UK backs teenage 'opportunity card' schemes
Teenagers in the UK are to be given more say over what they can do in their spare time and the places they can go, with the launch of the government's 'Youth Matters' green paper, which aims to give youngsters rewards for, and discounted access to, constructive extra-curricular activities.
In a package of measures designed to address the needs of the country's youngsters (variously referred to as teenagers, children, and young people), the Minister Beverley Hughes has announced a consultation on several key topics:
- Opportunity cards This involves government support for local authorities to pilot 'opportunity cards' to get more young people involved in positive activities. The cards would provide discounts on a range of activities, and could also be topped up by young people and their parents with money to spend on sports and other constructive activities.
Pilot schemes would also look at giving all new cardholders up to £12 worth of credit to spend, as well as giving younger teenagers from families on low incomes (who find it hardest to access wholesome activities) an additional monthly allowance of up to £12.
Top-ups could also be used to reward young people for volunteering or for making a contribution in other ways. Opportunity cards would be suspended or withdrawn from young people committing anti-social behaviour or crime.
- Control over opportunity funds Young people in each local authority would also be given control over a share of an 'opportunity fund' of up to £30,000 to be spent on local projects that young people want - for example, providing a cafe or running a sports league. Further funding would also be available to help young people develop the expertise to do this effectively.
- Legislation of local duty The government intends to legislate to clarify local authorities' duty to secure positive activities for all young people. Hughes also announced the allocation of £40 million over two years (from April 2006) to enable local authorities to develop - in conjunction with young people - innovative approaches to the facilities that today's teenagers want.