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Thursday, July 29th, 2010

The National Citizen Service

Young peopleThe Coalition Government’s initiative to get young people to undertake voluntary and community work has finally been revealed to mixed response. It does seem though that early fears have been heeded and an appropriately cautious and measured approach is being taken. 

That complete nonsense of an idea, compulsory volunteering, that many feared, is nowhere to be seen and the whole shebang, which is distinctly separate to the existing government funded youth programme ‘V’, is starting with a pilot involving just 10,000 youngsters who have completed their GCSE’s. Starting with a small number will allow us all to see how it pans out before getting carried away, which must be appropriate in the current economic climate. 

There remain significant concerns in many camps. Some of the potential pitfalls are obvious:

  • A pilot programme like this could easily ‘hoover up’ easy to reach, compliant young people and miss the real target hard line cases that need turning around.
  • Because the pilot will involve working up to 8 weeks during the 2011 summer holidays, recruitment might be a challenge. If all their mates are doing what they do in the summer holidays…
  • Making a real success of a programme like this will probably be more expensive than anyone imagines, each participant will need a substantial investment of time and mentoring for it to work.

However, any progress involves risk and no-one will ever know if an idea has legs unless it is given a run out.

We do not yet know what level of funding will be made available or where it will come from (although the Prime Minister has indicated that he will ‘find the funds to make it happen regardless’).

At this stage all we know about the 2011 programme comes from the following, published by the Cabinet Office:

All young people participating in NCS (National Citizen Service) pilot programmes will have a common experience, wherever they live, whatever their background and whichever organisation delivers the programme. We will be asking that bids include five distinct phases of activity:  

Phase 1: An introductory phase in which expectations will be set and relationships built between participants and staff.

Phase 2: A set of tasks, completed in a residential setting away from home, which are personally challenging (typically in the form of an outdoor challenge experience), and focused on personal and social development (one week).

Phase 3: A set of structured tasks involving visiting and helping the local community and developing skills, again the aim is that this would be completed in a residential setting away from home (one week).

Phase 4: Participants to design a social action task in consultation with the local community (one week).

Phase 5 onwards:

  • A period of 30 hours of social action on a part-time basis.
  • A fair/event to encourage participants to get involved in ongoing social action or volunteering activities in their area (with a view to creating an NCS alumni scheme).
  • A large celebration and graduation event for participants and their guests.
  • An alumni programme, including training sessions and reunion events, to build on the enthusiasm and relationships generated by NCS.
  • We hope to be able to offer outstanding NCS graduates the opportunity to take part in a programme of social action projects in developing countries.   

A tendering exercise is going to be launched next week, but we do not know whether this be for national organisations to pitch for the opportunity to run it for the Government or whether there will be an opportunity for local areas to get involved at this stage.

It would be helpful for us at SUSTAiN to know, though, anticipating local dialogue at some stage, whether or not local organisations would be keen to participate if there is an opportunity to do so.  Please contact Tina Burgess with your views via