Letter: Students fill that gap with vital work

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Sir: While we welcome the Government's announcement that 19,000 deferred- entry students will be exempt from fees (report, 14 August), the problem for the community remains. Many young volunteers plan their voluntary service after 1 August.

The imposition of fees means that most young people will be obliged to work through a gap year to fund their college place. The Government's decision will withdraw much-needed volunteer energy that "gap" students invest.

Every year many thousands of young volunteers enable people with disabilities to live independently, mentor young offenders, raise reading levels in schools and care for homeless people.

Public and voluntary agencies involve thousands of such young people every year through Community Service Volunteers. We know that without their commitment many vulnerable people will suffer.

Moreover, the experience and the responsibility young volunteers enjoy helps them make more informed choices; and they become better citizens.

We fervently hope the Government will find a way to ensure that young volunteers can contribute to meeting the needs of the community in future years.

CHRIS DAVIES

Director of Social Services, Somerset County Council

ELIZABETH CROWTHER

Director of Social Services, Corporation of London

JAN FISHER

Assistant Chief Probation Officer, South Glamorgan Probation Service

TONY LEVER

Director, Bradford Care Consortium

VERONA NELMES

Chair of Social Services, Monmouth

NICOLAS STACEY

Chair, Thames Housing Association

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