Spalding students defend NCS after LGA labels it a £634 million mis-spend
Students from South Holland have defended the National Citizen Service (NCS) after a report branded it a £634million failure.
The report, published by the Local Government Association (LGA) which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, claimed that just 12 per cent (93,000) of 15-17-year-olds eligible for the four-week NCS programme actually took part in 2016.
Figures obtained by the LGA showed that 95 per cent of the Government's youth services budget was spent on NCS between 2014 and 2018, including £180.5million in 2017-18.
The LGA report, published on Thursday, set government spending against shocking figures which revealed that councils had been forced to slash spending on youth services from £650 million in 2010/11 to just £390 million in 2016/17 due to funding cuts.
As a result, more than 600 youth centres closed and nearly 139,000 youth service places were lost in the UK between 2012 and 2016, according to the chairman of the LGA's children and young people board, Coun Anntoinette Bramble.
She said: "Whilst the NCS is a good programme which can be a positive experience for those who take part, we believe this should be part of a much wider youth service offering to support children and young people.
“A time-limited programme of work cannot provide the trusted, longer-term relationships that are a valued element of youth work and needed by some young people to develop the self-esteem, confidence and skills to take part in such programmes"
But Holly Hammond (16), of Spalding High School and one of this summer's NCS students, said: "NCS is really good because it removes the stigma around young people and it gives everyone an opportunity to do something for their community.
"I was part of a group of students from Spalding High School, Spalding Grammar School and Spalding Academy who did NCS and it really gave us all confidence in our group, as well as skills for us to use later on in life."
Another NCS student, Jessica Ward (16), also of Spalding High School, said: "Before going on NCS, a few of us were a bit skeptical about it and we weren't sure what we were going to do.
"But just because it's not widely publicised doesn't mean that it's not a good use of government money.
"You don't realise how much you grow as a person until you do NCS and that may be why it's now so widespread nationally and, hopefully, locally as well.
Lincolnshire and Rutland Education Business Partnership (EBP), which runs NCS in South Holland, confirmed that more than 6,000 teenagers from the county have taken part in NCS since its launch in 2011, with more than 400,000 participants so far nationally.
But Coun Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney borough in London, said: "Councils have been forced to cut important services for thousands of young residents in recent years as a result of increasingly squeezed budgets.
"It is wrong that nearly all of the Government’s funding for youth services is being spent on a very short programme which attracts only a small number of participants.
"The Government needs to devolve a slice of its funding so councils can begin to scale back the cuts to youth services."
A Lincolnshire and Rutland EBP spokesman, said: "Both NCS and local youth services provide invaluable support to young people.
"But NCS is an investment in the future of young people and, in Lincolnshire, over 6,000 16-17 year olds have participated in NCS to date.
"Meanwhile nationally, the number of NCS participants is over 400,000 which makes it fastest growing youth movement in the UK for over a century.
"Everyone who takes part has the opportunity to develop new skills, meet new friends from different schools and gain the confidence they need to be successful in life and work.”