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Should young people have to do community service?

Posted on: 19th Feb 2015

The government’s announced this week that its policy is to have young people (18-21) not in employment, education or training (NEET) do community service for 30 hours a week. This would affect the approximately 50,000 young people who are currently “NEET”

Voltaire said “work saves us from 3 great evils; Boredom, Vice and Need” and he was right; The community service scheme feels like it would be useful if it got young people, out of the house, learning new skills and gaining valuable work experience and feeling positive about doing something of value and worth. To do that the scheme needs to be well positioned and have effective training and support woven into it.

To help NEET young people, (many of whom will have complex issues that cause them to still be NEET even in the current, more buoyant job market) properly learn from this scheme they need to be supported with good provision. The sort of provision that will help them identify and acknowledge the complex issues that are barriers to their progress toward employment. Provision that will help them develop the skills and psychological resilience that enables them to get and hold down work.

The scheme will not be effective if there is no provision or almost as bad, has the the sort of provision that is given to some outsourcing conglomerate that is good at writing bids  and winning contracts but knows nothing about the needs of the client group.

The scheme will  also not work if it is, or is perceived to be a punitive scheme, that merely seeks to make it less attractive to be on benefit.

So yes, young people doing community work could be a good thing BUT before we can say it’s good, bad or ugly lets see some more detail beyond the political posturing.