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Tories plan to enlist disadvantaged children as Guides and Scouts

The government wants thousands of children in the most disadvantaged areas of Britain to join uniformed groups like the Scouts, Guides and military cadet forces, it will announce this week.

Tracey Crouch, the minister for sports and civil society, will launch a £5m budget to create 5,500 extra places in the country’s toughest areas in uniformed youth groups including St John Ambulance, the Volunteer Police Cadets and Woodcraft Folk.

Council spending on youth services almost halved, from £650m in 2010-11 to £390m in 2016-17, according to the Local Government Association.

The government’s £600m flagship youth programme, the National Citizens Service – which allows 15- to 17-year-olds to live away from home and learn new skills on a three- to four-week course – attracted just 12% of the eligible population to take part over the last three years.

An estimated 1.5 million young people take part in uniformed youth groups. Despite a reputation as a middle-class preserve, research carried out by ComRes this summer found there was no significant difference with the wider population in terms of proportion of children receiving free school dinners or in terms of ethnic and religious background.

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