The National Citizen Service is a fantastic opportunity for our young constituents to make a difference in the community and to develop really valuable skills. Demand is growing rapidly, so we are making 50,000 places available this year and 90,000 in 2014.
I frequently meet with the Challenge Network, which is the principal provider of the NCS in Pendle, and I am looking forward to taking part in a “Dragons’ Den” exercise with it later this year. Will my hon. Friend say what the outcomes are for young people who have so far taken part in the NCS programme?
I thank my hon. Friend for his positive engagement with the programme. As he would expect, we commissioned independent research on its impact, and it tells us that so far we are getting £2 of value for every £1 of public money we spend. The most significant impact has been on what might be called work-ready skills: in particular, helping young people to develop confidence and teamwork, leadership and communication skills, all of which are very important in the workplace.
Youth work budgets have been slashed throughout the country, but the amount the Government are spending on a six-week programme for 16-year-olds would fund a 52-week-a-year service for 13 to 19-year-olds. Will the Minister rethink the NCS and instead put the money into a year-round youth service?
I think the hon. Lady should speak to her Front-Bench team, who recently said they were not against the NCS. I think they saw the numbers on the very positive impact it has on young people, and I hope she will support that too. Youth services around the country do not have to be cut. There are lots of other options for local authorities—to mutualise, to look at other delivery models—and we stand ready to support them in that.