Bring back national service?

Should we bring back national service, as suggested by Conservative leader David Cameron? Community Care journalists Simeon Brody and Mike McNabb argue the point.

     Yes says community editor Simeon Brody

“Bring back national service” may have been the predictable clarion call of the right wing for the past forty years but I think it’s time the rest of us to started to take it seriously.
Conservative leader David Cameron yesterday proposed a voluntary six week stint of military service, working with older people or development work overseas each summer for the nation’s 16-year-olds.
I believe Cameron has not gone far enough. Although I would not support the military service aspect of his plan, I think a six week period of national service must be made compulsory if it is to have any worth. A voluntary scheme would simply attract those young people likely to volunteer anyway.
In any case, the whole point behind national service must be to take young people beyond their comfort zone, allowing them to experience something outside their local neighbourhood or peer group. Working with older people or on environmental projects would give young people a better understanding of the community and how other people experience it. Hopefully national service would help to engender a less selfish way of looking at the world, away from the attitude held by some people that society owes them something without them having to do anything in return.
And I believe it will help engender a more cohesive society as groups which never normally mix will be forced to work together.
National service may also help to counter the generally negative view of young people amongst the wider public if every one of them is seen to be benefiting their local community.
I thought I’d never say it but here goes: “Bring back national service!”

 You must be joking, says sub editor Mike McNabb

Although David Cameron’s latest musings may endear him to the Tory right after his apparent leftward shift on social issues, I am afraid his national service plan will woo only the dwindling army of Brigadier Barrington Smythes (rtd) who, short of a desertion on the scale of the Confederacy in the latter stages of the American Civil War, will vote for him anyway in the next election.

In short, the whole plan is a gimmick; a soundbite in the style of Tony Blair, just when we thought we were rid of him for good.  

It is true that if the Cameron plan is to be effective it must be compulsory.  But he wants the work to be voluntary. So what’s new? If a young person is desperate to work in a residential care home, they will do so, regardless of whether a politician thinks it is a good idea. In other words the Cameron big idea for youth is…er, to maintain the status quo. Carry on, chaps.

My concern would be if the national service did indeed become compulsory, as Simeon Brody recommends. What steps would be taken if a 16-year-old can’t be bothered – or, to be more charitable, becomes a conscientious objector? Will they be punished? If so, how? Will they be allocated a social worker to ease them through this challenging period? And what about the parents? Will they be accountable?

Looks like some serious caseloading for our social care departments.

Are you up for it?

Do you agree with Mike or Simeon? Should we bring back national service? Get involved in the debate


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