The National Citizen Service was launched to much fanfare shortly after the current government weren’t elected, as a shining example of the Big Society at work. It has now been announced that a consortium including the multi-national security and workfare company Serco have picked up the largest share of the contracts to expand the scheme, winning 6 out of a possible 19 lucrative regional contracts. Reed in Partnership, another company with a background in workfare, have also been awarded a contract.
Under the scheme 16/17 year old can take part in a short programme which involves sport, outdoor pursuits and ‘volunteering’ (such as, according to the Daily Telegraph, clearing wasteland). The involvement of Serco and Reed suggests that unpaid work is likely to remain at the heart of the project.
Whilst Cameron clearly launched the scheme in an attempt to appease the ‘bring back National Service’ brigade, at present it is entirely voluntary and not based on a military model. Cameron has claimed that: “This is about sowing the seeds of the Big Society – and seeing them thrive in the years to come.”
The truth seems to be that this is a gimmick designed to further profit the private sector at the expense of properly funded youth services working with the most excluded young people.
After last year’s riots the Cameron announced the scheme would be hugely extended, eventually becoming available to every young person in the UK. Despite this one major national young people’s charities, the YMCA, has claimed that the project is largely benefiting middle class families. Certainly the picture above, taken from the scheme’s facebook page, does not seem to represent the diversity of the communities affected by last year’s disturbances.
The true face of Cameron’s Big Society is starting to emerge. Whilst youth clubs in inner city areas close due to funding cuts, middle class kids are sent on tax payer funded jollies which serve to line the pockets of private sector poverty pimps.