The Welsh Government has rejected calls for Wales to join the National Citizen Service, a scheme for teenagers in England that's part of the Prime Minister's 'Big Society'. David Cameron today saw youngsters from London training for the scheme in an outdoors centre at Gilwern near Abergavenny.
My ambition is to offer every teenager the life changing opportunity to take part. National Citizen Service is an investment in young people – it gives them the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn about how they can make a difference in their communities, whilst all the time gaining new skills and confidence. Young people are responding to this opportunity by committing nearly three-quarters of a million hours of volunteering this summer.
We have no plans to introduce the National Citizen Service in Wales. The Welsh Government has always recognised that volunteers have a key role in supporting their communities and has invested accordingly. The Minister for Communities, Carl Sargeant, last year announced £2 million funding split equally between the Volunteering in Wales Fund and for GwirVol - an initiative supporting and promoting youth volunteering. Both initiatives help to make volunteering more accessible as well as increasing the number and quality of volunteering opportunities.
The UK Government intends to have 90,000 16 and 17 year olds on the English scheme by 2014 and today the Wales Office Minister David Jones urged the Welsh Government to 'take up the opportunity for Welsh teenagers'.
Northern Ireland will be undertaking a pilot scheme in the autumn. I have already encouraged the Welsh Government to get involved in the National Citizen Service scheme and hope they will begin discussions with the UK Government in implementing this scheme in Wales. I will be visiting an NCS Project in Hereford next week and would invite Carl Sargeant to accompany me so that he can see for himself how beneficial NCS is to our young people.
Despite Mr Jones' pleas, it is now clear that the Welsh Government will stick to the schemes it funds through the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, a body that pre-dates David Cameron's 'Big Society'.
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Heavy rain and strong winds will clear eastwards through this evening. However, scattered heavy showers will return in the southwest later.