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They make the difference

They make the difference

24th February 2017

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has recently published its theme for the 2017 Volunteer Week – it’s “You make the difference”.

Here at Youth United we hear, on a daily basis, incredible, inspiring stories about young people and uniformed youth groups making the difference in the communities they live and operate. Only back in October we wrote about Tarik Hardadou, a Volunteer Police Cadet who won a Lord Ferrers Best VPC Individual Award in recognition of giving 1000 hours of social action to the Moroccan community in London. After Tarik, came De’Niro and Olivia, whose direction in life was completely changed by the Fire Cadets programme. In January, we brought together 14 of the best social action uniformed youth units in the country, celebrating their achievements at Buckingham Palace. Some of them had made life-saving contributions to the areas they chose to work in.

But why and how do uniformed groups make the difference? And how can we ensure that this positive development continues long-term?

In October 2016, a call for evidence was sent out each of our member organisations, with the purpose of creating a cohesive story of the impact of the uniformed youth sector. In particular, we wanted to share the great story of uniformed youth work in the UK by reviewing the existent evidence base.

What is truly exciting about uniformed youth organisations is that the research base matches the young people’s experience. Based on the impact evidence, we concluded that as a result of participation in uniformed youth groups, young people are more likely to have enhanced communication skills, a higher sense of empathy and resilience.

And the young people agree: “Cadets gives me the opportunity to gain knowledge during workshops. I feel like part of the team and I enjoy being able to make a difference to my own life and other people’s on a weekly basis” (Broad Oak Sports College Volunteer Police Cadets).The review shows that self-confidence and teamwork are also improved by uniformed youth organisations, and we have heard dozens of success stories: “Since the group opened, the girls have grown in confidence – making new friends, mixing with girls from other year groups and pushing themselves to try new things like canoeing and camping” (Girlguiding, 1st Mulberry Group)

Our most recent independent evaluation established that unformed youth groups benefit the wider community. In fact, 80% of social action beneficiaries said they felt prouder of their local area as a result of activities conducted by the young people. And they’re not the only ones: “I really enjoy being part of the Fire Cadets. Wearing the uniform makes me feel proud and we do some really good things in the community” (Perry Bar Fire Cadets).

We can’t help but be extremely excited about the future because this story is far from over. Youth United will continue serving almost 1.5 million young people in the country – and together we will continue to open more and more units in disadvantaged areas.

To read a complete summary of the evidence review and access the accompanying documents, please use the following links:

Impact of uniformed youth

Research and evaluation undertaken by our members