Citizens or Slaves?

The coalition government launched its strategy for a ‘Big Society’ in July. This flagship aims to give power to local communities and authorities rather than relying on centralized government for everything. I personally disagree with most of the plans for this society, however the main point im annoyed about is a  ‘National Citizen Service’.

This plans to see young people spending six months volunteering at some point between the ages of 16 and 25.


For a campaign in an article last year, Prospect magazine looked at how this might work; ‘Citizenship first: the case for compulsory civic service’-  read online  here.

“We are proposing the introduction of a mandatory national citizenship service programme. Every British young person, aged 16 to 25, should be paid a modest amount—perhaps around the minimum wage—to spend at least six months, and preferably a full year, working on projects supporting Britain’s children, the sick and elderly, the environment, and international development. Properly designed, such a scheme could help to reduce youth unemployment, answer many social needs that are not met by either the market or existing public services, and provide young people with structure, rites of passage, the opportunity to serve and the chance to move beyond the limited horizons in which they were born.”

The Daily Telegraph response was similar to my own – they called it “compulsory volunteering”, read here.
In my opinion, you volunteer because you want to, therefore take care and pride in the work you do. However if young people were forced into the work they are likely to be angry and not take proper care. This is worrying when the areas of work would be working with children and the elderly – jobs that have to be taken seriously.

Another reason why I am against the scheme – recognition. Currently, volunteers get recognised for the work they do, they gain respect in their community and there are awards available. Apart from this, it looks really good on your CV and to future employers. However, if every young person has to pitch in at some point, what would set the true dedicated volunteers out from the rest?

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament debated about this topic at their sitting in the Scottish Parliament chambers at the weekend. The members came out with statements like “volunteering should come from the heart” and “it’s just another form of slavery”. The general opinion was that the government should be investing in local communities rather than forcing young people to do the work.

To see the governments plans and make your own mind up click here!


4 Responses

  1. I totally agree with your reasons for not embracing this new scheme. People should be praised for their volunteering efforts – spending their time and (often) money to selflessly help others. I know people who would not appreciate being forced to volunteer – they only care for their own well-being. Why should these selfish people get credit for volunteering – when morally they don’t agree with it, and will just do it because they have to, not because they want to.

    Did you mean to post this blog after Thomas posted his? If not – hilarious! If so – clever!

    Well done x
    Julia x

  2. haha I had read it and thats what gave me the idea to do it. But its not exactly the same idea. But I had now forgot all about it so thanks for reminding me!

  3. I disagree, i think that if the scheme is done properly then it would be a hugebenefit to all young people. I didnt realise that current volunteers only volunteered to get credit. Surely they wouldnt be so selfish as to want to stop people volunteering in case they dont get as much credit. I disagree with a lot of the governments plans but i cant see any flaw in this one. I think it will work to get young people of the street, and even work for people with a supportive backround as it will let them experience new things. And who knows, maybe the people that didnt want to volunteer before will get a taste for it and become volunteers of the future.

  4. Obviously people don’t volunteer just to gain credit, but it is right that they do get some recognition for the work they willingly do. It also enables volunteers who don’t have the best qualifications to get jobs – because of their dedication and life experience.

    I don’t think forcing young people into volunteering will get them off the streets, if anything it could just anger them more.

    I think encouraging everyone (not just picking on young people) to volunteer would be a great idea. But if they really don’t want to do it you can’t make them.

    Also think about people like young carers, they already spend most of their time looking after someone in their family, finding it hard to get any time to themselves. Then suddenly the government forces them to give up the free time they do have to go and look after more people.

    It’s a really unfair system that lets the government off with supporting public services and forces young people to do it instead.

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