Opinion Former Article

v: Young people should be compelled not conscripted to serve their communities

Calls for compulsory national service for young people are wide of the mark, Terry Ryall, Chief Executive of youth volunteering charity v said today.

Commenting on the publication of an article in Prospect magazine by James Crabtree and Frank Field MP which makes the case for a compulsory national civil service scheme, she said young people had demonstrated in their 1000s that they were prepared to give their time freely to benefit their community.

Over the last two and a half years the youth volunteering charity v has put in place the building blocks for mass youth engagement.

Working in partnership with over 500 voluntary, community and public sector organisations more than 311,000 young people aged 16-25 years have taken part in volunteering funded by v. And that figure is set to grow to more than a million with 875,000 opportunities already commissioned by v.

Ryall said: "We know from listening to young people that if they are offered a range of compelling activities which connect with their interests and concerns they will give their time freely.

"The key to v's approach is that we offer volunteering activities that are compelling not compulsory. This is exactly the same as the Americorps model which is hailed by people across the political spectrum. We don't need to import that model here - we already have our own model, grown from our distinctive British traditions for voluntary action with the support of young people and delivered in partnership by v and hundreds of locally based organisations.

"It is important that we provide young people with clear pathways through this economic downturn. By expanding the number and range of volunteering opportunities open to 16-25 year olds we can help to maintain hope and positive activity. Volunteering can give young people the chance to gain new skills and equip them for future employment or education. Our new vinspired awards provide a way for young people's achievements to be recognised. I'd prefer those in positions of power or influence to get behind the awards and show young people that we value their contribution rather than calling for a form of conscription in the community.

"The vast majority of Britain's youth is law abiding, caring, concerned, ambitious and yes, optimistic. They crave belonging, respect and relationships. I see them everyday all over the country. Of course there are those who are off the rails and out of control but this minority should not be used to drive public policy for all."

To meet the appetite of young people who want to commit their time for the benefit of others on a sustained basis over a year, v has launched a new full-time volunteering programme. Over the next two years, vtalent year will enable over 1,000 young people to volunteer in children and young people's services departments of 33 local authorities. It will last one year, provide qualifications and transition opportunities for a diverse range of young people from graduates to those not currently in education, employment or training.

Lucy Dean aged 20, a member of v20, v's Youth Advisory Board said: "On Saturday we held a massive event mobilising v's 107 Youth Action Teams from across England. Their role is to spread the word of volunteering where they live. The 250 volunteers taking part created such a buzz that everyone went away inspired to shout about how great volunteering is. With such a powerful movement, why would you need to make community action compulsory?"

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS
For interviews with Terry Ryall, Lucy Dean or another young person, please contact Araba Webber on 020 7960 7022 / araba.webber@vinspired.com or Pippa Blessett on 020 7690 7018 / pippa.blessett@vinspired.com.

About v
v aims to inspire a new generation of volunteers (aged 16-25) in England. We do this by funding voluntary organisations all over England to create inspiring, diverse opportunities and by helping to overcome barriers that stop people from taking action to improve lives, communities and the planet. Our want to create a culture where volunteering comes naturally - and where the benefits of volunteering are understood and celebrated.

To do this we have two major streams of activity: as a volunteering funder; and as a central point of contact for all 16-25s.
. Working in partnership with over 500 voluntary, community and public sector organisations more than 311,000 young people aged 16-25 years have taken part in volunteering funded by v. And that figure is set to grow to more than a million with 875,000 opportunities already commissioned by v.
. In addition, we have attracted nearly £50m from the private sector.
. vinspired.com is our consumer facing brand and a place where people can search for local volunteering opportunities and share experiences using online tools including blogging and video. The site is constantly evolving and strives to challenge the traditional perceptions of volunteering trough its look, feel, language and usability.
. v has also provided a national framework to deliver a local service, by introducing 107 vinvolved teams (one in each local authority area across England) to act as central hubs within the community for potential volunteers, businesses, charities and other local networks.
v is an independent charity launched in May 209 as a result of the Russell Commission report, A National Framework for Youth Action and Engagement. See vinspired.com for more information on what we do and how we do it.

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