Young people in Scotland are turning to volunteering in their thousands with numbers growing year on year.
As the country marks Volunteers’ Week 2017 (1 to 7 June), this is a trend reflected by the Scottish Government’s national youth volunteer initiative, the Saltire Awards, now celebrating the landmark 100,000 certificates it has awarded to young people since its launch five years ago.
The Saltire Awards aims to help broaden opportunities for 12 to 25-year-olds to volunteer and be recognised for their efforts. Voluntary Action Scotland (VAS) and the network of 32 local Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) manage the programme, introduced in 2012 after a Scottish pilot. Since then, it has grown from 14,000 certificates awarded in 2012/13 to 27,000 in 2016/17.
In Aberdeen ACVO handed out 1044 certificates last year with 503 new young people registering for the awards during the same period – another record year for the awards and youth volunteering locally.
Since the scheme began in 2012 an incredible 268,792 hours of volunteering by young people in Aberdeen has been recognised by the awards.
While celebrating their achievements, the Saltire Awards encourages young people to try out new ideas and record their volunteering experiences, as well as the valuable life skills they gain. Incorporating the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, it helps them become successful learners and far more confident, content and responsible individuals, who go on to become significant contributors to society with greater job prospects.
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities said: “I am delighted that over 100,000 Saltire Awards have now been presented to young people for their remarkable volunteering achievements, which shows their commitment to making a difference.
“We should all be very proud of the increase we have seen in our youth volunteering rate. I congratulate not only the volunteers but also the agencies, which are developing youth volunteering opportunities across Scotland.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our communities and we remain committed to doing all we can to ensure everyone who wants to volunteer can do so.”
Commenting on a growing trend that looks set to continue, Allan Johnstone, Acting Chief Executive, VAS said: “While volunteering enables young people to contribute to their local communities in ways that are enjoyable, fun and creative, they bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm, offering valuable solutions to communities and voluntary organisations especially in challenging times.
“The substantial benefits that volunteering brings to our country, go way beyond the estimated £2.6 billion it is worth to the Scottish economy. For one, the ethos of support that young people take with them into adult life is a fundamental part of this country’s social fabric. As we celebrate 100,000 certificates during Volunteers’ Week 2017, we are delighted to be able to reward their significant impact on society through the awards.
“We also want to recognise the valuable input of the TSIs. By continuing their development work at a local level and encouraging sign up to the Saltire Awards, our aim to inspire even more young people to come on board and safeguard the culture of volunteering for generations to come.”