesting that appetite isn’t matched by the opportunities available.

This third annual National Youth Social Action survey shows that trends are emerging since the #iwill campaign was launched. Young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are taking part significantly more than they were in 2013. However, this group is still taking part less than their peers.

The survey also shows that support from teachers, parents and friends to get involved is vital. Almost all young people who take part in regular social action receive some form of encouragement, compared to less than half of those who have never taken part. This insight is backed up by the finding that schools and colleges remain the most common route into social action, with teachers identified as having a particularly strong influence on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Natasha Lawton, 19, from East Dunbartonshire, an #iwill ambassador, said: “I used to struggle at school because of my dyslexia, but since I’ve started volunteering my whole life has changed. First I started helping out my kayak coach at the Glasgow Kayak Club. I really wanted to paddle competitively that year but because of my shoulder injury I wasn’t able to. Instead my coach invited me to start coaching and now my self-confidence has shot up!”

Jim Sweeney, CEO YouthLink Scotland, said: “Young people are the bedrock of our future and it’s good to see so many are getting involved in their communities. We can’t be complacent and there is so much more we can do to ensure young people have the support they need to get involved and make a difference.”

Louise Macdonald, Chief Executive of Young Scot said: “As today’s report makes clear, young Scots are making a huge difference in their local communities. The benefits of getting involved in a cause or group you believe are clear. It’s wonderful to hear that young Scot’s are leading the way for the rest of us.”

Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive, Step Up To Serve and the #iwill campaign:Growing up in a turbulent and ever-changing world can feel pretty challenging.  Young people want to know they can make a difference – do something to improve the world and their communities. Which is why this new research is fantastic – confirming that social action supports young people to develop skills, improve their well-being and build links with others. That’s why we’re calling on new partners to join the #iwill campaign and support even more young people to experience the benefits of social action and make positive change in the world.”