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UK gov scraps youth ID card

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The government has scrapped its carrot and stick id card for yoofs after realising that the costs of developing its computer system were beginning to outweigh the benefits it could deliver.

Public Sector Forums (PSF) said it learned of the scheme's demise from a memo leaked from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), which was supposed to pilot the system with 10 local authorities over two years from autumn 2006.

However, it appears that an early assessment of progress has caused the DfES to scrap the scheme before it even got off the ground.

The statement obtained by PSF, which the DfES said was public anyway, said the project had been scrapped after an assessment of its costs, benefits and risks.

Known as the youth opportunity card, it was introduced as one of a raft of measures designed to help wayward kids back on the straight and narrow, as part of the government's Respect Action Plan and Every Child Matters programmes.

It was supposed to give them access to sports and recreational services with electronic pocket money that would be given or taken away according to how well behaved they were. Disadvantaged children were to have their cards topped up with a government subsidy.

However, the DfES said in a statement that it realised last summer it might have trouble seeing its plans through because there was no off-the-shelf technology it could use to run the youth card.

"It is clear that the costs for the delivery infrastructure would far outweigh the money that would end up in the hands of the young people whom we are trying to help".

Young People Now reported in December that the pilots weren't up and running and the pilot authorities where in the dark about the scheme, even though the DfES had already spent £1.15m preparing for them.

It also said that PA Consulting, which has worked on the government's identity card scheme, was developing the youth card. The DfES said the scheme "was always independent from ID cards".

"The Youth Opportunity Card was to be aimed at young people aged 13 to 19 years old. We didn't plan to link this to the National Identity Register or the national ID Card proposals - which are aimed at those aged 16 or over," it said.

The government's green paper on Youth Matters said in July 2005 that there had been "clear support" for a scheme that punished persistently wayward children.

But, it added: "At the same time we recognise that many misbehaving young people could be helped by participating in positive activities and, to take money away at such a stage, could marginalise and demotivate them further."

The DfES was trying to find the right balance "while being consistent with our commitments in the Respect Action Plan to tackle anti-social behaviour".

When Ruth Kelly, then education minister, sketched out plans for the card in January 2006, she said the pilots would test whether giving young people money encouraged them to take up recreational activities.

"All young people will have a right to such a card but if they behave anti-socially, the card will be withdrawn and help offered to turn their lives around."

The DfES said it was looking at other ways to give young people recreational outlets. ®

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