Charities question 'compulsory' volunteering

Volunteering charities have warned the Government against proposals to penalise 16 to18 year-olds who don't stay on in education, take up an apprenticeship or volunteer.

The proposals, outlined in today's Queen's Speech, could damage the relationship between voluntary organisations and young people who would, in effect, be forced to volunteer for them, it also claimed.

A spokeswoman for volunteering charity v said: "The Government has warned that young people who don't take up one of these options will face sanctions or penalties. But making volunteering compulsory is a contradiction in terms and won't work.

"Volunteer-involving organisations are often well placed to engage with young people who are harder to reach. But we are concerned that stringent compulsory measures could negatively alter the relationship between the organisation and participant."

The proposals will be in the Education and Skills Bill, which proposes raising the school, college or training leaving age to 18 by 2015, with teenagers having the option of starting an apprenticeship or volunteering instead.

Clare Tickell, chief executive of children charity NCH said: "There can be a variety of reasons why young people do not access training and education post-16, and any reforms must be tailored to meet young people's individual needs.

"However, introducing penalties will only risk further ostracising those these measures aim to help."

The Queen also announced the new legislation to channel unclaimed assets to be used for "youth facilities, financial inclusion and social investment". However, as Third Sector reported last month, the Government has opted not to make it compulsory for banks to surrender the dormant assets, and instead the release of funds will operate on a voluntary basis (Third Sector, 31 October, 2007). Community organisations have warned that this will result in less money being surrendered for a Social Investment Bank to finance the sector, as recommended by the Commission on Unclaimed Assets.

The speech also included a Constitutional Renewal Bill, but only in draft form. The umbrella body the NCVO described this as a sensible approach.

Pete Moorey, parliamentary and media manager said: "As it is proposing considerable changes, it seems right that it should be consulted on as widely as possible first."

Campaigning organisation Unlock Democracy said that any changes eventually introduced by the bill would be minimal. "The proposals are pretty small fry," said a spokesman. "We are much more concerned about the long timetable for House of Lords reform."

The speech also confirmed that the Planning Gain Supplement Bill is to be dropped. The supplement would have been a tax on the increase in land value derived from planning permission, and was expected to hit charities considering developing their premises. (Third Sector, 1 August 2007).

But a spokesman from the Charities' Property Association said that it was too early to celebrate. "The transport secretary Ruth Kelly recently said that the supplement would be dropped, so we expected it," he said. "But it's being replaced by a planning charge, and it's still not clear if this is something that charities will have to pay.

"So we would question if anything has really changed and are concerned on the possible affect this could have on charities wanting to develop their own land."

Other sector areas covered in the Queen's Speech were:

Climate Change Bill: proposes binding carbon emission targets. Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement said: "In the face of compelling scientific evidence on the need for greater emissions cuts, the Climate Change Bill simply isn't strong enough to avoid disastrous consequences for the world's poor.

"Unless the Prime Minister toughens up on climate change, his credibility and reputation on third world poverty will be seriously undermined."

Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at the Campaign to Protect Rural England added: "This Queen's Speech is a lot of Brown and not much Green. Some measures, such as the Climate Change Bill are welcome, but others suggest that protection of the environment is slipping rapidly down the Government's to-do list."

Counter Terrorism Bill: will look again at raising the maximum time terrorist suspects can be detained before being charged from its current 28-day limit to 56 days.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty said: "There's still not a shred of evidence for extending the longest period of pre-charge detention in the West. In the face of genuine constructive alternatives, it smacks of political posturing. Britain needs another counter terrorism law like it needs a hole in the head."

Children and Young Persons Bill: proposes to improve services for both groups, including those in care.

Phillip Noyes, NSPCC director of public policy said: "The NSPCC is urging the Government to ensure that every young person who has been abused has access to therapeutic services, including young people in care, as part of the bill.

"While the Society is pleased that that the bill will provide greater protection for children in care, not all children who have experienced abuse and neglect can access vital therapeutic services such as counselling."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in
RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners