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National Citizen Service Briefing

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The Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, outlined the Government's plans for the National Citizens Service (NCS) in August . The NCS, a new volunteering scheme for teenagers, will have 10,000 places available for 16-year-olds when it launches its pilots in 2011 with the roll out expected to provide 30,000 places in 2012.

Background

NCS is a key part of the Big Society agenda and will include a programme of activities designed to introduce young people to the concept of civic responsibility. Cameron first spoke about this idea after the 2005 general election, when he stated that the scheme would hope to address a gap in British society - ‘the lack of a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood'. Since then, plans for the NCS have already been trialed with pilot programmes run by charities and social enterprises in London, Wales and the North West.

The London pilots were based on a programme delivered by the Shaftesbury Partnership; a social business co-founded by the Government's Big Society advisor Nat Wei, which aims to create and bring about social reform. The programme called, The Challenge, invited 16-year-olds to undertake challenges aimed at teaching leadership, management and communication skills. An evaluation of this programme, commissioned by the Conservatives, argued that the programme increased young people's trust in each other and engagement in "British life", this is according to the Conservative's green paper on the service, published in April 2010.

The Programme

The government's aim is to give every 16-year-old the opportunity to participate in an eight-week long programme of residential and home-based events during the school summer holidays. This will include 10 days away from home.

Activities are expected to include an outdoor challenge, a set of structured tasks which will involve visiting and helping the local community, developing skills and, in response to the local community, designing a social action task.

For those who successfully complete it, a graduation ceremony will take place with graduates being encouraged, in the long-term, to take-up training sessions, reunion events and further community involvement, to build on the relationships and good will that the NCS hopes to foster.

The Prime Minister announced at the Conservative's Party Conference in October, that the Government also hopes to offer outstanding NCS graduates the opportunity to take part in a programme of social action projects in developing countries.

What the Government has said

The Prime Minister has said:

"There is a tragic waste of potential in this country today. The young people of this country are as passionate and idealistic as any generation before - perhaps more passionate. But too many teenagers appear lost and feel their lives lack shape and direction.

"National Citizen Service will help change that. A kind of non-military national service, it's going to mix young people from different backgrounds in a way that doesn't happen right now. It's going to teach them what it means to be socially responsible. Above all it's going to inspire a generation of young people to appreciate what they can achieve and how they can be part of the Big Society."

Francis Maude has said: "No one expects this to be an overnight transformation. But you have to start somewhere. Over the years, and the decades ahead, this programme will gradually help to build a bigger, stronger society, more cohesive, citizens with a stronger engagement with their communities, with a deep sense of social responsibility."

Public Reaction

A survey carried out by Ipsos Mori in May 2010, found that 81% of respondents thought the scheme was a good idea.

Of the 138 people aged between 16 and 24 who were polled, 69 per cent said they supported the plan.

1,002 people were surveyed, aged 16 and over, and it was found that support varied little if the scheme was changed from optional, as is planned, to compulsory. Eighty-two per cent of those asked about the voluntary version said they backed the idea, while 80 per cent of those asked about a compulsory version said they supported it.

What Next?

At the beginning of August the Government published a detailed specification for the pilots and invited potential providers to submit bids. The successful candidates will be announced in late October.

£50m has been committed to the 2-year programme, with funds being redirected from the previous government's Prevent Programme, which was designed to prevent extremism.

The Spending Review on 20th October confirmed plans to get 10,000 16 year olds involved in the National Citizen Service pilots in 2011/12 with 30,000 now confirmed for 2012/13.

 

Stacy Pritchard, October 2010

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