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Conservatives to put plans for National Citizen Service centre stage

DSC07289 Today the Conservatives are going to go big on the party's plans to introduce a new National Citizen Service for teenagers.

It all forms part of the Big Society narrative which David Cameron has been promoting of late, although the scheme has long been part of the Tory leader's vision for giving young people the opportunity to volunteer for community work.

It was mooted by Mr Cameron during the 2005 leadership contest and a party green paper was published on the matter as long ago as the autumn of 2007.

David Cameron will say that he hopes that the scheme would be "one of the proudest legacies of a future Conservative government".

It is expected to involve teenagers taking part in team-building outdoor activities, before attending a residential programme where they might find themselves looking after elderly people in their area and developing and running their own social action projects.

Finalised plans for the scheme will be announced at Mr Cameron's first major press conference of the campaign in London this morning, before he heads out of the capital for campaign visits to target constituencies. Samantha Cameron, meanwhile, is expected to be visiting social action projects elsewhere in the country in her own right during the course of the day.

Check back here later for further details.

11.30am update:

David Cameron, Michael Gove and Barones Warsi held a press conference this morning to launch the National Citizen Service (NCS), at which they explained what the scheme was all about, drawing on pilot projects which have already taken place.

The voluntary scheme is all about providing challenges for 16-year olds which will aid their development and encourage them to put something back into society, as well as aiding community cohesion by having teenagers from all social, ethnic and religious backgrounds working together.

David Cameron explained that he wanted the scheme to give a sense of purpose and sense of belonging to young people whose potential is currently wasted. He talked of it in terms of being a rite of passage and said that the words of Gandhi were an inspiration: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

The initial part of the 2-month programme is all about team-building, followed by thinking about the needs of their community and the social action projects they could set up to help those communities, followed up by a period of putting those ideas into action.

There would be a formal graduation ceremony for those who take part, with an alumni programme, with those who have done it mentoring future participants. There would also be a national awards scheme, with opportunities for some to go on to work on international social action projects.

If a Conservative Government is elected, there would be more pilots of the scheme in 2010, with national pilots in 2011 and 2012 - funding by the existing government's "Prevent" programme, with independent providers from youth charities and social enterprises putting them into action. National roll out of the scheme would follow in 2013.

DSC07290 The actor Sir Michael Caine appeared at the press conference as a supporter of scheme, calling himself a "representative of youngsters who have been forgotten", drawing on his old childhood experiences. He said of David Cameron:

"Here you have a leader of a government [sic] interested in saving young people".

In questions, Mr Cameron emphasised that the scheme was not compulsory, but that he wanted it to be set up in such a way that youngsters would want to do it, to expect to do it.

Jonathan Isaby


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