Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Project Scotland Continues Despite Funding Cut

Scotland’s national youth service program, Project Scotland, was a roaring success, impacting youth and their communities across the country, until it received a major financial blow in April 2008. Despite efforts to lobby the government through petition and protests, the SNP government in Scotland passed legislation to drastically cut the program’s funding. The legislation reduced funding from £6.5 to £1.4 million in 2008, and then plans to effectively cease all funding in March 2009. †

Why was the funding cut for such a promising initiative? Representatives for the SNP party claim that they intended to direct the funding toward a wider range of organizations. Yet key findings of the report by Roger Tym & Partners, a leading economic development consultancy, concluded that Project Scotland is worth at least £21.4m a year to the Scottish economy. In addition, it is 10 times more effective than Jobseekers in helping young people into sustainable, long-term employment, it saves the government £1.7m a year in welfare spending, and it delivers benefits to partner organizations of £9m a year.

Despite the budget cut, Project Scotland will continue to serve as an independent organization and has taken innovative steps to secure alternative financial backing. According to its website, Project Scotland has launched a new fundraising program called Catalyst for Change, hoping to pair 50 businesses with 50 local volunteers. Companies involved in Catalyst for Change are asked to pledge £3,000 to sponsor a young person’s training and six-month placement. In return, the business receives updates about the trainee and community’s experience as well as positive press and bragging rights that they have given back to the community. Scottish businesses that are already involved include Weatherford, KCA Deutag and Opito.

Project Scotland, a national youth volunteering charity in Scotland, was known for its contribution to many Scottish communities and its distinctive way of connecting with Scottish youths through the media. The organization was established and funded by the previous Scottish government in 2004, to offer full-time volunteer placements for 16-25 year olds for three to six months in order to help their communities and develop skills for future employment. Project Scotland was also a way to address their country’s disproportionally high amount of dropout students and unemployed graduates.

Youth across Scotland were given a new hope with these unique and exciting opportunities. Scott Palmer of Auchinleck won a 2008 Young Scot award after leading a Project Scotland Initiative in his neighborhood. His team landscaped eight community gardens in their town. He then went on to start and lead Auchinleck’s first youth group. The 19-year-old left the program with a national award, a perked interest in land engineering, and a job offer. Scott and others like him are seeing brighter futures because of their volunteer opportunities, with or without government support.

Their website boasts, “Research shows that young people can and do increase their self-confidence and self-esteem, develop a range of communication skills and improve their ability to work with other people through volunteering. It can act as a catalyst for young people to engage more effectively with other learning or training and, indeed, many young people develop practical skills related to their specific experiences of volunteering.”

The Volunteer Summer 2008

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