Carrot and stick to make sure the kids behave
TEENAGERS are to be paid by the Government to stay out of trouble in a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour. The scheme, which will give them up to £25 to behave, will be piloted in Cambridgeshire with a £3 million budget. Youngsters from low income famili
TEENAGERS are to be paid by the Government to stay out of trouble in a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour. The scheme, which will give them up to £25 to behave, will be piloted in Cambridgeshire with a £3 million budget. Youngsters from low income families or in local authority care will be given the cash to spend on activities such as sport and music. Lesley Innes looks at the Youth Opportunity Card which the Government hopes will prove a powerful incentive for tackling yobbish behaviour.
PRIME Minister, Tony Blair, has made the war on yobbish behaviour a priority for his Government - and the new "opportunity card" for teenagers is the latest weapon in the battle.
Youngsters will be rewarded with up to £25 for staying out of trouble and spending their time pursuing activities such as sport and music.
But if they were guilty of anti-social behaviour they would lose the Youth Opportunity Card or have it suspended.
Cambridgeshire County Council has been chosen as one of eight areas in the country selected to pilot the scheme with a £3 million budget.
If the pilot projects are successful, eventually all 13 to 19-year-olds in the county will have access to the cards.
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Young people receiving free school meals or in local authority care will have between £12 and £25 added to their cards while others will top them up themselves or with their parents' help.
The Youth Opportunities Cards are designed to give young people spending power and will be accepted for a range of activities or discounts at selected outlets.
Youngsters will also be able to save up the money to a maximum of £150 to spend on residential activities.
The cards will carry photographs of the teenagers and can be used as proof-of-age but ministers have been quick to point out that they are not ID cards.
Tom Jefford, head of the Cambridgeshire Youth Offending Service, said: "It is a good way for us to alert city and district councils to look at the services they are providing and eventually this spending power will start to drive the market. It may be that teenagers are spending a lot of time at one venue and not using another and this will become apparent.
"We are looking at an investment in young people of around £3 million. But there will always be some young people who will get into trouble even if you give them activities from morning to night.
"If they are behaving anti-socially their cards can be suspended or withdrawn so there is the stick as well as the carrot."
Minister for Children, Young People and Families, Beverley Hughes, said: "Putting money on the card is about opening up opportunities for those who otherwise couldn't afford them.
"Whether it's sport, drama or playing in a band, opportunities of that kind can really add to children's level of attainment and can be so powerful in terms of building confidence and self-esteem."
The pilot project is expected to be rolled out across Cambridgeshire in the autumn.