Running Youth Volunteering Programmes within the NHS – The Good and the Ugly

Tags: Webinar

16th March 2021


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Vy Tran Salma Abdi

Many thanks to our panellists, Katie Thomson, Youth Volunteering Manager, at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, and Lily Makurah, Director of Partnerships for Health and the Environment, at #Iwill, for joining the webinar in November.

Below is the webinar recording for you to watch and we also include the questions that the audience asked with the answers.

Should you wish to contact the panellists for more questions, please send them to me at

Q&A for Katie Thomson:

What training do young volunteers have?

Any volunteer at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital (regardless of age, programme or role) has to complete a Core Induction Day. This proportionally covers the Trust’s ‘Core Skills and Education’ modules which staff are required to complete online. We have taken these modules and turned them into a face to face deliver session. Incorporated into this are sessions on expectations, boundaries and conversation skills.

Youth Volunteers usually have a dedicated training session – this is purely for social purposes. They are more than welcome to attend any training session we are running in the month.

In addition to this we run regular training on the following topics for any volunteer all run within the Trust by the relevant specialist staff –

  • Dementia awareness
  • Disability Awareness
  • Domestic violence awareness

How have you recruited them – are they all medical or health & care students?

Key to recruitment has been making contact with local schools and education providers – not always the easiest, but persistence and timing are the key to engaging education and making sure you get to the right person. It may be the careers advisor, head of year, biology teacher… each school is unique. Volunteers often then hear through ‘word of mouth’ from their peers.

To date the majority of volunteers are considering careers within health and social care. What has been great is that some of them have changed their minds on the career they wish to pursue since starting at the hospital!
Naturally, the young people who have come forward to date are the ‘self-starters’ seeking extra curricula opportunities. Although I have had a few who are interested in completely different careers – accountancy, media – who are using this as an opportunity to build on their soft skills such as communication. Now I am looking to widen the participation to individuals who don’t think volunteering is for them, and those who do not think of the NHS as a place to work beyond clinical roles. This will take a bit more work!

How many young volunteers did you have before this initiative?

I cannot give a direct answer to this one I’m afraid. There were a handful – I would guess no more than 15, and the majority at our Chelsea and Westminster Hospital site rather than West Middlesex University Hospital where I initially started the Youth Programme.

There was a much wider piece of work around ‘cleaning up’ our volunteer data across the whole service. 10 months after I started we went live with Better Impact which has really supported us to manage our volunteers.

Are their expenses covered?

Yes – as part of our funding bid a budget line was set for travel expenses. Expenses are not covered for any other volunteer who is not on the programme.

That said, not many of them have travel expenses as they have travel cards for under 17’s in London which allow free bus transport. Anyone who does incur travel costs are entitled to claim this back within the boundaries of our policy.

Can we have some more information on your group interview process please?

Selection Events for youth volunteers follow the following format –

Time – around 3 hours

Number of potential volunteers – usually around 16-18

What happens? – Potential volunteers are split into two groups.

Group One – take part in 1:1 interviews with a member of staff/a youth volunteer as well. They then do some paperwork

Group Two – Take part in a ‘who are you going to save on a lifeboat’ activity. Volunteers have a list of people they can choose to save, and a list of items. This is about considering stereotypes and not ‘judging a book by its cover.’ We also consider some patient case studies – how would you approach that patient, what activities might they be interested in/topics of conversation etc.

Any/a range of activities can be used depending on what you want to assess. For me communication, team work and being non-judgemental are important.

This is a process which I knew worked from a previous Trust I worked at. We have now adopted this process for all volunteers at the Trust, regardless of age!

How are you accessing the young people? Have you developed links with local schools / colleges, or advertising locally?…

As above – making links with local schools, colleges. Did originally advertise online too but didn’t find it very effective ( etc).

What are your outcomes? More YP going into Health jobs?

Outcomes, at the moment, are mainly focused on the benefits volunteers bring to the hospital. However we do consider the skills volunteers gain, satisfaction from their volunteer experience and how volunteering makes them feel included in their community. I am now looking at more in depth evaluation frameworks to capture data around how volunteering has supported young people into further/higher education or employment.

One of the main outcomes the funders are looking for is the creation of meaningful youth social action opportunities so at the moment a lot of the evaluation is qualitative.

Have you managed to streamline the onboarding process to help match the shorter time that younger volunteers maybe able to offer?

Yes and no. For the term time programme I just recruited for this was the timeline. This was more than enough time for everything to get completed! I find as long as you are upfront with volunteers about when you are recruiting, and the onboarding time they are generally okay. Or will make a decision that it isn’t the right opportunity for them

Beginning of June – start advertising

End of July – deadline for applications

12th & 14th August – Selection Events

16th August – October half term – references, DBS, Occupational Health

October half term – training

28th October – can sign up for first shifts

What is the age range of your volunteers?

For this programme any young person age 16-25 years old are eligible. Here is the breakdown for the summer cohort

Youth volunteer age

How many YP do do have?

I currently have 52 active volunteers. From September 2018 – September 2019 I have supported 126 young people.

How many continue volunteering after they have completed their 30 hours?

11 out of the 52 are volunteers who have been with me since last September or from our summer programme.

Have you come across any prejudice from staff towards under 18s and how have you managed this?

No, none at all that I am aware of. I was lucky that the age for volunteering at the Trust was 16 when I started. I have just developed a more meaningful opportunity and adjusted the way the programme operationally runs, including what roles they do and how they do them. Instead of having one placement for 6 months they can rotate around 5 different roles, or take part in the summer programme which is 6-8 weeks.

Have you worked with any young people looking for work in the NHS and how have you supported this?

Yes. One thing I have done is run three successful Careers Speed Networking Days. This has had a double benefit of allowing young people to make connections with professionals throughout the hospital, as well as staff meeting young people and seeing how enthusiastic they are!

One of my volunteers is about to start a job as a HCA in the hospital – I arranged a mock interview with a staff member for her.

In addition to this we have just had sign off on a pathway from volunteering to Level 2 Healthcare Support Worker Apprenticeship. On completion of 75 hours of volunteering an individual will be guaranteed an interview for this position.

What sort of roles a 10 year old may participate in?

At the moment I do not have any roles for 10 year olds. However this is something I am working on.

Other resources that may be of interest: