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Employment issues

Gap year payment plan for voluntary work

While many career advisers agree that a gap year produces tangible benefits for young people, there are fears that it can be something of a middle-class indulgence

Government statistics confirm appear to this, saying that 8% of 18 year-olds currently take a gap year, mostly coming from private schools and southern England.

That could change dramatically if a pilot scheme started last year is extended nationwide. Under the scheme, school leavers could earn £45 a week for using their gap year to undertake volunteer work in their community,

Treasury sources say that the 'national community service year' will be modelled on similar schemes like Americorps in the United States and projects in Australia. As in America, there could be help with basic living expenses and help for university, college or business start-ups to follow.

Gordon Brown announced nine pilot schemes in last year's Budget, with the first volunteers starting in areas including Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham and Leeds.

By the end of 2005, £5m is due to be spent on paying for 125 school leavers from underprivileged backgrounds to spend a year doing service in their communities.

Another 900 places should be added to those projects next year, with volunteers receiving a £45 weekly allowance and a £750 award for successfully completing their work.

In Scotland, First Minister Jack McConnell is expected to announce shortly details of Scotscorps, a Scottish version of the scheme.





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