Prince Charles launches youth volunteering campaign

Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Prince Charles, Ed Miliband at the launch of Step Up 2 Serve
Image caption Step Up 2 Serve wants to encourage 50% of young people to get involved in volunteering

The Prince of Wales has launched a campaign to get more young people interested in volunteering, in a bid to tackle unemployment and gang violence.

Step Up 2 Serve aims to increase those aged 10-20 involved in social projects from 29% to 50% by 2020.

The prince said he was inspired to act after meeting the parents of children who had been violently killed.

He was joined by the three main political leaders for the launch at Buckingham Palace.

'Huge challenge'

Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition leader Ed Miliband joined Prince Charles - along with 50 young people - to start the #iwill pledge campaign.

The prince described the initiative as "a huge but exciting challenge" - but admitted "it may look as though we have bitten off more than we can chew".

He told 200 guests that youth organisations can help "transform lives" but said it required a "giant, unique and collaborative effort".

Earlier this week, the prince told the Mail on Sunday that listening to families who had lost children to street murders had inspired him to find "solutions to a problem which has blighted too many lives".

He said such tragedies were the "extreme result of too many young people no longer guided through a rite of passage" and believed part of the solution was in providing "more structured activities for young people".

He also praised the "bravery and courage" shown by Barry and Margaret Mizen, whose teenage son Jimmy was murdered in south-east London in 2008.

Mr and Mrs Mizen, who have been campaigning to end violence in London through the Jimmy Mizen Foundation, spoke at the launch.

"We have always said since the early days after Jimmy's death that the changes that we need to certain areas of our society will only come when we all take responsibility for our own actions," Mr Mizen said.

"There is a part for everybody to play and for everybody to be part of improving society."

Mrs Mizen added: "Today is about is not giving up on our young people."

Step Up 2 Serve will work with groups including the The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, the National Citizen Service and the Scouts.

If successful, it would create almost 90m extra hours of volunteering each year.

At the moment fewer than 30% of 10 to 20-year-olds volunteer, according to research by think tank Demos.

And figures published this week by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that a fifth of young people aged 16-24 - about one million - are currently unemployed in the UK.

'Cross-party support'

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which has pledged its support to the campaign, said that increasing involvement in social action could help tackle the issue of youth unemployment.

Image caption The parents of murdered schoolboy Jimmy Mizen called for people to take part in "improving society"

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: "Community volunteer work helps builds the skills and habits that all young people need for success in work and life - like teamwork, enthusiasm and resilience."

In 2012, a report commissioned by Mr Cameron revealed that an estimated 80,000 young people were waiting to get involved in social projects.

But it found that many were being held back because organisations like the Scouts, Girlguiding and DofE (Duke of Edinburgh's Award)needed more adult volunteers to satisfy the young people on their waiting lists.

Ahead of the launch, the prince praised the "complete cross-party, cross-sector support" that he said would "help youth organisations across the country increase opportunities to help young people get more actively involved".

Mr Cameron said that a key element of the campaign, National Citizen Service - which encourages 16 and 17-year-olds to spend a short time away from home and take part in a team project to help their community - had already been a "massive success".

"I want to see more volunteering, more philanthropy and more of the Big Society - people stepping up and taking part," he said.

Mr Clegg said that 150 companies had signed up to the Business Compact - a scheme calling on businesses to offer mentoring, work experience and internship opportunities.

He said that combining the initiative with Step Up 2 Serve would provide an "essential piece of the jigsaw" to harness young people's energy, enthusiasm and ambitions to build a better future.

"Through social action young people can see for themselves the powerful difference they can make to their own lives, and the people around them in their wider community," he added.

Mr Miliband said he wanted to see volunteering become an "accepted and central part of the experience of growing up in Britain".

"We have the chance to unlock so much potential in this country," he said.

The campaign is calling for adults across the UK to visit or to pledge their support on Twitter using the hashtag #iwill.

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