Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A modern day National Service

Last Sunday I attended the Remembrance Sunday parade and service at Redruth. There was a very strong turnout. With so many casualties from the recent war in Iraq and the current fighting in Afghanistan, the work of the Royal British Legion seems more important than ever. We hear about those that are killed in action, but there have also been thousands injured and many of those will need support from charities like the Royal British Legion.

The fact that our armed forces are currently engaged in a difficult operation in Afghanistan means that people feel a strong need to remember the sacrifices being made on our behalf. The other thing that I have noticed in recent years is the growing support for remembrance services among young people and children. In particular there has been a really strong growth in the membership of groups such as the Scouts, Cadets, Boys Brigade, Girl Guides and Brownies. All were out in full force on Sunday and it was good to see the next generation doing their bit at such a young age.

Earlier this year, the Scouts Association announced the biggest surge in their membership for forty years to 500,000. But a shortage of adult volunteers means that there is also a waiting list of over 33,000 wanting to join. I remember speaking to a volunteer at one local branch who explained that they had managed to help deal with the problem by telling parents that their children could join as long as the parents did too!

Five years ago, before becoming leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron announced his plan to introduce a modern day National Service which would bring teenagers of all different backgrounds together to achieve something for their community. It would build on some of the excellent work already done among teenagers by groups like the Cadets. The aim is that it would be something universal that all young people do around the time they leave school. It would improve community cohesion, develop responsibility and confidence in young people and act as a "rite of passage" to adulthood.

Over the last few months, the government has been working on plans to make this new National Citizen Service a reality and many groups have submitted plans to run pilot projects next year so that we can see what works. Earlier this summer I discussed the idea with the Goody Grane Centre near Penryn which was established by the Bishop’s Forum to provide outdoor activities and challenges for young people and which has been a tremendous success. I also fed in a suggestion from a constituent that we should reward young people who take part in the scheme by giving them access to affordable car insurance. It is an exciting project and anyone else with suggestions should feed them in now.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.