Growing need for a citizen service for Wales

Andy Bevan, author of IWA’s 1st Senedd Paper, A Real Citizen Service for Wales, provides an update on efforts to win support for its proposals

It seems that every day since Senedd Paper No. 1 was launched on 22 January 2014 brings new reminders of the aptness and timeliness of the proposals contained in it. Even so, good ideas are never enough; we have to find the means to implement them. To put it another way, we need to convince those who hold power in Wales.

Today on ClickonWales

Today on ClickonWales Andy Bevan gives an update on his Senedd Paper, A real citizen service for Wales’.

The Senedd Papers are a series of papers looking to suggest practical policies for decision makers to implement.

You can read Andy’s paper here.

What’s happened since 22 January? IWA hosted a successful round-table session at the Senedd on 7 May with broad support from a cross-section of civil society in Wales – including representatives from WCVA, CWVYS, Unite the Union, Youth Cymru, Boys’ and Girls’ Cubs of Wales, Cardiff City Council and Vale of Glamorgan youth services and many more.

When the Welsh Government turned tail on their previous refusal to allow a Welsh pilot for No.10’s NCS (National Citizen Service) – part of Cameron’s early, post-2010 hung election musings on the theme of a “Big Society” –  IWA set about explaining clearly the major differences between our own proposals for a real Citizen Service in Wales and the “NCS” scheme. In a nutshell, our proposal is for a programme open to 18-25 year olds in Wales, of 9-12 months’ duration. It is intended to attract co-funding through the European Social Fund, and would provide proper in-service training, supervision and full pay. It presumes a government-led, society-wide response to long-term problems of youth disengagement and ageing population.

By comparison, the English “NCS” is a much shorter-term, unpaid scheme for 16-17 year olds, and is more in the nature of a Training for Citizenship or social awareness scheme, rather than a truly citizen service programme.

New factors of longer term significance for our own campaign in recent months include:

  1. On 30 October, the Welsh Government announced agreement with the EU on a European Social Fund package of £2bn for Wales for 2014-2020.  I would argue the need to build a commitment to citizen service into the strategy for that 7 year period, with long-term institutional change resulting from the public investment made.
  2. Carwyn Jones has reshuffled his Cabinet and set up a new role for public service reform, with Leighton Andrews in charge. Citizen service is part of an approach which embraces the idea of co-production and democratic engagement in public service. It also emphasises traditionally Welsh values of social solidarity and aims for public sector trade union support.
  3. Sarah Rochira, our Older People’s Commissioner, published a report on 7 November drawing attention to the need for vast improvements in standards of elderly care throughout Wales and MarK Drakeford, Wales’ Minister of Health, talks increasingly of the need for a combined Health, Care and Welfare service in Wales. The enrolment of young people in citizen service can help directly and effectively with this important agenda for social reform.

Indeed, there is  now scope in my view for IWA to play a role in bringing together the offices of the Older People’s Commissioner, Public Services Wales, the NHS Confederation in Wales, Age Cymru and others to work out a concrete way forward, utilising citizen service as part of the solution. The days of slavishly following in Westminster’s footsteps are long gone. There is a great deal we can profitably learn from other partners in Europe. For example, there is an open invitation for a Welsh delegation to visit Germany and France to study how concepts of publicly-funded citizen service programmes (e.g. BFD and Service Civique) are helping to improve the quality of social care there.

Finally, I am convinced by the growing body of support around the concept of a Living Wage, currently calculated at £7.85 per hour (compared with the minimum wage level of £6.50). I would argue that the budget set out in our Senedd Paper should be amended to accommodate this Living Wage for full-time citizen service, with a corresponding reduction in the number of placements from 1250 a year to, say, 1,000 instead.

Andy Bevan spent nine years with VSO between 1988-1997 supporting development projects in Africa. From 1997 to 2013 he worked on the EU’s Voluntary Service programme and in 2000 co-founded ICP Partneriaeth. He is the author of the IWA's Senedd Paper 'A real citizen's service for Wales'.

3 thoughts on “Growing need for a citizen service for Wales

  1. We definitely need a Citizen service for Wales.
    The prospect of a lifetime of unemployment for many of our young and not so young people should not be a reality in this day and age. Similarly at retirement age however defined we need to recognise the wealth of knowledge and experience that is simply discarded.
    We should consider a Citizen Service across the Age and Gender and Ability range of our population and integrate it into the Pension and Benefits systems so that service to the Community is recognised and rewarded

  2. Don’t have much to disagree with what Andy Bevan had to say and also endorse comments made by G Horton-Jones but would like to remind IWA readers that the Welsh Devolution is a one way street and strictly for the privileges of the Welsh speaking minority.

    Over the last 15 years we have seen a rafter of measures in this regard from the Assembly that should not give anyone any doubt that my opening paragraph is fact based.

    The policies of setting out and providing unprecedented privileges for a minority and to the detriment of the majority can never work in any Democratic Society and cracks are already showing.

    The so called Social Engineering to achieve a bilingual nation has already shown dire consequences in Wales and which are exceptionally visible in Welsh education through the immense harm and damage already inflicted on few generations of our young people, many who are damaged for life through underachievement.

    Welsh Government must rethink its priorities and find a way to create a Welsh society which is based on inclusive Citizenship where people’s preferences and free linguistic choices are guaranteed by the state (Protect the minority language that is only spoken in small patches of Wales and a language that cannot be seriously equated with any of MFL’s or genuine bilingual or multiannual societies that exist elsewhere).

    Jacques Protic

  3. Welcome comments and support from GHJ!
    The model of citizen service proposed in the Senedd Paper is a programme for young adults. One of the major advantages is that, over a period of years, a cohort of young people would move through this programme, gaining experience, at first hand, of public service values and realities.
    The profit motive attracts a certain kind of commercial investment and tends to “strip out costs”. It can’t be relied upon to defend quality care; that requires public, communitarian values. I would argue the case for democratic control too, balancing the needs and views of workers, clients, relatives and the local community.
    A contribution from older and retired workers, as mentors, as leaders of specific activities (with flexible options to help out on a part-time basis) is entirely consistent with that approach and adds to it.. It adds to solidarity between the generations. We should consider this further in our discussions on citizen service.
    GHJ also points us in the right direction by referring to the need for integrating these initiatives with the state Pension and Benefits system. This raises the issue of devolution here too.

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