Should we be charging young people to volunteer in their communities?

The Government's flagship youth project, the National Citizen Service, has launched in pilot regions across the UK this week. According to the BBC's website 600 young people in Teeside have signed up to the scheme which is aimed at getting young people more involved in helping their local community.

As an organisation that encourages and supports people into volunteering, we obviously welcome this initiative. However, we are surprised to see that participants in Sheffield are expected to pay a fee to join up. Click here to see the advert on Facebook.

Young people who want to put something positive back into their community should be given every possible encouragement to do so, without the barrier of having to pay for the privilege. Faisal Islam, Economics Editor for Channel Four News, highlights an irony in his blog; "the Government's strategy claims that 'too often such opportunities (work experience and volunteering) are restricted to the better off'". Well then, why on earth are they asking youngsters to stump up £50 to join up when many people are struggling financially in the current economic climate?

Volunteering and setting up community projects are an enriching experience for all, but for the young person it can also be about acquiring precious new skills and building confidence which can really boost employment prospects.

We have witnessed these positive outcomes from our own version of the NCS - Junction49.

Junction49 is an online community dedicated to young people (aged 13-25) who want to set up projects, campaigns and events around issues that matter to them in their community. Since 2007 Junction49 has attracted 8110 members with 1150 new ideas submitted.

What is particulary unique about the site is the multiple levels of support that is offered to young people wanting to get their ideas off the ground, both online and offline. Behind Junction49 sits a dedicated helpdesk team of staff and volunteers who will give tailored advice and support to ensure that the ideas have the best possible chance of succeeding.

So what is the catch? There is none. There is no fee involved and the site is open to absolutely everyone within the age-range who wants to do something positive with their time and help their community. So for you young people out there who want to be good citizens but don't want to be charged for it then look no further and join up to Junction49 today.