Youth service pilot plan launched on Teesside

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Youths across Teesside are being encouraged to join the National Citizen Service which forms part of the prime minister's controversial Big Society agenda.

The "once in a lifetime opportunity" aims to make a difference to their lives and local communities.

The area was chosen as one of 12 UK-wide pilots to take the scheme forward.

Organisers hope to enlist 1,000 16-year-olds from across Redcar, Hartlepool, Stockton and Middlesbrough.

The voluntary programme is due to take place over the summer.

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Pilot schemes are to be launched in 12 areas of the country focused on building teamwork, leadership skills and assisting community projects.

It was launched during the election campaign, and is a central plank of the prime minister's "mission" to empower communities and encourage volunteering.

But critics of the Big Society have said it is too vague and is a cover for cuts.

The Cleveland pilot is being led by Safe in Tees Valley, an independent community safety partnership.

'Fun-packed programme'

Chief Executive of Safe in Tees Valley John Bentley said: "Work is already well advanced preparing for the first National Citizen Service programme on Teesside.

"This has only been possible because of the support of a wide range of partners working together and generously contributing both their expertise and resources."

Assistant Chief Constable Sean White, from Cleveland Police, said: "This is going to be a unique and fun-packed programme, which will help young people to build their confidence, make new friends, and make a difference.

"We as partner agencies are committed to the success of the initiative and will be providing support throughout the initiative and beyond."

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