National youth service scheme could be compulsory, says CSV

CSV is calling for the creation of a national youth service, which, it says, could be made compulsory.

The volunteering charity has outlined the scheme in a proposal to the Commission on the Future of Volunteering. Under the scheme, 18 to 25-year-olds would spend a year working unpaid either on voluntary projects in their local communities or in public services such as hospitals and prisons.

Its submission says: "The Government should now take action to ensure that the Prime Minister's vision of a national youth service programme is developed beyond the simple choices of young people to ensure their chance to tackle the nation's needs in a context of civic engagement."

Although CSV says the scheme, intended to build social cohesion, would not have to be compulsory, it has not completely ruled out the idea of it being so.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, said: "On the one hand, we want it to be inclusive. Equally, however, lessons learnt from compulsory military conscriptions indicate that, where participants have no choice, the quality of management and leadership is not always as creative and visionary as we would hope."

But the National Union of Students warned that a national youth service could "cause real problems for those from poorer backgrounds".

Stephen Brown, national secretary of the NUS, said: "The massive debt associated with going to university means that many students are forced into work in gap years, summer breaks and weekends."

Other organisations claimed that a compulsory youth service scheme could prove counter-productive. Rocky Lorusso, a spokesman for the British Youth Council, said: "We would oppose any scheme that seeks to make participation compulsory.

"Young people are mature and responsible enough to make their own decisions about what they do with their lives."

Judith Brodie, director of VSO UK, the overseas volunteering charity, agreed. "Any sort of conscription would go against the ethos of volunteering," she said. "Young people should be able to seek out their own volunteering opportunities."

The Association of Volunteer Managers added that it would place an extra burden on their members.

"Volunteer management is already chronically under-funded," said John Ramsey, a director at the organisation. "Having to manage people who might not even want to be there would add an extra complication."

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