Young Volunteers

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Volunteering for young people is a fantastic way to build up social and professional skills, learn new ways of working and contribute to the wider community.

Why include young volunteers?

Young people can bring a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and commitment to a volunteering role and provide a new dimension to your work. They can:

  • Provide peer support to your beneficiaries
  • Help give a voice to other young people so that their views and experiences of your service can shape future work
  • Help you to develop partnerships and networks with other organisations that support young people e.g. schools, youth groups and other voluntary organisations.
  • Help promote your work to the wider community e.g. parents, residents and other communities

This is what some of the organisations that work with young volunteers have said about these younger team members:

“An invaluable asset to the team”
“The impact he made was significant and highly valued by the project”
“We rely on volunteers like Craig to be able to provide a quality service, as such he is a valuable member of the team”

How does volunteering benefit your young volunteers?

Giving young people an opportunity to volunteer within your organisation has the potential to provide life-changing experiences and benefit their future plans. It is widely recognised that volunteering can be advantageous for a young person:

  • Building professional and personal skills
  • Providing employment experience in a young person’s chosen occupation or career path
  • Giving them a break from the norm and a chance to try something completely different

The Curriculum of Excellence has stipulated a need for volunteering opportunities for young people as it too recognises that through volunteering, young people can:

  • Develop their identity
  • Develop into active and positive citizens within their communities
  • Build social skills and social networks

Involving Young Volunteers: Policies and Procedures

Below is a brief description of the Policies and Procedures we recommend you have in place if you are supporting young volunteers. Please remember that if you already have volunteers in your organisation, you are likely to already have some of these in place.

Health and Safety Policy

All voluntary and community groups, including those run entirely by volunteers, have a common-law duty of care to volunteers. Volunteer-involving organisations should have an up to date health and safety policy. Health and Safety legislation, responsibilities and requirements must be observed and made known to all staff and volunteers through an induction process. See Volunteers and Health and Safety

Risk Assessments

Each volunteering role should be risk assessed by a competent person in order to ensure safe working conditions. See Volunteer Risk Management

Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy (including Volunteer Scotland Disclosure Services)

Organisations working with children and young people should have a robust Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy in place. Clear procedures should also be present including a thorough screening procedure for potential volunteers.

Individuals working with children aged 16 or 17 on work experience are exempt by paragraph 2(a) of Schedule 2 of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 as the children are themselves working. In respect of younger children on work experience (and who are not themselves employed) neither paragraph 2(a) or (b) of Schedule 2 offers any exemption. But it is to be expected that most employees in the organisation working with such children would not be doing regulated work because their interaction with children would either; not be one of the activities; not be their normal duties; or be incidental. For example any care offered to children on a work placement would have to be above and beyond what is normally provided to employees for this to be any more than incidental. In practice, only any individuals(s) allocated special responsibilities for the children for the entire duration of their placement is (are) likely to be doing regulated work. See Volunteer Criminal Disclosures PVG Scheme and Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (

Employers/Public Liability Insurance

All organisations working with young volunteers should have an insurance policy that covers them. Insurance should cover all individuals, regardless of age. However, if you are working with volunteers below the age of 16, it is worth checking your Insurance Policy.

See Insuring Volunteers for more information.

Employers Liability Insurance

If you employ paid staff you are legally required to have Employers Liability Insurance. This insurance is designed to protect your organisation in the event of an employee being killed, injured or made sick as a result of working for you. It does not automatically cover your volunteers. It is good practice to ensure that your Employers Liability Insurance does in fact cover your volunteers and you should check that your policy specifically mentions volunteers.

See Insuring Volunteers for more information.

Public Liability Insurance

Public Liability Insurance often causes the most confusion. While there is no legal requirement for an organisation to carry Public Liability Insurance, not doing so will put your organisation at serious risk. Public Liability Insurance is designed to cover you for any liability to claims from members of the public (or any third party – but not employees) as a result of harm or loss caused to them which happens because of your business activities. Volunteers may be considered as a third party under the policy. Therefore if any harm or loss occurs to them because of you – they could claim against you and your policy would cover you. It is important to clarify with your Public Liability Insurer that volunteers are regarded as third parties and not as unpaid employees. Your public liability insurance also needs to cover you for claims from third parties harmed by the actions of your volunteers. Again you should check with your insurance provider.

See Insuring Volunteers for more information.

Equal Opportunities and Diversity policy

All Volunteer involving organisations should have a full equal opportunities and diversity policy.

See Equality and Diversity in Volunteering for more information.


You have to think about how accessible you can make your volunteering for young people and one of the ways to do this is to ensure that you are able to pay a volunteer’s expenses to ensure that they are not out of pocket for giving their time to you. Key points to consider:

  • Only reimburse volunteers for expenses actually incurred in the course of their volunteering
  • Ensure that you keep good records of expense payments

Reasonable expenses include:

  • Travel to and from the place of volunteering
  • Travel undertaken in the course of volunteering
  • Childcare (crèche or child minding) or other caring expenses
  • Food and refreshments while volunteering
  • Postage, telephone calls etc. paid for by the volunteer
  • Materials to do voluntary work (e.g. paper, pens etc.) paid for by volunteer
  • Cost of equipment, protective clothing etc.
  • Attendance at training events and courses relevant to their volunteering


Young volunteers should have the opportunity to receive training in the role that is designed for them. At a basic level, we would expect all volunteers to receive induction training from the organisation to ensure that young people understand their role, the organisation and related policies. When designing your volunteer role description, it was worth looking at what, if any, other training should be provided for the volunteer.

Younger volunteers (under 16)

There are no legal restrictions when it comes to minimum ages and volunteering so you can think about opening up your volunteer opportunities to younger volunteers aged under 16. Think about what measurers you can put together to support the younger volunteer and whether you would need a responsible adult to accompany them e.g. a parent, guardian or teacher. Key things to consider when taking on a volunteer under 16:

  • Check your insurance, some policies have a minimum age of 16 or 18
  • Check when your volunteering can take place, i.e. is it at weekends when younger people are available?
  • Check your child protection policy and procedures
  • Thoroughly risk assess the role and put in place the appropriate control measures
  • Consider obtaining written consent from the young person’s Parent/Guardian and from the school if volunteering during school hours.

Designing your volunteer task

A key thing to remember when putting together a volunteer role is that it has to be appealing, rewarding and something the volunteer looks forward to. For young people this also has to fit around whatever else is going on in their lives, for example, school or college, jobs or training or perhaps caring responsibilities. Think about:

  • The purpose of the role: why does this job need doing and what impact does this have on the organisation
  • Suggest activities: what tasks and activities need to be completed in order to fulfil the purpose of this role
  • Skills, knowledge and attributes: what does the volunteer need to have in order to fulfil these activities. Remember that young people can bring lots of great personal attributes to an organisation, so think about how things like confidence, communication and positive attitudes can benefit the role.
  • What will they gain: think about what activities will give young people valuable experiences and interesting challenges.
  • When and where: think about when you need the role to take place, what time commitment you are looking for. Also consider where the role will take place. Think about the timing of the role and its suitability for young people.
  • Review the role: consider what activities you are asking the volunteer to do, is it too much? (can you split the role up) is it too little? (can it be shared with another role that needs doing)
  • Who can supervise: every volunteer should have someone who is responsible for their supervision and support.
  • Training: how are you going to train the volunteer in this role

Personal support for your volunteer

There may be times when your young volunteer needs some additional support. It might be that there are factors outside a young person’s volunteering that you become aware of and perhaps need to find support for them. There are a great number of support agencies that can be accessed for young people that can support them depending on their need. Below is non-exhaustive list of specialist services for young people.

Young Scot: An information portal for young people in Scotland.

Shelter Scotland:Information and guidance for young people affected by homelessness.

NHS Young People: A website for young people on a whole range of health issues.

Enquire: From Children in Scotland, this is a web portal that provides educational support to young people.

Children 1st: A list of services for young people including, advocacy, befriending and support for victims of abuse.

Alcohol Support: Advice and guidance on alcohol related issues.

Recognising and Awarding your Volunteers

A great option to be able to offer your young volunteers is an award that reflects the learning and skills development that young people often acquire through their volunteering. In Scotland, there is a choice out there for your organisation if you are thinking about officially recognising your young volunteers, below is a short overview of the options.


The Saltire Award Volunteer Centre Edinburgh also supports the Saltire Awards. New in 2011 this government endorsed awards that recognises commitment to volunteering at a variety of levels. A young person can progress through the stages or enter/exit the programme where they chose to. It is completely flexible, accessible to young people regardless of ability, circumstance or lifestyle. The Saltire Award consists of 4 sections:

  1. The Challenge: this is a great way to start. Volunteer in a one-off team event to get a real taste of volunteering, see if it’s for you and make a real difference to your community. Start a team with friends or classmates or join one that’s already organised in your local area. Build your teamwork skills, have a really fun time and you’ll get a certificate after taking part.
  2. The Approach: Ready to give volunteering a go? The Approach gives you the recognition for the regular volunteering you undertake whether it be in the community, with a charity, at school or part of a youth group. You choose the project and fit it around your need. You’ll discover more about your skills, strengths and receive certificates after 10 and 25 hours of volunteering.
  3. The Ascent: Taking volunteering to the next level. Develop your skills and strengths through placements and make a longer commitment to volunteering. You can record your achievements, training, new skills and certificates in your personal online journal, keeping them handy for any university, college or work applications. You can get certificates of 50, 100, 200 and 500 hours.
  4. The Summit: Volunteering above and beyond expectations! This award is for an outstanding contribution to volunteering. It is awarded to those who have completed 200 hours and have exceeded expectations. A volunteer is nominated for this level of Award (e.g. by the organisation they volunteer for, their school, college or local volunteer development worker).

Saltire Ambassadors (16-25): Having completed any level of the Ascent Award, young people can become Saltire Ambassadors and assisting in a variety of possible roles: helping organise challenge events, organising award ceremonies, doing promotional workshops etc. These certificates can be used as evidence of work experience for job applications and on UCAS and college applications. What’s more, the process to register your volunteers to receive these awards is easy and does not require a burdensome amount of paperwork. Once you have young people engaged in volunteering within your organisation, register your young people and get them recognised for the commitment they give you! Please contact for guidance on how to register or visit the Saltire Awards website.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is achieved by completing a personal programme of activities in four sections:

  • Volunteering
  • Physical
  • Skill
  • Expedition

There are three levels Bronze, Silver and Gold for which different time commitments to volunteering are required. Gold also requires a residential.

Youth Achievement Awards

Youth Achievement Awards enables young people to develop as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors; and recognise young people's contributions in a variety of settings including youth work, volunteering, active citizenship, alternative curriculum and formal education.

The awards recognise four levels of responsibility taken by young people participating in activities that interest them. Bronze is about young people taking part, at Silver young people assist - sharing responsibility with others, at Gold they take individual responsibility to organise, and at Platinum they undertake training and lead. Youth Achievement Awards can be used within existing youth work programmes. The Awards are accredited by the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) and are credit rated and levelled by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).


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