The National Citizen Service is helping to build a more responsible, cohesive and engaged society. The latest annual figures show a 46% increase in participation, making it the fastest growing youth programme for a century. Every £1 spent on NCS generates nearly £4 of social benefits—something that everyone in the House and the country should be proud of.
My hon. Friend will be aware that NCS was not specifically designed to tackle extremism in our communities. However, the programme plays a significant role in promoting tolerance by breaking down barriers between communities. NCS helps young people to learn about other cultures and creates positive bonds between people from different backgrounds. In 2014, 27% of NCS participants were from non-white backgrounds compared with 19% of the general population.
Through my involvement with NCS in Cornwall I have seen first-hand the truly life-changing experience that the programme provides. Will the Minister join me in thanking and congratulating all those people across the country who deliver the programme successfully, and does he agree that NCS is a clear example that this Government are truly a one nation Government?
My hon. Friend is a strong advocate of NCS in Cornwall, where 580 young people have recently benefited from a life-changing experience on the programme. A one nation Government helps everyone to reach their full potential. That principle is at the heart of NCS. We support everyone who participates regardless of background, and provide bursaries to those who need financial support. NCS achieves a diverse mix of young people, working together to develop new skills and giving back to their community.
The Minister will be aware that many Labour Members are great supporters of the programme, but can we be sure that the content has real, hard substance, such as democratic values and the equality of women in British life? Are those emphasised enough to young people on the programme?
Yes, the hon. Gentleman can be assured of that. According to the figures, 72% of participants felt more confident about getting a job after they had taken part in NCS. A year on, people are still benefiting from taking part in the NCS programme, according to the research.
11. In Cleethorpes and north-east Lincolnshire the NCS programme has been doing a lot of work in the local St Andrew’s hospice, which has had a great impact on young people. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Lee Stephens, Graham Rodger and their team in north-east Lincolnshire, who do tremendous work? (903295)
Of course I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the people in his constituency and across the country who take part in NCS. To date NCS participants have volunteered an estimated total of 8 million hours in their local communities, developing vital skills in the process. The programme benefits the participants and the local community.