Harnessing the power of young people to transform health and social care services. - RSA

Harnessing the power of young people to transform health and social care services

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  • Picture of Fiona Ellison
    Fiona Ellison
    Campaigns Manager (Voluntary & Public Sector), Step Up To Serve
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Public services

There have been a number of developments recently which have seen a big uplift in the acknowledgement that voluntary action, and the voluntary sector, within the health and social care space is not about cost saving, but facilitates the transformation of health services through a multitude of activities. We now have an opportunity to influence the future generation, who will ultimately hold our health service in their hands, to understand its complexities; shape its development and be invested in their health and the health of those in their communities.

With the Five Year Forward Vision, and through the Health as a Social Movement work that has spun out of the vision, there is now huge potential to engage young people, and the communities they represent, to work together to produce better health outcomes for current and future generations.

The #iwill campaign is keen to see a considerable growth in the number of young people involved in high quality social action, demonstrating their ability to impact on their communities.

Volunteers are crucial in health and social care, and there is increasing evidence that volunteering can help transform health and social care services, and bring about real improvements for patients and the wider public. By opening up more opportunities for young people to volunteer, campaign, and fundraise in health and social care settings, a new generation could be developed who are more aware of how to look after themselves and those around them.

By focusing on increasing community engagement in health and social care through getting more young people involved, we can create an army of lifelong volunteers while also investing in the workforce and patients of the future.

  • In the NHS only 5% of the workforce is under 25, compared to 12% for the English working population

  • Involving young people in social action is also a recommended way to address the lack of social integration that costs our economy an estimated six billion pounds each year 

  • The involvement of volunteers in activity such as befriending can act as a preventative strategy, and for the average trust, every pound invested in volunteering could yield £11 in added value

However above the monetary and economic arguments there is also a more emotional reason to work with young people. In a report that the #iwill campaign compiled, almost all the organisations interviewed mentioned the powerful contribution young people can make, simply by bringing enthusiasm and a fresh outlook to the table

The report argues for the creation of a shared vision for the voluntary and health and social care sectors, to ensure opportunities are supported and promoted. We believe that organisations need to recognise and value the impact that young people can have in supporting a health service fit for the future, and that we should empower and support young people to develop social action opportunities to address challenges that they see in their communities.

What can you do to shape this work? Share your ideas and make a pledge to the #iwill campaign to showcase your commitment to engaging young people in developing the future of health and social care support in this country.

About the #iwill campaign

The #iwill campaign is coordinated by charity Step Up To Serve, is backed by leaders from across UK society, and led by HRH The Prince of Wales with renewed support from all of the main political parties. The campaign’s vision of every young person in the UK taking part in ‘quality’ social action will be achieved by inspiring leaders from across society to think about what they can do to help – whether that’s creating opportunities themselves, or recognising what young people have achieved through social action. Both individuals and organisations are encouraged to pledge their support for the campaign online, and show what action they will take to achieve this cultural shift.

Fiona Ellison is contributing as part of a wide stakeholder engagement process which aims to foster new approaches to health and social care. 


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  • Congratulations to Fiona and all concerned! As a young volunteer 50 years ago, I learned so much about people and the emotional challenges they faced in their lives (and about the organisations involved in mental health and social care), that I made it into my career! Today we need the help, enthusiasm and vision of young people, to drive social action and mobilize volunteering, so that together we can change the context of health and social care.

    Good luck,

    Liam Hughes

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