"Regressive and ridiculous": NUS UK responds to Conservative pledge to institute National Service

The Conservative party has pledged to introduce National Service for 18-year-olds if they win the General Election.

The scheme would compel 18 year olds to complete a community programme over a 12-month period, or enrol in a year-long military training scheme.

  • Community volunteering: Spending one weekend every month - which equates to 25 days over a 12-month period - volunteering with organisations such as the NHS, fire service, ambulance, search and rescue, and critical local infrastructure
  • Military training: Applying for one of up to 30,000 “selective” military placements reserved for teenagers deemed the “brightest and the best” in areas like logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations over a year-long period

Although undertaking National Service would be required by law, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Cleverly, said no one would go to prison for not taking part, but there would be non-criminal sanctions for those who refused. The Conservatives have not said what those punishments would be.

The Tories estimate the scheme would cost £2.5bn.


Commenting, NUS Vice President Higher Education, Chloe Field, said:

“This is a regressive and ridiculous policy meant to distract from the actual problems the country is facing right now.

“The Conservatives are hoping to stoke inter-generational disputes by using language to promote the scheme that paints young people as lazy and out-of-touch with reality, hoping to create infighting amongst voters so that we don’t unite to criticise them for their frankly atrocious governing.

“This government has not benefited any generation. We have elderly people literally freezing to death in their own homes because they cannot afford to turn their heating on, record levels of all age groups reliant on foodbanks, and weeks-long waits to see a GP. Sunak cannot pretend that these problems are the fault of young people.

“No one should be forced to go to war, especially not for the UK with its history of imperialism.

“But even the other proposed forms of National Service obscure the actual problems we are facing. Requiring young people to volunteer within our NHS and public infrastructure will not fix the gaping wound left in our public services from a lack of funding. Instead of forcing young people to volunteer in jobs they are completely unqualified for, the Government should incentivise people train in these industries by reintroducing the NHS bursary, increasing student maintenance funding so that it actually covers the cost of living, and paying workers a fair wage.

“The Conservatives’ estimate this scheme would cost 2.5 billion. Imagine what that money could be spent on. We could build an education system where no students rely on foodbanks and credit cards as the norm, and where no students have experienced homelessness.

“In this election, voters are looking for solutions, not culture war headlines. The economy is a top priority for young people; we want properly managed public spending.”

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