Charities to find volunteering opportunities for schoolchildren

Gordon Brown announces £146m community service plan

Volunteering charities will be asked to broker placements for schoolchildren under Government plans to get young people to engage in community service.

As part of a £146m programme to get 14 to 19-year-olds to participate in community service activities announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday, schools will be funded to work with volunteering charities to find "service opportunities" for their pupils.

The Government also announced a series of "major pilots" that will involve 14 to 16-year-olds in community service around the country. The work could involve helping the elderly, delivering environmental projects or campaigning on local issues, said Brown.

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, broadly welcomed the plans.

"Generally, we see the scheme as a positive step in establishing a foundation from which young people can be encouraged to go on to volunteer during the rest of their lives," he said. "For this to happen, it's crucial that the schemes give young people a good experience that will inspire them to volunteer in future."

But Davis Smith said it was important that the distinction between community service and volunteering, acknowledged by Brown, continued to be made.

Terry Ryall, chief executive of government-backed volunteering organisation v, said: "I welcome the longer-term intent to make it compulsory for schools to offer community service as part of citizenship learning and development of pupils.

"A lot of the work that v has already done could support this growth of service in schools."

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