Services for young people - Education Contents

6  Youth volunteering and the National Citizen Service

Volunteering by young people

111.  The National Youth Agency told us that 26% of young people were engaged in volunteering at any one time, and 52% reported that they had volunteered at some point between the ages of 13 and 18.[222] This was reflected in evidence from young people, whose enthusiasm was palpable. Our online forum asked young people whether they volunteered and what activities they volunteered for. The most common activities listed in the 65 posts responding to the question were: volunteering in a hospital, hospice or care home, for the Scouts or Beavers, tutoring younger children, working in charity shops, sports coaching, volunteering on a farm or in conservation, for the Red Cross or St John's Ambulance, at a youth club or with a local youth council or youth parliament. Many of the young people described the great sense of satisfaction or reward that they received from volunteering. Others considered it to be useful for their future career or CV, but all praised the enjoyment and fun they got from volunteering. Box 2 contains a selection of posts from the forum.

I volunteer in a school (I tutor year sevens in maths) ... I love how my maths child has really grown confident with her sums - Purple Ninja

I volunteer by coaching basketball for kids aged 6-10. I do it partly because it looks good on CVs and applications and partly because I think it's good for children to participate in sports - The Grandmaster

I volunteer with Action for Blind people, working with blind and visually impaired children ... There's a sense of achievement and motivation in working with vulnerable people - Annora

I volunteer on the surgical ward of a local hospital. This teaches me a lot about my intended career as a Doctor, as well as giving me a sense of satisfaction at helping others who are in need - Cityshy

I volunteer at t local wildlife hospital. I do it because I think they do good work and can't run without help from volunteers like me. Also its fun - imomo16

I volunteer at an Oxfam bookshop and a museum. I do it because I enjoy it and I'm unemployed so it keeps me busy and gives me something positive to fill the gaps on my CV - Norfolkadam

I volunteer as a leader with Beaver Scouts and have done so for the past 3 and a half years, starting off as a Young Leader, and I'm starting my training as an official adult leader now - beth103

I volunteer with my local church group regenerating older disused parts of our town back into usable community spaces its very good - TyrannosaurusBex

I volunteer at a center involving care for the elderly with dementia and also for St John's Ambulance. I initially started volunteering because I want to do Medicine, but now I would continue with both even if I don't need to - Evanesyne

As a young person I volunteer as a member of Colchester Youth Council ... We organise events and information to help people get their voices heard and give them vital information about their life - largey-small

112.  Successive administrations have introduced new youth volunteering programmes, from Millennium Volunteers, to V, to the current Government's embryonic National Citizen Service. Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, told us that "the reality is that there is an incredibly rich infrastructure of pre-existing organisations that promote, develop and enable young people to volunteer".[223] V—the National Young Volunteers' Service—was established in 2006 and is currently the lead national organisation for youth volunteering. Terry Ryall, its Chief Executive, explained that V's task had been to "develop a national service for young volunteers", with a team of specialists located in voluntary organisations covering every local authority area in the country whose job was to build the capacity of organisations to take volunteers. It had engaged 730,000 young people in 1,140,000 volunteering opportunities over a four year period through 'v involved', its national youth volunteering programme which brokered volunteering opportunities between young people and organisations. Volunteering opportunities ranged from short-term and part-time, to full-time activities. As well as a range of shorter-term volunteering projects and funds for young people, [224] V ran a 'v talent year', a full-time volunteering programme which put 2,400 young people aged 16-25 over two years into structured placements in areas such as nursery education, play, youth work and supporter learning for 44 weeks. The programme cost £14.7 million per year.[225] Mohammed Ahmed, who completed the 'vtalent year' described its impact on him:

I gained a lot—first of all confidence. I started at 14. I was quite a shy boy—shaky, nervous—but when I got involved I learned that there are no barriers to anything. You can overcome things. First, it has helped my education, because it has given me confidence and self-esteem. When I come across a challenge in my education, I think "I can overcome this, because volunteering has taught me this". It has given me the edge to participate in class discussions ... I have also got good life chances. I come from a very low-income background, but now the door's open for me. I am now a trustee of v, which is a big, impressive thing on a CV.[226]

An evaluation of the programme in 2010 found that 26% of those completing the programme in 2010 progressed to employment, 48% went on to further or higher education and 15% took up further volunteering placements. Given that a minimum of 40% of places on the programme are given to young people not in employment, education or training, these rates point to a successful programme.[227]

113.  In addition, in 2009 the organisation established the 'v schools' programme, providing both personal and online resources to promote community action for 14-16 year olds through schools. V told us that 'v schools' had been part of the Youth Community Action programme set up to implement the then Prime Minister's aim for every young person to have contributed 50 hours of community service by the age of 19, that it was "really welcomed by schools" and it was "a lost opportunity to embed a culture of giving and service at an age younger than 16 ... it would have been an excellent 'feeder' programme for National Citizen Service (NCS), preparing young people for the challenges of the personal development and social-mixing programme".[228] The scheme was closed in 2010 when the Government ended the Youth Community Action programme. Terry Ryall described the closure of 'vschools' as "a matter of regret".[229] V's budget has been enormously reduced, from £114 million over three years to £4 million over the next four years, which Ms Ryall described as "quite dramatic".[230] An independent evaluation is currently being conducted to evaluate the impact that V has had on youth volunteering.[231]

114.  Germany has two well-established year-long youth volunteering programmes under which some 35,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 27 volunteer each year to gain work experience in a local public service: the so-called Voluntary Social Year and Voluntary Ecological Year. These programmes are supported by the federal government to the tune of €49 (£43) million a year[232]—an average of €1400 or £1228 per head—but are administered by the Länder (local government), which provide additional funding. The federal government is establishing a new Federal Social Voluntary Year in 2011, with an annual budget of €220 (£190) million. During our visit we spoke to several young people participating in the current voluntary years, who told us that the programme had helped them to get a place at university and offered essential work experience for future jobs, as well as offering careers advice and guidance.[233] Alongside the government-supported programmes, Germany had other structured youth volunteering programmes, such as the Young Firefighters of Berlin, who we also visited. In addition to the clear enjoyment the young people gained from these activities, both the voluntary years and the Young Firefighters programme had the benefit of being excellent recruiters for public services.

Young people's democratic participation

115.  In addition to volunteering programmes, many young people take up positions of leadership or democratic responsibility in order to have a voice in local or national forums, for example becoming Young Mayors, participating in Youth Councils at a local level or the UK Youth Parliament nationally. The British Youth Council told us that "up to 19,800 young people, mostly aged between 11 and 17, already volunteer their time to represent young people as youth councillors, informing and influencing local decision-making" and that "young people from a wide range of backgrounds take part in local youth councils. A quarter of youth councillors are from a Black and Minority Ethnic background as opposed to 3.7% of adult Councillors. Half of youth councils ... involve young people from minority groups, for example lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people, young disabled people or young people living on a low income".[234] Various contributors to our online forum told us that they were youth councillors or members of the UK Youth Parliament.

116.  The Minister, Tim Loughton MP, told us that the Government wanted young people "through the various vehicles that we have now, such as youth mayors, youth cabinets, the UK Youth Parliament and youth councils, to be engaged actively in every authority throughout the country, shaping policies as they affect young people and the local environment".[235] He added that the Government had allocated "a further £350,000" in the financial year 2011-12 to support youth democratic engagement, and a further £500,000 for 2012-13.[236] It was his wish to have "in every authority in the country a clearly identifiable, clearly accessible youth engagement body that is able to hold the local authority and other local agencies to scrutiny and that is able properly to engage—not just tokenism".[237]

117.  We applaud those talented young people who are engaging in positions of democratic responsibility and leadership, and organisations like the British Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament for enabling them to take up such roles. We welcome the Government's support for democratic participation, and urge it to translate into practice its ambition to have a youth engagement body in every authority in the country which plays an active role in shaping and scrutinising those policies which affect young people.

National Citizen Service (NCS)


118.  A central plank—indeed, currently the only articulated element—of the Government's youth policy is the introduction of a National Citizen Service (NCS) for 16 year-olds.[238] Paul Oginsky, Government Adviser on the National Citizen Service, explained that it was "a flagship policy"[239] which offered "a framework which all youth organisations can play a part in, either preparing young people for NCS or picking them up afterwards, or contributing to NCS itself".[240] The Government's vision was that "eventually, as NCS grows, it will become part of the culture of Britain—something that everyone will have done. In 10 or 15 years' time people will be turning to each other and saying 'where did you do your National Citizen Service'".[241] The programme has been in development for several years. Mr Oginsky explained that he had spent four or five years "going around asking people what they think is important and how they think NCS should be shaped",[242] and the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP, that "it is not something that just materialised on the eve of the election; we thought about it for an extremely long time ... serious money and time has been spent on development, so this is something we have been cooking quite slowly and methodically".[243]

119.  Under the Government's proposals, National Citizen Service will last seven to eight weeks over the summer months, including at least ten days and nights on a residential basis. The Government has outlined five distinct phases, as set out in Box 3. The Minister for Civil Society explained that a central aim of the programme was "about throwing kids together who would not normally get a chance to meet each other ... we attach huge importance to social cohesion".[244] The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Tim Loughton MP, added that "National Citizen Service is not actively discriminating but certainly actively promoting and judging the value of the providers on the basis of how good they are going to be at weeding out the difficult-to-access groups—those kids who have fallen foul of the youth justice system, those kids with disabilities, those kids with BME backgrounds and so on",[245] suggesting that the scheme would be, at least in part, a targeted one.

120.  Twelve organisations have been awarded contracts to pilot the scheme in 2011 working with 11,000 young people. The Office for Civil Society intends to expand this to 30,000 young people in 2012, and, over time, to extend the offer to all 600,000 or so 16-year olds.[246]
  • 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.[247]


121.  The principles of National Citizen Service and the Government's commitment to a personal and social development programme with social mixing and a rite of passage as its central aims were welcomed by young people and professionals alike. However, we heard concerns about the cost of the programme and practical difficulties relating to its implementation. Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive of UK Youth, welcomed the scheme, saying "it is brilliant that one of the Government's flagship things is about non-formal learning".[248] Mohammed Ahmed, a V volunteer, told us that "it's a good thing, because anything that keeps young people off the streets and gets them involved in communities should be commended. I am concerned, however, that it shouldn't be a replacement for volunteering. Volunteering is a separate thing that should be encouraged".[249] Young people posting on our online forum were broadly keen on the idea but said that it would depend on activities being fun. Several thought that young people who already volunteered or participated in programmes like the Duke of Edinburgh award might be more likely to sign up for National Citizen Service. Some young people responded positively, but thought it unlikely that they would give up post-exam holidays to participate. Rebecca Salawu, a Salmon Centre Young Leader, told us in evidence "I couldn't see myself willingly giving up my summer holidays for that" and Meg Hudson, a Beaver Scout Leader, agreed: "at the age of 16 I wouldn't give up three weeks of my holiday, because you've just done GCSEs and had full-on school". [250] Similar sentiments were aired on our online forum (see Box 4).

Sixteen postings were made in response to the question, "Would a summer programme for 16 year olds leaving school interest you?". Most were positive, provided the programme offered engaging activities. Postings included:

It would only really be attractive if it would lead to better job prospects and was more interesting ... personally I think that a fully-funded programme where people can volunteer abroad for the summer (like Platform2) would be better - unknownrebalz

I'd take part as long as the project didn't solely involve repainting some community centre! - Fandabidoze!

This would have greatly interested me when I was 16 - Ultimate_Geek

As my summer holidays are usually for relaxing and having a good time, it would really depend on the volunteering activities involved - doyoulikewaffles?

I think that, depending on which activities are available, this would be quite a good idea which would be well used - Lornskii

I would love to take part! - Beth

I think there will be some interest in this, though it will mainly be those who already participate in other volunteering schemes like Duke of Edinburgh, the Guides etc who will benefit - harriepoppy

122.  Mostly, witnesses were concerned that the introduction of National Citizen Service, whatever its individual merits, was inappropriate at a time when other youth services were being cut. Liam Preston, Young Chair of the British Youth Council, told us that he had surveyed 1,000 young people across the country and found that they broadly liked the idea of NCS: some 53% were in favour, 20% against and 27% did not know. However, he warned, they were "concerned that their own youth services are being cut ... their worry is 'what's going to be left for me afterwards if everything in my local area is being cut?'".[251] Jason Stacey, Head of Policy, Media and Research at YMCA England, said that whilst he would support the NCS, "it's not a replacement for sustained and regular youth services in a particular area ... the fear is that the focus would be placed so much on the NCS that other youth services would suffer as a result".[252] This concern was reflected in written evidence.[253]


123.  It appears that young people's participation in NCS will not necessarily be free. Paul Oginsky told us that whether to charge a participation fee and at what level was up to individual providers, but that some providers were making nominal charges of between £25 and £100 to secure a commitment from young people.[254] He was himself sceptical about this, noting that "young people make a commitment by signing up to a scheme that is meant to be challenging".[255] The Minister for Children and Families told us that, whilst "payment should not be a barrier", he believed that "just offering lots of free places, so that people sign up and perhaps do not bother to turn up, is not an option". He emphasised, however, that providers were looking at bursary schemes and that "the charge is absolutely a technical matter; it is not a qualification".[256] Whilst we acknowledge that a nominal cost may ensure commitment on the part of participants, we believe that the inevitable effect of providers charging up to £100 for participation may well be to deter young people from low income families.


124.  A total of £13 million has been set aside by the Cabinet Office to fund NCS in 2011—approximately £1,182 per young person; and £37 million for 2012—approximately £1,233 per head. The Government has not set out how it intends to fund NCS beyond the two pilot years of 2011 and 2012. We asked the Minister to clarify the costs of National Citizen Service post-2012, but he told us that those were as yet unclear, saying that "it's very hard to be specific about that, because at the moment we are testing models. For example, for the 11,000 places this year we deliberately didn't set a fixed price. We wanted the market to come to us with a price. We had tremendous variation".[257] The Government is, however, adamant that the programme is being paid for by additional central funds, not from existing Department for Education budgets. Paul Oginsky, Government Adviser on the NCS, told the Committee that "the money has been secured by the Cabinet Office from the Treasury, so it is additional money".[258] However, Mr Oginsky also said that "in future, the funding will come to the Education Department, but only if we can show the value of it",[259] and that "as part of the Government's philosophy they do not want to fund this ad infinitum, indefinitely ... they have said 'let's see everyone in society contribute'".[260] In a similar vein, the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP, said that "we are also actively encouraging the local providers to tap into local support, whether from businesses or other bodies in the areas, and seek contributions in cash or in kind because we want this to be a genuine partnership approach. But we have the funding for the pilots".[261]

125.  Evidence from the Minister for Civil Society and the Government Adviser on National Citizen Service suggested to us that funding for the programme may not continue to be ring-fenced beyond the pilots. Indeed, we found it ominous that both spoke in terms of generating funds from elsewhere, despite having emphasised that additional money was being made available through the Cabinet Office. We are concerned that this may mean, contrary to the Government's assurances, that National Citizen Service might end up in direct competition with other youth services for funds at local authority level.

126.  Derek Twine, Chief Executive of the Scout Association, noted that "for the same cost per head that the NCS is anticipating spending in the first tranche of pilots we could provide two or three years' worth of the experience, week by week, for young people in the same age range".[262] External observers, such as Tony Travers of the London School of Economics, have commented that the scheme would be "very, very expensive" in the long term if there was a large uptake by young people.[263] Although the funding source and break down of costs for the scheme after 2012 is not yet clear, on the basis of a cost estimate of £1,182 per head in 2011,[264] National Citizen Service would cost £709 million per year to roll out to all 600,000 16 year-olds. Even allowing for economies of scale and the likelihood that many young people will not sign up to participate, this is a huge sum: over twice as much as annual spending on all local authority youth services, which was £350 million in 2009-10. By way of further comparison, the German federal government pays £1,228 per young person—£43 million in total—for a whole year's participation in one of its two voluntary programmes.

127.  On the other hand, the point was made that NCS offered an opportunity to youth organisations to access money which would not otherwise be available. Terry Ryall explained that it formed another funding stream for organisations which, like V, had previously been funded to support youth volunteering.[265] The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Tim Loughton MP, said that "NCS is about a lot of money going into youth organisations. A lot of the people from voluntary organisations ... who are doing, or will no longer be doing, stuff with local authorities can also be part of NCS schemes. This is a huge investment not in NCS, but in the youth sector".[266] Indeed, Paul Oginsky warned that "I stress that if we take NCS at this point and say 'let's not do it. Let's put it in the bin' we will still face all the cuts that we're getting at the moment. This is an opportunity to show Government ... what personal and social development programmes can do".[267]

128.  The cost of National Citizen Service in 2011 is around £1,182 per young person. By contrast, the German federal Government spends £1,228 per young person for a whole year's work-based volunteering programme, which we heard enhanced young people's skills and future careers. We do not see how the Government can justify spending the same amount for only six weeks of National Citizen Service.

129.  Although the Government has made clear that, subject to the success of the pilots, it wishes to make National Citizen Service a universal offer to all 600,000 16-year olds, it has given no indication of what percentage it calculates would actually participate. Based on the cost per head of the 2011 pilots, it would cost a total of £355 million each year to provide a universal offer of National Citizen Service assuming, for example, a 50%take up. Even allowing for economies of scale, the costs may well outstrip entire annual spending by local authorities on youth services, which totalled £350 million in 2009-10.

130.  Several witnesses suggested to us that, rather than inventing another new programme, the Government could introduce NCS as a form of accreditation or badging of existing organisations and programmes. Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, said "if you could do your D of E [Duke of Edinburgh] gold award and that would also be your NCS when you were 16, wouldn't that be great?"[268] Susanne Rauprich, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, considered that:

creating one stand-alone programme that builds on the principles and work of many organisations is fine but, in parallel, there is a range of other programmes that would deliver the same desired outcomes ... it would be much easier and logistically better if such programmes could be given an opportunity to continue what they do under the mantle of the National Citizen Service, which would reach an ever larger number of young people.[269]

She added that "several organisations, and the cadet forces, have proposed on several occasions that their programmes might be badged "National Citizen Service". That might help the Government to resolve a fairly logistical problem about how to go about offering the range of opportunities that must be in place to cater for the whole cohort".[270] Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive of UK Youth, agreed.[271]

131.  Overall, we applaud the Government's aspiration to make a universal offer to all young people, and for the emphasis placed by National Citizen Service on social mixing, skills building, community engagement and young people's positive participation in society. In a world of less scarce resources we agree that introduction of the scheme would be a positive development. However, given the degree to which youth services are being cut, and in light of our concerns about the scheme's cost and practical implementation, we cannot support the continued development of National Citizen Service in its current form. Consequently, we recommend that the core idea of National Citizen Service be retained, but that it be significantly amended to become a form of accreditation for existing programmes which can prove that they meet the Government's aims of social mixing, personal and social development, and the component parts of National Citizen Service, such as a residential experience and a social action task. We acknowledge that this may further reduce the overall resources available to the youth sector, and thus recommend that Government protects those additional funds currently earmarked for National Citizen Service and divert them into year-round youth services.

222   Q 12 Back

223   Q 16 Back

224   Other projects included: 'v cashpoint', a youth fund which gave money to young people to develop community projects; 'v', a website where young people could find information about volunteering and join an online community of 100,000 members; 'v Match Fund', which partnered each £1 from private sector companies with £1 from the Treasury to invest in youth volunteering programmes.  Back

225   Data taken from V, Impacts of vtalent year 2010. Available at:  Back

226   Q 379 Back

227   V (2010), Vtalent year evaluation, pp.5-7 Back

228   Q 393 and Ev 180 Back

229   Q 393 Back

230   Q 400 Back

231   Q 391 Back

232   Figures provided by the BMFSFJ (German Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth). See Annex [Note of Berlin visit] Back

233   Annex [Note of Berlin visit] Back

234   Ev 118 Back

235   Q 411 Back

236   Q 411 Back

237   Q 419 Back

238   See, for instance, The Coalition: our Programme for Government, May 2010, p.29 Back

239   Q 346 Back

240   Q 352 Back

241   Q 358 Back

242   Q 346 Back

243   Q 472 Back

244   Q 445 Back

245   Q 445 Back

246   Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Article on No 10 Website: Back

247   Cabinet Office website. Available at: Accessed on 15 January 2011 Back

248   Q 14 Back

249   Q 399 Back

250   Q 95 Back

251   Q 16 Back

252   Q 95 Back

253   For instance, Rick Bowler [Ev w10]; Steve Davies [Ev w60]; John Paxton, Head of Integrated Youth Support Services, Leeds City Council [Ev w69]; the Federation of Detached Youth Workers [Ev w136]; Integrated Youth Services, Luton Borough Council [Ev w153]; Railway Children [Ev w184]; The Scout Association [Ev w385] Back

254   Q 363 Back

255   Q 363 Back

256   Q 489 Back

257   Q 477 Back

258   Q 355 Back

259   Q 361 Back

260   Q 363 Back

261   Q 474 Back

262   Q 96 Back

263   Quoted in article and video on Public Finance magazine and website: Back

264   The total cost of £13 million in 2011, divided by the 11,000 participants Back

265   Q 400 Back

266   Q 481 Back

267   Q 359 Back

268   Q 22 Back

269   Q 18 Back

270   Q 16 Back

271   Q 16 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 23 June 2011