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National Citizen Service

Volume 529: debated on Wednesday 15 June 2011

4. What steps he is taking to enable young people in (a) England and (b) Northamptonshire to participate in the national citizen service in the summer of 2011. (59572)

6. What steps he is taking to enable young people to participate in the national citizen service in the summer of 2011. (59574)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) knows, we are offering more than 10,000 places to 16-year-olds this summer, including 135 in Northamptonshire. Our 12 providers are working hard to ensure full participation. I hope that he will lend his personal support to Catch22 and the Prince’s Trust in his area.

What steps are being taken to encourage full participation in the scheme, and how can parents get involved to encourage youngsters to take up this challenge?

Our providers are working very hard to ensure full participation in the pilots by engaging schools, working with local media, and using social networking sites, including a dedicated Facebook page. The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General and I will write to every colleague in the House with details of how they can engage with their local provider, because we would like them fully to support this exciting and positive opportunity for young people in their constituencies.

There are a number of national citizens service pilots in and around my constituency. Does the Minister agree that we need to find ways of increasing and deepening access to this scheme in the most deprived areas by using innovative ways of communicating with youth clubs and other local institutions?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the key benchmarks for success of the scheme is creating the right social mix on residential courses. The aim is to create opportunities for young people to meet people they would never otherwise expect to meet. That is very much part of the obligation on our providers and we are monitoring it very closely.

I welcome this initiative, but does the Minister agree that the Government need to do much more to prevent a repeat of the ‘80s, when so many young people ended up on the scrapheap?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his constructive engagement with the national citizen service concept. I obviously reject his thesis and would point him to the investment in apprenticeships and everything else that we are doing. I urge him not to underestimate the potential of this programme to transform young people’s sense of what they can achieve.

May I ask the Minister again about the barriers to young people from deprived areas getting involved in this scheme, especially in the pilot projects, for which, in half of the cases, young people are being charged up to £99? Does he agree that such charges will be a severe disincentive to young people from those areas, and will he take action?

We have made it clear—I have done so personally—to every provider that money should not be a barrier to participation in the pilots. We are experimenting with a range of models to gauge people’s willingness to pay for the value that the models add, but we have made it very clear to providers that money should not be a barrier to participation.