The government should re-examine the previous government's proposals regarding the path to gaining UK citizenship. These introduced the idea of "probationary" citizenship and the fast-tracking of applications by those who had been deemed to perform community service. However no definition of what will be regarded as appropriate community service has been forthcoming from either the current or previous government leaving those currently on the path to citizenship confused and embittered. The path to gaining UK citizenship should be aspirational and positive yet it has turned into a legalistic, expensive, bureaucratically opaque and negative journey for those currently contributing to this society and seeking to become permanent members of the British family.

The government should scrap the requirement for community service as no such requirement exists for existing UK citizens, thereby creating a two-tiered notion of citizenship. It should also bear in mind that existing community based organisations are in no place to deal with the (likely cyclical and short term) volunteering that would result under such a scheme and nor are they experts in providing community or civics education. The requirement for community service will also act as a severe disincentive for highly skilled professionals to make the commitment of becoming UK nationals (and potentially long-term UK taxpayers).

Why is this idea important?

It prevents new citizens feeling like second class citizens in their new country and required to do far more than other citizens in order to prove their loyalty and commitment. Citizenship is a mark of belonging – not something that is purchased with exorbitant application fees or hours spent cynically volunteering. Many give back to their community through employment as teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs already, others provide significant support as carers, parents, guardians. Community service should be motivated by community spirit, not by heavy handed government intervention.

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