Social value in YHA

Social impact measurement is a way of putting numbers to the relative importance that people place on these changes in life experience. As our impact report shows, YHA makes a significant difference to young people’s lives.

We asked Jump X Simetrica to help us better understand what that potential value might be for the social impact of YHA. They have carried out an initial assessment for us that we will look to build on in the future. We should stress that this is an early, indicative look at the existing work of the YHA and future potential. The analysis is based on findings from previous relevant research; Jump X Simetrica were not able to collect new, primary data and this indicative value offers a high-level sketch with suitable caveats, but still offers a positive picture of the potential for the YHA.

Jump X Simetrica have experience of similar work elsewhere and run the ‘Social Value Bank’ for the Housing Association’s Charitable Trust. They also advise the UK, New Zealand, and Canadian Governments on policy evaluation. Recently, they have undertaken a wellbeing valuation of the National Citizen Service (NCS), a major youth programme and partner of YHA.

For this initial assessment of YHA we looked at the social value of two of YHA’s programmes:

  • School children who benefitted from support from YHA's Breaks programmes
  • Volunteers, of all ages, who supported YHA’s charitable activity

The results of the valuation show that these programmes alone could be responsible for nearly £5 million in terms of wellbeing and every £1 invested by YHA on these programmes could return a social value of £3.60; a very healthy and positive return on investment.

The figures are based on the value to the individual’s wellbeing of residential learning and volunteering with YHA. Jump X Simetrica drew on a range of other sources including the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Learning Away study on the impact of residential learning and similar, consistent findings from the NCS programme. The value of the residential learning experience is based on its positive association with improved confidence and the value of volunteering is based on the volunteering experience overall.

We are encouraged by this initial valuation of a small proportion of our work and it gives us confidence that YHA is a sound social investment. We are encouraged that there is potential for a much higher contribution to wellbeing and social value when all of YHA’s work is included in a future evaluation. We are looking forward to building a more robust picture for next year.

Valued activities

Although we hosted over 25,000 children and young people on residential learning experiences last year for the social value calculation; we only included the numbers of children receiving support through YHA's Breaks programmes. This subsidised the costs for those children who would otherwise not be able to afford the trip. The social value to the remaining 16,000 young people last year has not been included in this valuation.

This focus on just the young people receiving support is because we can be most confident in attributing the social value created to YHA for this group. Some of the benefit accrued to the other 16,000 young people should be attributed to those who paid YHA for the residential learning stay, and to avoid complication and the risk of over-claiming any benefit, we do not value the impact for these young people.

We also value the benefits gained by our volunteers in terms of wellbeing, again, focusing on this group because we can be most confident in attributing the benefits to YHA. The number of participants in each programme is in Table 1 along with the initial social value result.

Social value by YHA Programme
  Number of participants Total social value
Breaks for Kids residentials 8,952 £2.4m
Active volunteers 3,116 £2.4m

Social value of residential learning

We measure the social value of residential learning through its positive effects on young people’s confidence. This uses data on the numbers of young people who are more confident following the residential stay and multiplies this by the value of the increase in confidence. This is adjusted to account for any other factors that could influence the confidence level.

In this illustration, we have used the percentage of parents who reported that their children were more confident after a residential learning trip from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation report (67%), which has been discounted by 30% to account for the overestimation of the positive effects immediately after the residential finished. This accounts for the fact that some of these outcomes could have happened anyway and thus acknowledges the counterfactual. The Paul Hamlyn study has many other positive findings on confidence and education outcomes that could also be included.

In addition, the NCS programme has a residential learning stay as a significant part of the programme (25%) and the findings for NCS on confidence are more robust (since they use a control group). NCS reports multiple impacts on confidence and these are seen to endure for 12-24 months in some cases. So consistency with the findings of NCS adds to our confidence in the positive association of a residential learning stay with improved confidence in young people.

Jump X Simetrica calculated the social value of the residential trips for each individual using the wellbeing value of confidence from the HACT-Simetrica Social Value Bank.

We assume, conservatively, that the benefits to young people’s confidence last only one month following the programme. We do not assume the same endurance of the confidence boost caused by NCS because the residential trip is longer in the NCS programme and only one component of the programme.

The total social value for the Breaks residential stays is £2.4m based on the wellbeing value of the programme’s impact on confidence.

Social value of volunteering

YHA regularly captures feedback and outcomes from volunteers. Indeed, 94% of YHA’s young volunteers report growth in confidence and development of new skills. We estimate the wellbeing impact of volunteering for all regular volunteers (45% of all YHA volunteers are regular). Once again, we have discounted this impact by 30% to better account for what could have happened anyway (the counterfactual). We assume that 100% of the benefit to the wellbeing of the volunteers is attributable to YHA because no other partner contributes resources to the volunteers.

From previous studies Jump X Simetrica have shown than volunteering has significant social value to the volunteer in terms of wellbeing, confidence and skills. The wellbeing benefits lasts as long as the volunteer is active and therefore it is better for the individual to continue volunteering.

The total social value of volunteering in YHA is £2.4m.


Costs are estimated from the YHA (England and Wales) Financial Statements for the year ended 29 February 2016. Specifically, we used the Notes to the Financial Statement as stated on page 34.

The following costs were calculated:

  • Net expenditure of operating the youth hostels (income – costs)
  • Percentage costs attributable to Break for Kids bursaries and volunteers as a proportion of YHA’s total number of beneficiaries
  • Costs are increased by 28% to account for opportunity cost (8%) and optimism bias (20%)

The final costs are the total costs for both programmes.

Cost-benefit analysis

The final result is a benefit-cost ratio where the benefits are divided by the costs.

The benefit-cost ratio is given as 3.66:1. This means that every £1 spent with YHA on these programmes delivers a social value benefit of £3.66.

Benefit-cost ratios of above 1:1 demonstrate that a programme has a positive social value.

If you have any questions about this work or about Social Value in general – please email Jump and Simetrica at [email protected].