Acevo sceptical over David Cameron's proposal to extend National Citizen Service

Volunteering scheme for school leavers should be available to all 16-year-olds, Prime Minister says in response to last week's riots

David Cameron
David Cameron

The chief executives body Acevo has urged caution about David Cameron’s plan to extend the National Citizen Service in response to last week’s riots in cities across England.

In a speech on Monday, the Prime Minister said: "In response to the riots, I will say this. Let’s make the National Citizen Service available to all 16-year-olds as a rite of passage.

"We can do that if we work together: businesses, charities, schools and social enterprises. In the months ahead I will put renewed effort into making it happen."

Under the National Citizen Service, school leavers aged 15 and 16 spend their summer holiday volunteering on a residential placement and in their local community. This summer 11,000 teenagers are taking part in pilots for the programme.

Now Acevo chief executive Sir Stephen Bubb has said in a letter to Cameron, the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd: "One-size-fits-all solutions (such as the extension of the National Citizen Service) are unlikely to be the answer everywhere."

Peter Kyle, deputy chief executive of Acevo, told Third Sector: "It seems crazy that a part of the solution would lie in a programme that will benefit teenagers in the shires as it will those in Brixton and Tottenham.

"The riots happened in different places for different reasons, and although it is tempting for the government to respond with a centralised programme, this should be avoided."

The letter was sent following a meeting yesterday with youth and volunteering charities that are members of the chief executives body.

It was the first of a series of meetings that the Office for Civil Society’s strategic partners are holding with members ahead of a round-table talk with Hurd in September to establish the sector’s long-term response to the riots.

Kyle said charity chief executives briefly discussed government funding cuts at the meeting and were likely to raise the issue in further talks about how the sector can respond to the riots.

He stressed, however, that their first priority was helping to address the social problems that lay behind the riots.

Bubb’s letter also calls for "evidence-based policy making" and a willingness to understand the socio-economic context in which the riots took place.

It says: "I am clear that it is not just up to government to address the issues surrounding the riots. Responsibility clearly also lies with others, including voluntary organisations.

"I and my members will not be expecting Whitehall to take responsibility for sorting out the problems that we face as a society. Some of this is up to us – and we will act accordingly."

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