Charity retailers turn to teenagers to fill volunteer gap

While charity shops are now expected to be a treasure trove of
"We rely on the generosity of the public to fund our life-saving research" - Cancer Research UK.
// Up to 95,000 volunteer roles in charity shops could be filled by teenagers as the sector prepares to exit lockdown
// The One Million Hours of Doing Good campaign will encourage those aged 16-18 to sign up to volunteer over summer

Charity shops have struck a deal with a leading youth programme to help fill up to 95,000 volunteer roles as the sector recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Teenagers could help plug a temporary gap in volunteers as shops start reopening their doors when lockdown on non-essential retailers eases from June 15, and if enough come forward they could speed up the sector’s recovery and help more shops open sooner.

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is partnering with charity shops for the first phase of its One Million Hours of Doing Good campaign, which will encourage those aged 16-18 to transform their “summer of disappointment” through volunteering.


It estimates around 100,000 teenagers could engage with the programme, based on the uptake of previous schemes, but hopes more will take part given the disruption of normal activities.

The charity sector has been badly hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, with charity retailers in the UK losing around £3.4 million in sales a day for their parent charities.

England’s 9500 charity shops are expected to face a double whammy of increased donations and a diminished volunteer base as they begin their staggered reopening from June 15.

The Charity Retail Association (CRA) fears up to half of volunteers may be unable to return immediately, due to shielding, public transport struggles and feeling unable to leave the house during the pandemic.

Currently, around 17 per cent of charity shop volunteers in the UK are under 25.

The average charity shop relies on around 20 voluntary staff, and assuming half of them are unable to resume duties immediately that leaves up to 95,000 unfilled roles across England.

CRA chief executive Robin Osterley said it was the first recruitment drive specifically targeted at young people.

“Young people have a genuine sense of what is right and what is good, and I think it will be something they will jump at,” he told PA Wires.

“Before Covid hit us, I believe there was a real zeitgeist happening in terms of people shopping more ethically – ‘I would rather have the profits of my purchase go to a good cause’.

“We were definitely seeing a big appetite for shopping in charity shops amongst younger people developing, and I think this is a great opportunity for young people to engage with that agenda and do some good, alongside our existing valued volunteers.”

The NCS said 44 per cent of 1032 16-17-year-olds they surveyed in April said they were desperate to support their communities but did not know how to get involved.

From June 8, they will be able to sign up at the NCS to help their local charity shop.

NCS Trust chief executive Mark Gifford said more than 600,000 young people have engaged with its online Stay Connected hub, launched in April as part of an alternative to its usual residential programme.

“The age barrier of being under 18 should not hold back this huge group of young national citizens who are ready to play a valuable role in our country’s recovery,” he said.

“With many young people missing out on their planned work experience, volunteering will also provide an alternative route to develop essential life skills that can’t be learnt in a classroom environment.

“NCS will enable 16 and 17-year-olds to turn a summer of disappointment and restrictions into a summer of ‘No We Can’.”

with PA Wires

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