A BIG volunteer programme is critical to the well-being of young people and the nation as a whole, Sheffield MP and former Cabinet Minister David Blunkett said this week.
It is needed to help address the “enormous” number of under-25s unable to find employment, as well as “instilling values of responsibility and respect that were clearly absent” among those involved in last month’s riots.
Echoing calls by educators, politicians and Prince Charles, Mr Blunkett is pressing for a return to the concept of “a properly funded, well-organised community based youth volunteer programme and is pointing to “overwhelming” public backing for a separate ‘National Citizen Service’, a compulsory period of community service for all young people.
He said: “It can be seen that a National Volunteer Programme has widespread support.
“It is clear that many young people in the areas affected by the riots are growing up with values that are incompatible with a fit and flourishing society.
“In the light of the disturbances, criminality and looting, it is now time to address the broader question of how we change values and attitudes fundamentally, so that mutuality and reciprocity come high on the public agenda.”
Mr Blunkett, MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, said it had been estimated that fewer than one in 10 of those dealt with by the courts in the first two weeks after the disturbances were in a job or education.
“We can see that low employment rates exacerbate a culture of no hope, where the power and image that comes from being part of a gang is a much more accessible and attractive offer than a job. A culture of dependency and victimhood prevails, and opportunities to escape are limited.”
The National Volunteer Programme would be voluntary and would be taken up by young people over the age of 16.
They could participate, for example, before going on to training or apprenticeship programmes, or between leaving school or college and going to university.
The programme would be on a nine month basis and would be geared to social, educational and environmental programmes aiming to transform the community and provide confidence building, self esteem and new experiences. There would be payment for participants and, where they were away from home, accommodation and food.
It would be in addition to the National Citizen Service. The experience gained on that six week programme would enable young people to choose which areas of the new full time programme they would wish to take up.
So far Mr Blunkett’s blueprint has received positive feedback from organisations in the third sector.