Sheffield Wednesday praised for joining Big Society

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DAVID Cameron has heaped praise on Sheffield Wednesday for establishing a scheme which is an “excellent first step” towards his vision of a Big Society.

The Prime Minister said he was “delighted” the football club is among the first organisations to take part in the government’s National Citizen Service.

The Owls are offering 100 places for teenagers in the city to take part in “outdoor challenges” and “community regeneration projects”.

The youngsters will also go on a two-week trip to build teamwork and leadership skills before returning to their communities.

Rotherham United and Barnsley are also among the Government’s 12 pilot schemes - and the Prime Minister has even used Facebook to get teenagers involved in the scheme.

Mr Cameron exclusively told The Star: “This week National Citizen Service gets underway and I am delighted Sheffield Wednesday will provide 100 places for local teenagers to serve their communities.

“Why am I so passionate about this? Well, to begin with, because it’s going to make a massive difference to so many lives. There is in our country the most tragic waste of potential.

“Today’s teenagers are as passionate and idealistic as generations before, but they don’t always get the opportunity to demonstrate their enthusiasm and commitment.”

He denied his Big Society drive was just a cover for deep spending cuts, adding: “Sadly, cuts in spending would be happening whoever was in government.”

The pilot programmes will start in July after the end of GCSE exams and will culminate in National Citizen Service graduation ceremonies attended by family and friends.

The aim is for 30,000 places to be available by the summer of 2012 and eventually Mr Cameron wants all 16-year-olds to be able to take part.

The Prime Minister added: “Indeed, there can be no better way to start this transformation than by supporting our young people through the first ever National Citizen Service programme.

“Eventually I want all 16 year olds to have the chance to take part and the Sheffield Wednesday project is an excellent first step.”

Mr Cameron says the two-month long National Citizen Service programme would be in the “same spirit” as the old military national service, and would give young people more purpose in their lives.