In December, Aids charity the Terrence Higgins Trust launches the first funding round of its Young Leaders project, in which young people in seven regions will be in charge of making grants to other young people. "It's a commonly held misperception that if you give young people a pot of money they'll squander it," says Gareth Davies, manager of Aids charity Terrence Higgins Trust's Young Leaders project. "In fact, the reverse is true - it's been found that young people are very cautious and responsible."
This isn't the only project claiming to put young people in charge of the purse strings, but some of the others that make the claim attach strings. Jez Hall of the government-funded Participatory Budgeting Unit says: "There's a lot of money, such as that handed out by the Youth Opportunity Fund, that is supposed to be spent by young people's forums, but few constitutional processes that allow them to do that."
The unit is working with Save the Children to get young people to run a grant distribution programme. Save the Children is also aiming to encourage young people to get much more involved in the next round of the Help Yourselves grants programme it runs with British Gas. Young Leaders, which will receive lottery funding of £1.5m over three years, will get groups of young people to educate their peers about sex and relationships. Decisions will be taken by regional boards of 12 members aged between 13 and 19.
Davies says: "The UK has the worst sexual health in western Europe, so we wanted to take a fresh approach." The project will give board members experience of how to allocate money. "Each board will have about £5,000 per round," Davies says. "The board members have told us they need knowledge of what is and what isn't a good project, so we're developing a learning programme. Those who go on the programme will get training on other relevant issues, such as managing budgets and evaluating grants."
Hall says: "With young people's funding, there's usually a lack of process or structure for really taking things through." Schemes such as the Young Leaders project are clearly aimed at getting that structure in place and equipping young people with skills that should be highly sought-after in their future careers.