The Citizenship Foundation has urged the government to consider creating a Citizenship Compact, which would include a responsibility for people to participate in society, in a submission to a House of Lords committee.
The charity encourages young people to participate in democratic life and works with schools to provide citizenship education and has also said that there should be more support for charities to be involved in citizenship education and made the recommendation in its submission to the House of Lords’ Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee.
Replying to a question about the formal rights and responsibilities of citizens, the charity called on the government to lead a debate on what the contribution of individuals to society should be, with a view to producing a Citizenship Compact.
The idea is similar to the existing Compact between government and the voluntary sector, which sets out principles for both parties to work in effective partnership in areas such as policy and service design, funding plans, independence, and promotion of fairness and equality.
‘Responsibility to actively participate’
The Citizenship Foundation said that the new Compact between government and citizens “should include a responsibility for citizens to actively participate in their society; and a corresponding right to the education they need in order to have the knowledge, skills and confidence” to do so.
It said that while it expected the suggestion to be “controversial”, the debate itself would be “extremely valuable” and the final Compact would be a useful tool for young people to understand what was expected of them, and what kind of support was available to them, in order to actively participate in society.
The charity also argued that now was a good time for a debate on citizenship – which it defines as active participation in society – as Brexit provided “an opportunity for the UK to re-appraise the rights and responsibilities” of its citizens.
‘Reach beyond NCS’
It also said that citizenship education should go further than the National Citizen Service offering and that there should be support for charities to work with schools.
“Support should be provided to NGOs which support schools with active citizenship schemes, to relieve pressure on schools, and enable NGOs to help all schools regardless of their ability to pay,” it said.
The charity recommended that the government should “reach beyond NCS” so that “there are a multiplicity of opportunities at different points in young people’s journeys rather than a one-size-fits-all approach which would reduce choice”.
Reporting by Daniela Wulf