An idea whose time has come

26th May 1995 at 01:00
Your report on the growth of interest in community service schemes (TES, May 12) demonstrates how citizens' service is an idea whose time has come. Yet many of the fears levelled against the introduction of a nationwide community service programme are unfounded.

Ivan Briscoe's report for the Demos think-tank avoids the real issues behind citizens' service. Crucially, it would operate outside the training and education infrastructure, giving all young people the opportunity to contribute to civic society and bridging the crucial gap between school and work.

Briscoe's idea that volunteer tasks will be "menial and marginal" does not reflect the facts.

The key to all the proposals is that the scheme is universal; it offers the same challenge to Oxbridge graduates as to young offenders. CSV volunteers demonstrate that many young people take the chance to give if it is offered to them. Can we deny them that?

ELISABETH HOODLESS Executive director, CSV 237 Pentonville Road, London N1

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