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Youth Volunteering

As the levels of volunteeting collapsed during the ‘boom’ it is interesting to see it come back into fashion now that the recession has hit. During 2009 the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reiterated his commitment to the idea of what they are terming ‘community service’ for under 19’s in the U.K. which came out of a report from the Thinktank Demos. The Demos report also argued that youngsters aged 18 to 24 could do 100 hours of “civic service” but would be entitled to means-tested grants and loans available to university students.

This harkens back to the idea of ‘national service’ where young people would use the scheme at key points in their lives being: during school, further education and gap years between school and higher education. Even employers would be incentivised to let staff take one year off a year to do the same.  Interstingly the report also called for university students to be required to carry out 100 hours of community service, in recognition of the subsidy the UK government (i.e. the taxpayers) pays towards their education. An interesting point for Minister Batt O’Keeffe to take into consideration in Ireland now that fees are off the agenda for higher education!

The U.K. is already starting to try this concept out with $146 million budgeted for the first phase of the programme for teen still in school, starting with a new programme for 16 to 19 year olds which started last September. This should see 20,000 school leavers a year undertake full time community service alongside training, as part of an ‘Entry to Employment’ scheme. One would hope that with so many young people volunteering, that a whole new generation of social enterprises and social entrepreneurs might come out of this experiment, as the next generation see that ‘success’ in life is not necessarily about flash cars and City bonuses.

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