Andy Bevan examines the party manifestos for their commitment to developing a real citizen service for Wales.
With the appearance of the Welsh Tories’ manifesto on 18 April and Welsh Labour’s the following day, all the major parties who are contesting the 5 May Assembly elections have now published their programmes. Plaid Cymru, UKIP and the Greens had all published their manifestos earlier.
As the IWA launched its first Senedd Paper, A Real Citizen Service for Wales, co-published with the Welsh Assembly Commission in January 2014, it might be helpful to review briefly where each of the parties stands on citizen service.
Plaid Cymru takes the clearest stand. On pages 58-59 of their Manifesto, in the section on Vocational and Further Education, they state “we will create a voluntary National Citizen Service programme open to all 18-25 year olds within Wales involving an approved 9-12 month paid, full-time placement focusing on inter-generational care or digital inclusion.” This ties in with their commitment to “introduce an under-25 Jobs Guarantee, where we will commit to identifying employment, education or training for any young person who has been searching for work for more than four months.”
The only other party to make a specific reference to citizen service is the Welsh Tories. On page 42 of their Manifesto, in the section on Social Justice, they say they would “Introduce a National Citizen Service pilot for 18 -25 year olds on social placements.”
Given the distinct likelihood, in the light of current opinion polling, of Welsh Labour remaining in government in one form or another after 5 May, it is disappointing that there is no reference to citizen service in their manifesto. But all is not lost! There are other references which point to the logic of the proposals in the IWA’s paper on this subject. For example, on page 11 of the Labour manifesto, we read that a Welsh Labour Government sees the need to “invest in the social care workforce” and on page 13 they pledge to “develop a nationwide and cross-generational strategy to address loneliness and isolation”. A citizen service programme open to 18-25 year olds could be a key part of such a strategy.
Our case, all along, has been that Wales has a good deal to learn from the positive experience of other countries, including Germany and France, where full-time, paid citizen service programmes have helped considerably to mobilise the enthusiasm and motivation of young adults to help in tackling the long-term demographic problems arising from population ageing. Our paper unequivocally argued for a properly run, full-time, paid scheme which would be open to all 18-25 year olds. It could bring together young adults who have been out of work, alongside others who have just completed a course of study and those who are between school and college, for example. It would be part of constructing a new social care landscape in Wales, with an emphasis on traditions which mean a lot to Wales – public service, trade union rights, national cohesion, bilingualism and social solidarity across the generations.
When we know the result of the elections on 5 May, it will be interesting to see how discussions between the parties on these important issues play out.
More information on the manifestos of each party can be found at:
Plaid Cymru: www.plaid2016.Wales/manifesto
Liberal Democrats: www.welshlibdems.wales