'Smart cards' to reward well-behaved teenagers

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The Independent Online

Teenagers are to be offered discounts on items such as cinema tickets and sporting activities in exchange for good behaviour.

They will be issued with "smart cards" - which will give them reductions on services as part of the Government's attempts to control anti-social behaviour. The cash discounts could be offered if, for instance, they volunteer for community service. However, they can be taken away again if a youngster lands in trouble with police and faces prosecution.

Plans for the new "smart cards" will be outlined in a Government Green Paper to be published this morning putting forward proposals for a shake-up of youth services.

The range of activities covered by the "smart card" could include public transport, libraries, cinemas, museums, a whole host of sporting activities and even shopping.

The theme of the Green Paper will be to offer teenagers incentives for good behaviour and disincentives for behaving badly.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes indicated yesterday that the scheme will be "about celebrating when young people are doing well, as well as being able - through sanctions or not involving young people - to point to the fact that they have responsibilities as well as rights and if they don't meet their responsibilities, they jeopardise those rights".

"We are going to be proposing practical ways in which incentives and sanctions could be built into the way young people access activities or decide to spend their time," she added.

Officials at the Department for Education and Skills discounted any suggestion that the so-called "smart cards" could be used as an identity card for teenagers.

Any "smart card" scheme would be delivered locally with decisions taken locally as to what activities and services would qualify for the card. Schemes would not be compulsory for the teenagers and local councils would not be compelled to take part in them.

Today's much delayed Green Paper was originally due to be published last year when the thrust of the paper was more about improving youth service provision.

It has been rewritten to reflect Prime Minister Tony Blair's growing concern with anti-social behaviour.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are today announcing plans for a new commission to investigate the delivery of special education needs in the UK.