‘Bring back national service!’ is one of the favourite calls of traditionalists and the Tory leader is today returning to an idea that he first floated when he was running for the Conservative leadership (see here). Mr Cameron will travel to Bolton today where he will launch a Green Paper calling for a ‘National Citizen Service’. Olympic medalist and boxer Amir Khan (pictured) will be at the launch. The scheme has been scaled back somewhat since the leadership contest. It will be weeks rather than months in length and the idea of compulsory service has also been dropped. It will have the following key characteristics (according to today’s Mail):
- It will be a six week commitment – running during the summer months.
- 650,000 sixteen year-olds will be encouraged to undertake aid work, visit the elderly or undertake military training.
- There will be a cash award for graduates of the Service – 50% of the award will go to the individual volunteer and half to a charity of the individual’s choice.
- Employers would be encouraged to take note of an applicant’s involvement in the Service in the same way they currently take note of Prince’s Trust and Duke of Edinburgh involvement.
- At the end of the course the volunteer will have to make a pledge of allegiance to Britain and explain what they have learnt.
In the past Mr Cameron has said that he hopes the scheme could be seen as a nationally recognised ‘transition to adulthood’ or ‘rite of passage’: "In our society, the closest thing to a rite of passage is probably going out and getting completely hammered on your eighteenth birthday. I think programmes like this could provide a positive alternative… It could become a recognised ‘stamp’ of adulthood in Britain."
The cost of funding the Service has not yet been calculated. A new policy group under Michael Gove’s chairmanship will do that work. The Conservative leader sees National Citizen Service as an essential part of his long-term aim to repair ‘Britain’s broken society’. He issued this statement:
"It will mix people from different countries. North and south, black and white, rich and poor. They will be putting something back into the community. It will be a way of learning respect for our country and each other just like national service was. This could really change our country for the better. I feel very passionate about this. It should be a part of every child’s experience. You should go from primary school to secondary school, and then at 16 your citizen service. We cannot afford not to do this."
The Sun welcomes the idea – calling it "imaginative and optimistic".