Roberta Blackman-Woods questions scope and cost of National Citizen Service

Shadow minister for civil society says 'huge withdrawal' of support for voluntary organisations will negate efforts to increase volunteering

Roberta Blackman-Woods
Roberta Blackman-Woods

Roberta Blackman-Woods, the shadow minister for civil society, has claimed the government's National Citizen Service scheme is too expensive and limited in its scope.

She doubted whether the scheme, which will offer all 15 and 16-year-olds the chance to take part in summer volunteering programmes, would do much to encourage volunteering nationally "given the huge withdrawal in support for voluntary and community organisations elsewhere".

Blackman-Woods also voiced concerns about the reach and costs of the scheme. "I worry that the scheme is not only limited in scope compared with Labour's v volunteering programme, but also costly to implement and it risks putting off many from low-income families who wish to take part," she said.

Her comments came in a statement endorsing remarks by Kevin Curley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, who told MPs this week that local authority funding for volunteering for 16 to 25-year-olds had disappeared completely in several parts of England.

"You do have to ask whether that new initiative is worth all the pain that's being caused in terms of the loss of support for volunteering at a local level across the country," said Curley, speaking at the Public Administration Committee's fifth evidence session on the big society.

MPs on the House of Commons education select committee said last month that the six-week scheme was too expensive at a cost to the government of £1,182 per place.

Pilots of the National Citizen Service this summer are intended to give 11,000 school-leavers the chance to take up volunteering placements. Youngsters might be charged up to £99 to participate.

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