Smiley Movement logo

DofE launches Resilience Fund to help young people benefit from extracurricular activities

Words by Smiley Team


New research by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) has revealed the transformative impact extracurricular learning, such as volunteering, developing a skill or getting better at a sport, can have on young people’s wellbeing – and how COVID-19 is putting the future of these activities at risk. 

The charity is warning that this threat, exacerbated by the latest lockdown measures, could accelerate the mental health crisis facing young people across the UK. More than half (54%) of young people the DofE surveyed worry their levels of stress, anxiety or mental health issues could increase if they are no longer able to continue with the activities and experiences helping them cope with the pandemic.  

During the pandemic, extracurricular learning has been a lifeline for many young people, helping to maintain and boost resilience and mental health. 43% of DofE participants surveyed said they felt volunteering, doing exercise or learning a new skill has given them a positive focus during COVID-19, while nearly two thirds (64%) are more appreciative of non-academic activities as a result of the pandemic.  

Yet as problems with sleep, depression and self-harm in children rise and youth unemployment is set to triple, access to these life-changing activities is under threat. Even when lockdowns are not in place, many youth clubs and classes remain closed and young people themselves are feeling pressure to give up activities. The DofE’s survey uncovered that 71% of participants that responded have had to cut back on extracurricular activities due to academic pressures caused by COVID-19. Nearly a quarter (22.5%) worry they might have to sacrifice extracurricular activities because they are more concerned about their parents’ financial situation. 

In response, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has launched its Resilience Fund  to ensure thousands of young people facing disadvantage are able to participate in DofE, which has been shown to help increase wellbeing, confidence and resilience. Thanks to a very generous donation the Fund will provide 12,000 funded DofE places for young people facing disadvantage, and train thousands of DofE Leaders, Managers and volunteers to further strengthen the charity’s support for young people from under-privileged backgrounds.  

While the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken steps to recognise the value of extracurricular learning, funding services and positive activities for young people before and throughout the pandemic, young people in England have faced years of brutal cuts that have eroded their infrastructure of support.  

Today the DofE is calling on the UK Government to act urgently to prevent a wider mental health crisis, by ensuring the quality provision of extracurricular learning in England is prioritised, adequately funded and enabled, in line with safety guidelines, in Government COVID-19 guidance.  

“These threats to extracurricular learning could have devastating impacts on the mental health and future prospects of young people – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom have been hit hardest by COVID-19." said Ruth Marvel, CEO of the DofE. "Non-academic education is just as important as academic learning, and the UK Government must prioritise it as such. To face the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, young people need and deserve the increased resilience, confidence and independence built through extracurricular learning.” 

“When lockdown started, I was scared to leave my house and struggled to find anything good in life. I have autism and a rare genetic condition which heightened my anxieties" said Harry, who’s doing his Gold DofE in Wigton, Cumbria. "For my DofE volunteering, I grew vegetables in my allotment to share with local people who were shielding. Doing this helped me feel less anxious, more confident, and speaking to other allotment holders from a distance has helped me learn to socialise safely. Being outdoors helps me relax and stay calm.” 

Throughout the pandemic, the DofE has been supporting tens of thousands of young people across the UK to continue their extracurricular learning through DofE With A Difference, providing physical, skills-based and volunteering opportunities that can be easily done from home. 

To find out more about DofE and how you can get involved in their mission to support young people, head to 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…