Headlines: April 11th, 2003

Young people in the North East who learn about the community and show the characteristics of good citizens are being rewarded through the use of smart cards. Some 3000 young people in the Derwentside District Council area are awarded points by teachers for agreed acts of good citizenship at school, for example being punctual or participating in a group activity. The points can be redeemed for rewards at leisure centres, cinemas and theatres.In a similar scheme by Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington Borough Councils some 2700 young people are rewarded with points for good behaviour and for taking part in special activities. They can use the points for leisure centre activities. All the councils are members of the North East Regional Smartcard Consortium.

Pupils are given personalized smart cards using technology supplied by electronics company Hitachi Europe Ltd.

The smart cards provide valuable information that, for example, will allow a council to target subsidy for use of leisure centres to those groups that have the greatest need. The trial will also help to measure the effects and successes of investment in leisure services. The schemes encourage young people to adopt a healthier lifestyle through sport away from anti-social behaviour, as well as offering less affluent children access to their local leisure centre. A further benefit is that the schemes promote stronger links between local service providers such as schools, transport operators and stakeholders within local communities.

There are plans to extend the use of the smart cards to carrying cash and library membership. The arrangements for redeeming reward points may be extended to CDs, DVDs, clothes and trainers at local shops.