Social Justice


This programme is concerned about social justice for young people living in the margins of society, particularly those groups who are most disadvantaged and making critical transitions in their lives.

These young people include groups such as asylum seekers, refugees and migrants facing multiple barriers to integration, young offenders leaving prison, young people at risk of offending, those struggling with mental ill-health, victims of violence and abuse, and those with complex needs, including disability. For many, social injustice means they are not regarded as equal citizens and struggle to access resources to meet basic needs. Often their views are not fully taken into account in decision making that affects their lives, and public perceptions of them lead to stigma and caricature. At this time of economic recession, our concern is with those who are most vulnerable, and our commitment is to support work that helps those who may have no-one to turn to for help – even when that work is risky.

All of the organisations we support regard young people not simply as problems for society, or challenges with complex needs, but as citizens with the talent, skills, ideas and energy to change their lives and improve the lives of others around them. Often these organisations are seeking more effective ways to help young people identify the range of assets they do have, and to capitalise upon them – and this is a significant challenge in a society that places such great emphasis on educational attainment. The pay-off, if they get this right, is that the young people they work with are far better placed to cope with an increasingly uncertain world than they would otherwise have been. We seek to support and assist those who wish to innovate in this area1

We help to promote social justice for young people in a number of ways. Through our Open Grants, we award grants across the UK, mainly to voluntary organisations but also on occasion to statutory bodies. Our Open Grants scheme has developed over the last 18 months, dividing into two themes.

The first seeks to support activity to develop ‘progression pathways’ for those young people who face most difficulties in making the transition to adulthood. The second seeks to encourage stronger links and understanding between young people in communities that are divided and/or separated.

We are seeking applications that are socially innovative – not with the objective of disregarding approaches that are proven to work, but to encourage organisations to try to improve them, widen their application or apply them in different contexts or hitherto neglected areas, perhaps with new partners. We also give priority to funding outside London.

Listening to young people

One of the driving forces behind the formation of this programme was a concern that young people were being unfairly represented by the mass media, and that those in positions of power, whilst ‘listening’, have been subsequently unable or unwilling to change the way they worked in response to what they heard. We strongly believe that in many cases, young people are best placed to work with their peers to find solutions to their problems. Therefore we now expect applicants for funding through our Open Grants scheme to be able to show how young people have helped shape, will deliver, and – if possible – will evaluate the impact of work proposed. We also ensure that across our new initiatives, where appropriate, young people play an active role in their governance and evaluation2.

Our Special Initiatives may also have grant-making as part of their approach, but are often action-research based, or pilots to develop new models of practice.

For example, with Right Here, our Special Initiative on mental health, we are concerned not only with helping young people who experience mental ill-health, but with the practical challenge of ensuring that young people get support earlier and in a way that suits them. This helps prevent them from needlessly entering a mental health system which we know is seldom in their long-term interests.

Underpinning our initiatives is a recognition of the need for wider systemic and institutional change. However, this process is complex and challenging, and we have had to make sure that we are in a position both to understand what works well, and to acknowledge and learn where our approach has not worked so well.

Ongoing evaluation of Special Initiatives yields insights into how we can improve what we do. For example, the Reading and Libraries Challenge Fund sought to encourage change through a wide range of innovative projects in libraries and prisons, supporting activities for young people, including refugee and asylum seekers and those in care. The Fund led to a great deal of innovative practice and imaginative approaches, but our assumptions that these alone would lead to longer term change were unfounded. Instead we learned lessons about how we might have done more to enable projects to have an impact on their institutions – by engaging policy- and decision-makers earlier, by supporting grantees in the management and delivery of their work, and by helping them to explain the impact they were having to others3.

We have drawn heavily on this learning in designing Right Here, which seeks explicitly to develop new service models in mental health provision for young people, and uses a range of approaches to help achieve this, including consultancy and evaluation support for grantees; ongoing engagement with national and local policy makers; support for grantees to exchange ideas and good practice; and independent ongoing evaluation designed to help us adapt and improve how we approach our objectives.

Supporting calls for change

We also engage with policy makers around the areas we work in, and we will consider support for strengthening new or existing social movements or campaigns. Along with The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, we are providing grant support for ‘Citizens for Sanctuary’ – helping to embed in policy and practice the recommendations of the Independent Asylum Commission.

Our research into the experiences of young undocumented migrants, which we plan to publish during 2009/10, has highlighted, in particular, the importance that these young people have reliable information about their rights, a need also evident in our work with refugee community organisations over the years. We have also reviewed areas where we have already been an active funder. Our review on youth justice looked at the effectiveness of our grant funding in prisons and young offenders institutions and will help us to identify how we might target our support more effectively in future.

From such reviews, and through informal reflection on our work, it is clear that foundations can add value by helping to support organisations beyond funding. Therefore, we continue to develop ways of enabling grantees to access opportunities for development, exchange and networking.

Paul Hamlyn was passionate about social justice. Where there is now growing consensus around the impact of inequality and division in society, so too is there an urgent need for charitable foundations like ours to think more flexibly about how we promote and enable social change.

Increasingly, this programme will aim not only to help young people overcome social injustice but also to identify and challenge some of its underlying causes.

Special Initiatives

Reading and Libraries Challenge Fund

Opening access to books and reading

£25,032 in 2008/09

The Reading and Libraries Challenge Fund was one of the Foundation’s earliest Special Initiatives, and is now closed to new applications. Launched in 2003, it comprised three funding streams:

  • Right to Read for looked-after children and young people in public care
  • Free with Words for prisoners and young offenders
  • Libraries Connect for neglected communities such as refugees and asylum seekers.

The Fund amounted to arguably the largest single investment by a charitable foundation in the work of public libraries since the days of Andrew Carnegie, and was unusual in providing some funding directly to public libraries (as well as prisons). It aimed to encourage libraries and other institutions to improve access to books and reading among young people and others experiencing disadvantage, including refugees and asylum seekers and care leavers.

Perhaps more ambitious was the aspiration that the work supported by the Fund would lead to lasting change – not only in terms of access to books and reading, but in the culture and ways of working of public libraries and other institutions, such as prisons and care services.

The Fund was also an example of proactive grant-making. Applicants made initial applications to one of the three streams, and then staff at the Foundation provided support and feedback as they developed their application further. Once funding was agreed, grantees could access a range of resources to support and enhance their work. These resources included one-to-one contact with Paul Hamlyn Foundation staff, workshops, conferences, web-based resources and networking between projects.

The Fund was evaluated from the start and the findings from these evaluations, along with policy and practice challenges for the future, will be set out in the Fund’s final report, which will be published on the Foundation’s website,

“You have to ask their opinions and be prepared to be told that, what you thought was a ‘great idea’ might not be viewed the same by them.”

– Librarian, Dorset

Refugee and Asylum Seeker Fund

Support for the integration of young asylum seekers

£26,742 in 2008/09

The Fund has a special focus on the integration of 11–18 year old asylum seekers and refugees, including those who are unaccompanied, and also aims to develop the capacity of refugee community organisations (RCOs), particularly those from outside London.

£3.3 million has been awarded to 69 organisations across the UK: 28 were RCOs and the remainder other organisations working in partnership with RCOs. The fund is now closed to applications.

Ongoing evaluation was a central element, designed to be participatory and ensure that grantees were able to learn from successes and failures as their work progressed. We also supported grantees through workshops and events for training and information exchange.

Our evaluators spent a great deal of time talking with project managers and young people and their report will be published later in 2009. The initial findings show that, among other things, the value and challenge of partnership working, and the benefits to RCOs of exposure to new ways of working.

Young people were involved in the planning and delivery of nearly all projects, but to different degrees. Organisations we supported were committed to youth involvement in principle, but often struggled to implement this effectively. This is an area we are addressing though our Open Grants scheme, which requires organisations to improve the effectiveness of their youth engagement.

Right Here

Mental health initiative: building resilience among 16–25 year olds

£256,823 in 2008/09

In partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, we have embarked on a five-year action-research programme to explore how young people’s mental health needs can be better addressed.

Mental health problems among children and young people have risen substantially in the UK in the past 50 years. Young people experiencing mental ill-health face the challenges of misunderstanding and stigma, as well as the practical difficulties of finding appropriate support.

This initiative will help organisations that work with young people to work with others across various sectors to develop new ways of enabling young people to access the type of support they need, when and where they need it. It will see statutory and voluntary organisations working together differently, in order to promote mental health among young people, prevent mental ill-health among struggling individuals, and intervene earlier and more effectively with those starting to move into illness.

This year has seen the publication of three significant pieces of work in preparation for the action phase of the initiative. A literature review in October 2008, a policy briefing in November 2008 and a practice review in February 2009 combine to provide a comprehensive overview of the mental health landscape in which Right Here is active. The resources are available for all parties with an interest in mental health via the Right Here website,

In late 2008 we received over 200 applications from organisations to be pilot sites for the initiative. In February 2009 we announced a shortlist of 11, which were invited to make second stage applications. At the end of the process we expect there to be up to four pilot sites from around the UK, with a final announcement due in July 2009.

Right Here will work with the selected group of pilot sites, assisting them both financially and with consultancy and evaluation support. The group will come together to learn and exchange good practice, and their progress will be shared with a wider community of practice and policy. The Tavistock Institute has been commissioned to carry out a participative evaluation of the initiative, with young people playing a major part. Young people are also equal partners in the governance of the overall initiative and will be involved in steering each pilot partnership.

Young Undocumented Migrants

Research into the everyday lives of young undocumented migrants in the UK

£7,569 in 2008/09

In 2007 we commissioned City University’s Department of Sociology, working in partnership with the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, to carry out qualitative research into the lives of young undocumented migrants in the UK. The research was open-ended and exploratory, looking in detail at the experiences of young people from China, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Ukraine and Kurds from Turkey. One special feature of the research was the range of practical steps we asked the researchers to take to help build the skills and capacity of individuals and organisations involved in the research, through workshops, training and the provision of ICT equipment.

“Being undocumented in this country means that you don’t exist.”

– Rojhan, 27

The emphasis on capturing life stories in the words of young people themselves reflects our concern to understand the predicaments many are in, and to begin the process of finding practical ways to enable them to regain some control over their lives. We will do this with others who are also concerned to help the most vulnerable among these groups, and the publication of the research later in 2009 will be the first step in this process.

“I think all people came here in search of a better life. And, I belong to those same people, young people who came here not just for a better life but to find out about another country, meet different people, to develop.”

– Victoria, 24

Not surprisingly, many young people interviewed were living in precarious situations, open to exploitation and harm. But equally compelling in their stories are the skills, energy and enterprise that they bring to our communities. Seen in this way, these young undocumented migrants are no different from many of the other young people we seek to assist – potential assets to their communities, but struggling to realise their potential.

Open Grants scheme

Grants awarded in 2008/09


Digital Pioneers Hub for marginalised BME young people in Hackney

£200,000 over three years

Digital Pioneers recognises and builds upon the hidden skills and talents of Hackney’s most disengaged young people. Through outreach and drop-in, young people access taster sessions in digital media – music-making, design and production – and develop skills, confidence and experience, becoming trainers and mentors of other participants.

The teenagers SkyWay works with have struggled to take part in mainstream training, employment, education and career structures. Often, previous failure and negative feedback have tainted any likelihood of engagement in the future. SkyWay’s experience has shown that they are often highly entrepreneurial, creative and independent. If given training, support and direction, coupled with flexibility, freedom to experiment and opportunities for hands-on learning, these young people aspire to do their own thing.

Empowerment: Participants have responded well to SkyWay’s approach, which allows young people to get support and direction when they need it, and even to pursue their interests in establishing their own businesses.

Citizen Organising Foundation

Citizens for Sanctuary campaign

£75,000 over three years

In 2006, South London CITIZENS asked 12 commissioners to conduct a nationwide review of the UK’s asylum system. The Independent Asylum Commission spent two years gathering testimony from asylum seekers and the public, taking evidence from experts, and engaging in dialogue with the authorities. It produced over 180 recommendations to safeguard people who seek sanctuary here and restore public confidence in the UK’s role as a place of sanctuary for those fleeing persecution.

Citizens for Sanctuary aims to find ways of making those recommendations a reality. We are funding the campaign in partnership with The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Supporting change: Our support for this campaign reflects a desire to drive change at a policy-making level.

 Urbis Learning

Extension of the Reclaim project in Manchester

£49,800 over two years

Reclaim is a six-month programme for vulnerable 12–14 year olds living in areas associated with crime, unemployment and social instability. Many are disaffected from learning and their communities are socially and geographically isolated.

The programme involves intensive mentoring and events, including working with local statutory bodies and creative and sports providers. Self-development, discipline and anger-management courses form part of the syllabus, along with teamwork and respect for legitimate authority. Participants can volunteer in their communities and receive mentoring from local professionals. Reclaim and its young participants have developed a reputation for ground-breaking work, and won numerous awards including a Philip Lawrence Award in 2008 for outstanding achievement in good citizenship.

Negative stereotyping: Despite the project’s successes, participants have sometimes struggled to keep media interest focused on the positive work that they do. Last year they produced an open letter explaining their frustration at the approach of the media, which has too often concentrated on youth crime, rather than stories of young black men engaged positively in their area.

“Since the project started, we have been approached by newspapers, magazines and TV companies, most of who want to talk to us about guns and knives and gangs. We keep trying to explain that we are not involved in gangs and crime; we’re black boys doing positive things in this area – and then journalists go away, as they tell us that’s not the story people are interested in … The project has changed our lives in so many ways. We now consider ourselves reliable, respectable, articulate and creative young black men … Adults constantly criticise teenagers for being irresponsible, but the way the media tries to represent our area as if everyone was a drugs runner or gangster is totally irresponsible and morally wrong.”

– Extract from an open letter from 14-year-old participants in the Reclaim project

Kinetic (Levenmouth YMCA)


£150,000 over three years

Based in Fife, Scotland, Kinetic began as a youth theatre and evolved into working with young people to tackle anti-social behaviour and exclusion from education and employment. The Street:Live programme attracts large numbers of young people to a range of fortnightly sporting and artistic events. Many go on to engage in other opportunities Kinetic can provide through various social enterprises.

Kinetic’s work is delivered by a young team, most of whom have risen up through its volunteering programmes. The organisation has won plaudits locally and nationally – not least for the dramatic fall in anti-social behaviour in the areas where it operates.

Youth-led youth work: Kinetic believes that the process of genuinely engaging with young people means encouraging each individual to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, helping them build meaningful and productive relationships with others, and encouraging them to take on leadership and volunteering roles.

Ongoing grant

Music and Change

Youth engagement in North London

£75,000 over two years

Music and Change (MAC) is an organisation which, through music, seeks to promote social inclusion and positive mental health, give marginalised young people a voice and support community integration.

The small staff, complemented by volunteers and local young people, work on a housing estate in North London, and attract young people – many of whom are involved in gangs and crime – to weekly music sessions. Participants learn skills around DJ-ing, music-making, and producing lyrics. Some have begun developing and leading activities for younger children, known as mini-MAC.

Measuring success: MAC has energised the estate, bringing together a diverse mix of young people, helping them develop new skills and friendships, and offering them support with issues in their lives. The success of the approach is being measured in an ongoing evaluation, involving psychologists from University College London. It is hoped that the model may be scaled up and adopted elsewhere.


  • 1 Innovation: The focus on social innovation in the Social Justice programme is intended to help good ideas flourish. (See Open Grants case studies)
  • 2 Empowering youth: Encouraging the involvement of young people as active participants in the work we support is an important means of promoting their engagement with work designed to tackle or avoid social problems
  • 3 Organisational and sectoral impact: By seeking applications from organisations that are prepared to try new ideas, or adopt ideas in new ways, we are able to help improve organisations’ impact. Reviewing a body of work over time, such as with the Reading and Libraries Challenge Fund, allows lessons to be drawn that may have import for the wider sector (See the Arts section for a similar approach)