Jamie Thomas, CEO of Red Foundation, has started a debate reacting to the recent announcement by the Prime Minister about the new community work scheme.
So let me get this straight. The government has decided to spend £146m of taxpayers money to launch a new community service programme for 16-19 year olds. This is on top of the £100m plus that has already been spent on the same age group to do practically the same thing, with another £100m already committed to extend this same activity over the next three years, for a demographic that has been proven time and time again to be more likely to volunteer or get involved in the community than any other. Am I the only person that thinks this is nuts?
‘But this is community service not volunteering!’ I hear you cry. Well yes technically that’s true, but the actual work of identifying and creating meaningful opportunities that can demonstrate community impact whilst at the same time hold enough interest for teenagers to stick with them for 50 hours, is pretty similar in my opinion, and the chances are it will be the same organisations, that currently offer volunteering opportunities, that will be most likely to deliver the scheme. And I don’t suppose for a moment that the majority of young ‘community servers’ will be able to distinguish the difference.
Jamie Thomas’ blog post ‘vDaft’ asks the question about how effective the Government has been in promoting volunteering amongst young people.
One of the biggest problems with the announcement is how it is another step by the Government towards making volunteering compulsory. This language in the official press release itself doesn’t seem clear about whether it’s volunteering or community service.
What’s clear is that volunteering has to be voluntary. At least if David Blunkett is to lead a taskforce looking at youth volunteering this should be clear. Remember this memorable quote by Blunkett in The Guardian in November, 2008?:
When asked whether the scheme should become a form of compulsory national service Mr Blunkett replied: “It’s been reinforced to me in the last year that you can’t have volunteering unless it’s voluntary.”
It would be great to get your views.