Early indications, from the Office for Civil Society’s (OCS) evaluations, suggest that the National Citizen Service (NCS), a programme bringing together groups of 16- to 17-year-olds to undertake activities, has had a real impact on those participating. It has improved their confidence, developed team-building and life skills, and increased their awareness of the local community. However, what remains to be seen is whether NCS will become a ‘rite of passage’ and meet its ambitious targets for increasing the number of participants or achieve its long-term societal aims. Without achieving both these, at a cheaper cost per participant, NCS may no longer be justifiable and the future of the programme could be called into doubt. Now is the time to think radically about what can be learnt from achievements to date and outline what is needed to grow NCS, bring costs under control and ensure NCS becomes a real and sustainable investment in our young people. The National Citizen Service Bill also provides an opportunity to revisit the Trust’s governance and management arrangements. The Cabinet Office set up the NCS Trust as a community interest company almost wholly funded by government, but it has not adopted the transparency and robust governance arrangements we would expect to see.
10 March 2017