Close up of a young woman opening a letter from the government about national service

Statement on proposed national service

Published: 30/05/24 | Categories: Influencing, Author: Lindsay Cordery-Bruce

Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, WCVA’s Chief Executive, reacts to the debate on compulsory volunteering for young people funded by the end of UKSPF.

We welcome the discussion that the national service pledge by the UK Conservative Party has provoked over the bank holiday weekend. Community volunteering and civic participation are crucial policy areas far too often left out from general election discourse.

While we recognise that many details of the proposed scheme would be devised by a Royal Commission, we do have strong concerns over the direction of some of its stated policy and funding plans.


The proposed national service scheme would require 18-year-olds to choose between enrolling in a year-long military training programme and volunteering one weekend a month for a year. Participation in the scheme would be required by law and refusal to take part would result in as yet unspecified non-criminal sanctions.

The scheme, as currently envisioned, does not match our definition of volunteering as an activity undertaken freely, by choice. Furthermore, announcements to date fail to acknowledge the active contribution young people already make within their local communities. Many are already engaged, despite a marked decrease in services for young people over the last five years.

Whilst there is merit to a scheme providing opportunities for young people regardless of background, we are concerned about the unintended consequences that may arise from enforced participation. What view of ‘volunteering’ may this create for young people? Is there evidence to suggest that this is an effective approach to creating a life-long passion for volunteering?


The scheme is projected to cost around £2.5billion. It is proposed that £1.5billion of the costs would be covered by diverting all funding away from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) scheme.

The UKSPF was designed to act as a replacement for EU structural funds and has been one of the main features of the past three Conservative cabinets’ levelling up agendas. It is deeply concerning to hear that the party plans to end the scheme, if elected.

This would have a huge negative impact on the much-needed work to reduce economic and social disparities across the UK, and the voluntary sector’s ability to contribute to it.


The voluntary sector and volunteering play a vital role in communities across the UK, but we are a sector on the brink of a crisis. In the lead up to the general election, we want to see all parties outline a clear plan for working with the voluntary sector.

They must identify and implement effective policies for a sustainable future, where the voluntary sector and volunteers can play a full role in meeting the challenges we all face.


If your charity is planning to engage in political activity and/or campaigning over the next few months you may be interested in our gofod3 session next week with Geldards – Political activity & charity law update.

gofod3 will take place during a particularly special 40th anniversary of Volunteer’s Week – 5 June 2024 in Cardiff City Stadium.

As in previous years the event will be free to attend, but with capacity limited for each session booking in advance is a must, here’s the full programme of events.