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David Blunkett tipped to head new youth volunteering taskforce

29th April 2009

David Blunkett is expected to chair an advisory panel working on how to make all people under the age of 19 complete 50 hours' community service, something Gordon Brown has said he wants to make a manifesto commitment.

Gordon Brown has said he would consider making the work compulsory if take-up was slow, but it is not clear what sanctions young people would face if they failed to complete 50 hours.

Currently 3 million young people take part in some sort of voulnteering, if all young people in the country participated, they  would be able to provide 30 million hours of service.

The government hopes that David will be able build on existing citizenship studies in the curriculum for 14- to 16-year-olds, including considering making it compulsory that schools offer the scheme. The schools department will be given £146m over two years to increase volunteering.

From September a new programme will offer 20,000 school leavers each year the opportunity to take part in full-time community service as part of the entry to employment programme. In addition to this new scheme, £7m will be allocated for five pilot schemes to find placements for 14,000 young people, in an attempt to develop alternative structures.

"Dedicated professionals" will be recruited to forge links between schools and community service opportunities. Likely placements include environmental projects, local activities such as refurbishing community centres, "befriending older people" and sports coaching.

David Blunkett is also expected to consider whether volunteering projects abroad should be included. Gordon Brown has said he would like a global army of volunteers to work in countries hit by natural disasters.

In a speech last week, Gordon said: "I want serving your community to become a normal part of growing up in every community because everyone has something unique to give and a great deal to gain from doing so. Martin Luther King died 40 years ago but one of the things he said remains with me for ever: 'Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.' I want every young person to have the opportunity to help build stronger communities in our countries."

Last year Brown proposed a national youth service but has in recent months decided to consider making it compulsory.

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