This is the start of National Volunteer's Week and an opportunity for all of us in the charity sector to celebrate the incredible, dedicated work done by volunteers, who give their time so freely and generously to help our causes.
Barnardo's currently has more than 15,000 volunteers throughout the UK, of all ages and from all walks of life.
They operate the tills in our stores, support vulnerable children in our services, and raise funds for our work. Their time is given generously and every minute of it is appreciated. Without their dedication, Barnardo's simply would not function as well as it does - their work is invaluable to our cause.
But volunteering should be rewarding for volunteers, too. I know from my own personal experience of volunteering as a teacher that there can be an enormous amount of pride in helping to make a difference to the lives of others.
As a charity, Barnardo's works hard to ensure that any volunteering opportunity we provide is a two way street. We benefit enormously from the kindness of our volunteers and we want to return the favour by ensuring that we give them opportunities which enhance the lives of those who commit to helping us.
When it comes to young people, we recognise how essential it is that our volunteering opportunities provide relevant experiences and skills training which will help in their quest towards sustainable employment. With youth unemployment continuing to be a serious issue for 16-24 year olds, we want the learning gained by young people who volunteer with us to contribute to them being able to show future employers that they already have some experience of operating in a workplace.
Wherever possible, Barnardo's is committed to working with the government, other voluntary and private sectors to develop practical solutions to youth unemployment. Which is why we also deliver voluntary elements of the government's Work and Work Experience programmes. Through this we are well on the way to helping an additional 2,500 unemployed young people into paid jobs through these two programmes alone.
However, in doing so, we have been very clear that we are against the principle of mandatory work activity or benefits sanctions for those who 'pull out' of voluntary or work experience programmes. In fact in 2012 we successfully helped persuade the government to drop any sanctions for young people taking part in the Work Experience programme.
It is critical that as a society we all work together to ensure that we have sufficient opportunities in place to help make the rhetoric of social mobility a reality for more young people. At Barnardo's, we know from experience that most young people are willing and able to learn and to work but they may feel like giving up if there are insufficient opportunities for them to climb on to the first rung of the employment ladder.
It is because of the dedication of our volunteers that Barnardo's is able to transform the lives of the UK's most vulnerable children. And so we will continue to provide volunteering opportunities for young and old alike, because we believe that there is value in volunteering for all.