Social Justice programme


The Social Justice programme was established in 2006 to help marginalised young people, disadvantaged by their circumstances and unable to reach their full potential. The programme had its roots in the Foundation’s long-standing commitment to support those facing greatest challenges to integrate into society, to adapt to difficult transitions in their lives, and to overcome stigma and prejudice.

We wanted the programme to fund in a way that was flexible and focused support on those organisations that put young people at the heart of their work. That meant developing services in partnership with service users, adapting their approaches to young people’s changing needs and evolving their governance to support young people to become leaders.

In this, the final year of the programme, we made 46 awards through our Open Grants scheme – around 50 per cent more than usual. They reflect a range of themes focused on marginalised young people, including: criminal justice, migration and integration, advice and support services, youth social action, digital technology, mental health, employability, youth leadership and care leavers.

This year we also extended our initiative on undocumented migrants and have been busy disseminating what we learned from our five‑year funding programme on youth mental health, Right Here. These initiatives follow two others we have run since 2006, the Reading and Libraries Challenge Fund and the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Fund, which sought to grow the capacity and capability of their respective sectors through grant funding and further non-monetary assistance.

Over the years, our awards have covered core costs, project funding, pilots and testing out new ideas. We have also funded some applied and action research. Often the work we have funded has been risky, unusual, or even quirky: recently we supported a feature-length movie, work on media reporting of transgender issues, and a young journalist writing for the Daily Mirror. But we also fund the less glamorous aspects of social change, often including within our grants a component to allow organisations to develop capacity – for example to commission external evaluation or for business development help.

We have also supported CEOs, for whom coaching or mentoring support might help them lead change in their organisations. We have convened a range of grantee workshops. Each time we bring grantees together it is striking how much they have in common – their values, belief in youth voice and agency, and instinct to collaborate and take risks to achieve more. Many grantees face similar challenges. The last six years have been extraordinarily difficult for many young people and the organisations that support them. Particularly challenging have been high levels of youth unemployment and precarious employment; an often heated, sometimes toxic debate on immigration and identity; austerity, leading to large-scale reduction in support services for young people; reductions in the availability of legal aid, particularly for those with difficult immigration status; and many others.

In this difficult and fast-changing context, at times we would have liked to offer longer-term financial and non-monetary support. This thinking has influenced aspects of our new strategy.

Working across a wide range of issues, we have drawn heavily on expert advice from a group of extraordinary advisors. The current group comprises Maureen McGinn (Chair of Big Lottery in Scotland), Bridget Anderson (Professor of Migration at University of Oxford) and Fiona Dawe CBE (former CEO of YouthNet). We have benefited from the wisdom of the PHF trustees allocated to this programme, currently Tim Bunting and Tom Wylie. Our Chair since 2006 has been Michael Hamlyn, who has shaped our work and brought to it both his field knowledge, particularly in the areas of film and of Northern Ireland, but also his strong and clear values, encouraging us to take risks and fund work that many others would shy away from.

Rob Bell
Head of Social Justice

Special Initiatives

Right here

Mental Health Special Initiative in Partnership with the Mental Health Foundation
£113,901 in 2014/15

Right Here was a £6m Special Initiative developing new approaches to support the mental health of young people, which concluded in this financial year.

Working with four partnerships in Brighton and Hove, Fermanagh, Newham and Sheffield, it aimed to create effective support for young people at risk of developing mental health issues, and to raise awareness of mental health among young people and help tackle stigma. Each partner’s approach was to engage young people in the design, delivery and management of projects. They tested a variety of ways to meet the needs of young people and put young people’s mental health on the policy map. A report of the external evaluation of the initiative is available on our website.

In the last year, the focus of the work has been on producing a series of practical guides aimed at service providers in youth and mental health services, and at service commissioners. These guides have been published and disseminated, and used as the basis for a series of training programmes developed in partnership with other youth organisations. Lessons learned from Right Here, and further dissemination and training to build capacity and capability for the youth and mental health sectors, will be led by the Mental Health Foundation.

Supported options initiative

Support for children and young people with irregular immigration status
£767,771 in 2014/15

Supported Options aims to improve the lives of children and young people with irregular immigration status, through grant-making and assistance. Many children and young people in this situation can be extremely vulnerable and need assistance to address their legal status or consider return. Until now this area has not been funded.

The initiative combines research and development with grant funding for new approaches to supporting young people and families without legal status, building on existing services. Six organisations are developing different approaches to supporting families or individual young people. In this second phase of work, we are also supporting several organisations to develop ways of providing better quality and more accessible advice to young people who may have the right to become British citizens and for whom failure to take up this right will lead to problems and hardship on reaching majority.

This is a four-year programme. The work of the first 18 months has been the subject of an external evaluation by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, details of which have helped us adapt our approaches. The report is available on our website. One of the aspects that has worked well, and which we will continue, is to convene regular meetings of grantee project staff who, as a ‘learning community’, discuss emerging issues and challenges, including successful strategies for legal representation, and how to respond strategically to the concerns expressed by young people. This has led to new collaborations and improved service level cooperation.

The Special Initiative is jointly funded and managed with Unbound Philanthropy, and coordinated by a consultant, Sarah Cutler. A reference group is chaired by Fiona Dawe, an advisor to the Social Justice Committee.