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National Citizen Service

Volume 567: debated on Wednesday 4 September 2013

We published an independent evaluation of the National Citizen Service in July and I am delighted to say that the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. It proved that NCS is boosting young people’s confidence, helping them to develop valuable skills, as well as inspiring them to make a difference in their communities. Return on investment is estimated at almost three times the cost of delivery.

Mountbatten school in my constituency runs the NCS for the whole of Hampshire. This summer, more than 160 young people benefited from the experience. The feedback from them has been overwhelmingly positive, but what reassurance can the Minister give that the scheme will continue into the future so that many more young people can benefit?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s young constituents got so much out of the experience. She will be delighted to know that 26,000 young people took part in NCS last year and our public intention is to make 150,000 places available in 2016. I hope that reassures her of our intention to make this fantastic experience available to many more 16 and 17-year-olds.

Over the summer I had the opportunity to meet three groups of young people from my constituency who took part in the programme, which is run so well by The Challenge Network in my part of the country. What more can the Government do to encourage even more schools to get their pupils to take part in this excellent scheme?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend also had such a good experience with his local NCS. I am delighted to have it confirmed regularly that young people are now recommending it to each other, which, as he knows, is the way that it will grow. We continue to evangelise in schools, but it is fantastic that young people are now talking to each other on Facebook and Twitter and saying, “You should do this.”

My hon. Friend has told us how successful and popular the scheme has been. What plans does he have to extend the scheme more widely so that it can have an impact in Wales?

I am delighted to say that we have managed to persuade the Administration in Northern Ireland to adopt a very successful pilot there, which we are delighted with. I am very happy to confirm that we are continuing to talk with the Scottish and Welsh Administrations to try to encourage them to work with us to structure some pilots to make the scheme available to young people across the United Kingdom.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating all the young people who took part in the scheme in my constituency, which was delivered by the Medway Youth Trust? The scheme was completely filled this year and the trust wants to see it continue to grow next year.

I continue to be enormously impressed and proud of all NCS participants and how the experience raises their confidence and sense of what they can achieve. I would like to place on the record my thanks to all providers for the way in which they are delivering a very challenging programme so well and so consistently across the country.

Does the Minister accept that cuts to year-round services for young people have directly contributed to 6,000 NCS places not being filled this summer? What is he going to do to save the Youth Service, the year-round service that is now his responsibility?

The Cabinet Office is not devoting any money from local authorities. Every week the hon. Lady pops up to talk about cuts in her constituency, but she never asks any tough questions of her local authority about the priorities it sets. The Cabinet Office has taken over responsibility for youth policy, and part of what we will be doing is working with local authorities across the country that want to think creatively about how they continue to deliver really value-added youth services.

It was a privilege to meet participants in the National Citizen Service in Wiltshire last month. They told me that they got the opportunity to work with people on social action projects whom they would not otherwise have met. Does the Minister agree that the value of the initiative depends on its ability to continue to draw participants from all backgrounds?

My hon. Friend makes a hugely important point. The social mix is fundamental to the value of NCS, because it is about giving young people opportunities to meet and spend time together that they would not otherwise have, and they value that enormously. We pay by results when it comes to providers delivering that, and we monitor it obsessively.