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Sociologist Richard Carter has suggested a mandatory National Youth Service as one answer to the challenges posed by at-risk youth in Barbados.

Speaking at the National Strategic Consultation on the Social Response to Crime in Barbados held on Wednesday, Mr. Carter resurrected the idea of a National Youth Service first mooted in 1999, but which, he said, was “still-born” at that time.

Hoping that there would be greater resolve in implementing the programme at this time, given “the current circumstances”, he explained that what was being proposed was that every young person who was not attending school or employed should be required to enroll in a day-release National Youth Service.

He further proposed a residential National Youth Service for first-time and minor offenders. These “unattached youth”, he said, would be involved in community service, continuing education and training, and preparation for employment.

Noting that there was “a huge amount” of research which demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach, he cautioned that results would not be seen immediately, and a measure of patience would therefore be required.

“What we are facing is a multidimensional problem which needs a multidimensional response.  It will not yield immediate results, medium term at best.  It required thinking about the problem at its genesis, that is, at the family and community level.”

The sociologist also stressed the importance of an integrated, and not just multi-sectoral, response with everyone working collaboratively.  That level of integration, he said, would require the ceding of “sovereignty” and people would have to be willing to cede territory in pursuit of the overall goal.

Finally, he said, expectations must be managed and everyone must be realistic, accepting that it will not be possible to save everybody.


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