EDITORIAL: Finding direction for investment in young volunteers

Lucy Maggs

Young people are threatening and intimidating, they hang around in gangs on street corners with their hoods up and cause havoc through petty crime and vandalism. At least that's what you would think if you believed the media.

But anyone who works with volunteers will know that a lot of young people give up their time to take part in a whole range of community activities. The Government, it seems, is in favour of getting more young people into volunteering, which would boost the volunteer force and dispel some of the negative images of young people. It seems that, from Gordon Brown's speech last week at the NCVO conference, the Government will put its money where its mouth is come the next Budget.

But the question is, how will government investment in the youth volunteer force operate? Will a new government-run youth volunteering initiative be set up, or will money be given directly to existing organisations?

The Government's latest volunteering initiative, the Experience Corps, was set up to encourage the over-50s to give their time. It proved extremely unpopular with the voluntary sector, as organisations already working to encourage volunteering felt the £20m of government funding could have been more effectively spent through them. The Corps has not yet shown itself to be successful - as it reaches the end of its funding it seems unlikely that it will meet its targets of recruiting 250,000 volunteers.

After hearing the Chancellor's speech, it is difficult to ascertain whether the Government has learned anything from this experience. There are a number of groups already working to encourage young people to take on an active role in their communities - let's hope that Gordon Brown remembers this, and come April, doesn't leave them out in the cold.

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