Following a call in today's Telegraph to make the National Citizen Service compulsory for 16-year-olds, NCVO's executive director of volunteering and development, Justin Davis Smith, commented:
'The National Citizen Service has the potential to make a significant positive contribution to young people's lives, and NCVO has broadly welcomed plans to expand it over the next few years.
'However, we are concerned about the impact compulsion could have on young people's attitudes towards volunteering and what this might mean for their engagement in the longer term. The programme is increasingly being positioned as a staging post on a journey of social engagement for young people; it would be short-sighted to assume that making it compulsory would be an improvement and it could mean that young people miss out on the unique experience of volunteering and the benefits it can bring. Volunteering by its very nature has to be undertaken freely and any attempt to compel people to take part would fundamentally undermine this core principle. Rather than mandating people to take part we should be working to make the programme even more appealing, and to help young people design and develop a range of high-quality volunteering opportunities which will set them up for a lifetime of social action.
'Finally, the claim that charities would be 'unpatriotic' for not taking part in a compulsory scheme is nonsense. Charities are not political organisations; they have the right to defend the fundamental principle of volunteering without being accused of ulterior motives.'