Monday, April 13, 2009

Labour plans compulsory volunteer work for under-19s (but surely, it can't be voluntary if it's compulsory!)

Gordon Brown has a plan to keep young people busy by making them do volunteer work: Labour plans compulsory community service for youngsters Manifesto pledge for under-19s to do 50 hours' voluntary work Every young person will have to do 50 hours' voluntary work by the age of 19 if Labour wins the next election. Gordon Brown said a plan for compulsory community service would be included in Labour's manifesto. Under the scheme, the work – which could include helping charities in the UK and abroad – is likely to become part of the national curriculum. (link via guardian. Now there are lots of questions that immediately spring to my mind about this plan. Firstly, how can it be called volunteer work if it's compulsory? Isn't "compulsory volunteer work" an oxymoron? And what level of service would these young people (under-19s) be providing if they are being forced to do it? And how would the "volunteers" be organized and supervised? And how would the "compulsory" part of the plan be enforced? And how would their achievements be evaluated? And wouldn't this plan make young people feel rather used? I should think they would feel as though they are looked upon as a source of free manpower disguised as "volunteers". And finally, isn't it infringing on their "right" to spend their own time as they see fit rather than be required to do volunteer work 'outside the school day'? What about the children who have planned lots of after-school activities and busy weekends with their families? Do parents get a say in this? What are your thoughts about Gordon Brown's volunteer plan for children? Do you think it's a good idea?


  1. its a ridiculous idea, its child labour and its only because Gordon Brown does not wish to pay people to do jobs so instead wishes to enroll young children to do it. It is unfair, no other people have been forced to do this so therefore why shoul the children of today have to do it? The answer to that question is they shouldnt. Community service is what is given to criminals as a punishment for doing something wrong, whereas these children havent. It is quite clear that Gordan Brown does not care about the children of today if he is willing to use them like this. Gordon Brown is not the one who will himself be forced into doing this "volunteer woek" which isnt voluntary. Also the reason for this is because the government do not wish to pay for youth centres so this is an idea to save them money. I am personally outraged and disgraced. I also believe that this could lead to an increase in teenage suicide rate!

  2. It is an oxymoron isn't it? ;) But I have to admit I have always felt that community service or a required service to one's country is a good thing for all young people. I joined the military after school and I know that I learned invaluable lessons there, about life and the world. Some countries require two years of service already and I think it is a good alternative if a young person does not choose to go to university.

    We already have Americorps here and apparently they are doing a lot of good work, especially in inner-city schools where teachers are sorely needed. Our hospitals and senior homes are understaffed and it will only get worse as more baby boomers age. Volunteers could fill some of the gaps here. This type of service could be a young adults first experience in the working world and a good addition to their CV, not to mention that it's a wonderful way for governments and businesses to save money. Frankly, I don't see much difference between this and requiring males to sign up for selective service and by the way, when will they change this requirement to include women? High schools have already begun a trend of requiring graduates to perform community service. My son had to complete 30 hours.

  3. I agree that it's not fair because if it's compulsory, it isn't voluntary. I think it's okay to encourage community service (for example the sort of thing that is expected in organisations such as the Boy Scouts) but this scheme - compulsory community service - as part of the national curriculum is very wrong.

    And that's a good point about the youth centres. I suppose it might be a way for those in government to say they are keeping teens busy so they don't need to invest in more youth centres.

    I'm not sure if this scheme could lead to an increase in teenage suicide rates but I can see where it might lead to some teenagers feeling quite stressed because of the pressure to particpate in something they aren't comfortable doing.

  4. Hi Melissa. You've made some good points. I agree that community service is a good thing but I don't agree that it should be made compulsory. And this scheme is directed at children (ages 14 - 19) of school age. I think the two years of service required by some countries, that you mention is directed at young adults, not children.

    I've been away from the USA for a long time now so I had to google about Americorps. It does indeed sound like a good scheme. However, it isn't compulsory and it isn't aimed at chiildren. It's for adults. Their official site specifically states that:
    "...AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups." And I am gobsmacked that they are offered such generous financial rewards! It isn't volunteer work. This is from the site:
    "..., full-time members who complete their service earn a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $4,725 to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans; members who serve part-time receive a partial Award. Some AmeriCorps members may also receive a modest living allowance during their term of service."

    I wish we had a similar programme in the UK! It would be very popular, I'm sure.

    It's interesting that your son's high school requires 30 hours of community service. What sort of service is it and what age does the requirement start?

  5. I think this is actually a good idea. Maybe will get some idle kids out of trouble if they have something to do. There's a tradition of compulsory service in other European countries that don't have the social problems that the UK does. As for implementation, I don't know but presumably they'll come up with something.

  6. Yes, community service is a good idea but I still think making it compulsory is wrong. And I do wonder how it will be implemented. It will be very interesting to find out more when Gordon Brown reveals the details of this scheme.

  7. > Firstly, how can it be called volunteer work if it's compulsory?

    "Volunteer work" has an additional connotation of "unpaid work". Thus "compulsory volunteer work" means "compulsory unpaid work", which resolves the apparent contradiction, though I agree it still does sound odd!

  8. That was exactly my first thought, Howard! How can it be called volunteer work if it's compulsory?

    And even though the idea of community service is a good one, I don't think it's right for it to be compulsory. And I also think it will be very difficult to implement and monitor, especially since the plan is for most of the "volunteer" work to be completed 'outside the school day'.

  9. By the way, Howard, I looked at your site, the UK-US Forum, and think it's very good. I've added it to my list of Useful Links.