Friday, 9 April 2010

National Citizen Service

Well, it's hardly radical, and the title is perhaps the best part of it. A bit like Cameron's localism, it's a tiny step in the right direction but of almost homeopathic proportions.

For a start, it won't be compulsory. Only a week will be spent away from home, there will be four weeks of local community service and the opportunity for a final week's physical challenge. In exchange for this six weeks, the 16 year olds will get a small cash reward.

So what's wrong with it? First, 16 is too young. At that age it's still school summer camp. Second, it's too short - a week's residential won't achieve a thing. Thirdly, it's still 'play' - a national serviceman was given a .303 SMLE and 50 rounds of ball and told to guard his mates with his life. Fourthly, the reward will be too small. Fifthly, those who would most benefit from some kind of national programme will be the least likely to volunteer.

Now read on to the end if you want to understand why Cameron has no alternative.

Right. Let's start over. What would be a positive outcome for the nation in terms of a pool of reserve skills?

First, firefighters and paramedics. These will take four months of full-time residential training plus two months working with operational teams. A minimum of two weeks annual training thereafter. Minimum starting age of 18. Annual tax-free bounty of say £1,600 for six years.

Secondly, a home-service militarised service unlike the TA, heavy on engineering and logistics, airmobile, and with operational ability in coastal waters. Officers and NCOs seconded from regular Army & Navy, with full time specialists. To undertake armed guarding of nuclear and critical national infrastructure and to replace the routine arming of policemen by being available to support the civil police / customs / coastguard operationally. To respond to severe flooding and other weather events and natural disasters as well as aircraft crashes, acts of terrorism an so on. Also riot duty. Six months full-time residential training and duty from age 17 onwards, annual fortnight's camp and an annual tax-free bounty of say £1,200 for six years.

Thirdly, the soft social services, open to both men and women from age 17. The disabled, hospitals, nursing homes, children's homes, church and charitable communities, ambulance and patient transport services. Service from age 17 including free driving tuition and first aid training, for four months.

In addition, completion of any of these three branches of public service would guarantee a place at university and a student loan at subsidised rates. Pay during service would be at trainee rates. During the bounty period of up to six years, trained personnel will be liable to call-up in the event of local or national emergencies.

Now those options really sound attractive, and will have young people queuing at the door.

Cost? Well, there are about 1.3m 16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales, say 700k reaching trigger age in any year. The cost of six months Combat Infantryman Training is currently about £30k. Clearly, if every one went for this option, it would cost £21bn a year plus a billion a year in bounties. 'Soft' option 3 would only cost around £7k each for the 4 months; about £5bn a year if everyone went for this option. Of course, if you severely restricted access to say 10,000 young people a year you could get the cost down to £300m a year - but at a cost of excluding 690,000 potential beneficiaries each year.

And that, of course, is the reason why Cameron's proposals are so insipid. He's probably got a budget of no more than £0.5bn a year - so one week's residential for everyone, and a couple of hundred quid each for a weekend mountain climbing, but wants to reach maybe half a million young people each year. That's a budget of £1,000 each. Peanuts.


thefatlady said...

Guarantee a place at University? On the basis of what ability? Or is this a bit of Raedwald social engieering?

Anonymous said...

Have you forwarded your ideas to Dave? I think they are worth forwarding, they might just prod a nerve or two. For what my opinion is worth, I like your ideas. As with all good ideas, they are simplistic and stand up to scrutiny.

Coney Island

JuliaM said...

"For a start, it won't be compulsory."

Not at first, but it is clearly iDave's intention to make it so later on.

But you missed out the single glaring thing that's wrong with it. It's slavery on behalf of the state.