Volunteering the key

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I was delighted to read your article about David Blunkett’s proposal for a volunteering programme for young people (MP calls for scheme to stop future riots).

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has provided a structure to encourage, facilitate and recognise volunteering by young people for over 50 years and has proved resilient to political change, financial constraints and fashion.

Over 275,000 young people are involved in the DofE. In the last year 208,466 new young people started their DofE Award journey (a year-on-year increase of 13%).

The demand by young people for the DofE experience is growing and is greater than we have the resources to support. Thousands are turned away by their local authority youth service, school or youth group each year through lack of resources. Heart-breaking and frustrating to me.

Volunteering is a key component of the DofE. We calculate the value of young people’s time, dedicated to supporting their local communities, at £21m a year.

The DofE works with and through the most comprehensive network of youth and community organisations in the UK. Our experience of working with the complete range of ability and background (prisons to private schools, army cadets to foyers) confirms to us that David Blunkett is correct in his view that young people will respond positively to opportunity presented to them by enthusiastic, motivated and skilled adults.

Volunteering is at the heart of the DofE network. Some 45,000 adult volunteers give over two million hours of their time each year.

A very conservative calculation of the social value of their efforts is £15.25m.

There are excellent organisations and programmes (most of them linked through the DofE network) that can do more if given the resources.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has built a reputation as a badge of high achievement. It is that recognition that gives credibility for the young person leaving prison or school. It is trusted and valued by employers, higher education and parents.

Peter Westgarth, chief executive, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award