Kids Will Vote Tory, Then

Today’s UK news brings the story that a major plank of Gordon Brown’s manifesto for the next election will be that all young people will be required to undertake at least 50 hours of voluntary work by the age of 19. Alex Massie has already pointed out the bizarreness of the concept of compulsory voluntary work so that I don’t have to. It falls to me, therefore, to ask exactly what this means.

I’m pretty sure that by the time I was 19 I had put in well over 50 hours of voluntary work helping out at the local cricket club, and at the stamp club where my Dad was a leading member. My mum commented that at 19 she was spending a lot of her time looking after her young brother and sister, and helping out at her father’s business. Somehow I doubt that any of these things will count towards Mr. Brown’s targets.

What I think this is actually about is social services. The government is facing a huge shortfall in areas like the health service, care for the elderly and disabled, and so on. One way to plug that gap, and play to the general hysterical fear of “young people” that the media is so fond of encouraging, is to draft kids into unpaid service in these areas. Which of course leaves one very important question: who is going to train and manage these press-ganged kids?

In sensitive and difficult areas such as this, I have a sneaking suspicion that we may often be better off without help than with unwilling help.

4 thoughts on “Kids Will Vote Tory, Then

  1. In California the past several years High Schoolers have had to do “community service” hours in order to graduate.

    It’s created a real burden for some non-profits I’ve worked with. We just don’t have the short-term jobs for untrained people, and by the time training’s done the kids are done with their hours.

    And most of the kids really don’t take it seriously. If we offer them grunt-work, they’ll look elsewhere to volunteer.

  2. The California definition of “community service” is fairly broad. I met a high-schooler behind a desk at L.A.Con IV who said her volunteer hours at the con would count toward her community service requirement. (I had the impression she would have been volunteering anyway.)

  3. Petréa:

    I’m sure that’s true of California, but the UK has a much narrower definition of what counts as acceptable voluntary work. Amongst other things, it makes it much more difficult to run SF conventions in the UK.

  4. I agree with you. A large volunteer staff of folks who don’t want to be there is a burden on the paid staff who have to deal with them.

    As for the California thing, the specific loophole has to do with 501C3s. Volunteering for one counts towards one’s “community service” requirement, which is how some folks can get rid of it by volunteering at cons.

    When she was in high school, Chaos Savitzky recruited her school friends to gopher for Consonance because it was more fun than working at the local hospital. *I* even recruited a co-worker (our junior sysadmin) to work at Consonance one year. He was going to college full-time and working 3/4-time when one of his teachers gave the class a requirement that they put in 16 hours of volunteer time to pass the class. He was lamenting “I already work and go to school. How the hell am I supposed to find the time to do THIS?”

    Needless to say, he had a MUCH better time burning off his hours in one weekend than his classmates did over the course of several weeks.

Comments are closed.