Engaging Critically with NCS continued – Are we imposing our Politics?


Following a recent post National Citizen Service : Federation for Detached Youth Work initiate critical forum the following interesting and challenging exchange took place on our Facebook page. With the permission of the participants I’ve pasted here.

In response to the suggestion that the move might be controversial, Heike Horsburgh disagreed.

Heike : No. Young people have the right to make choices about what they are involved in. Youth workers shouldn’t stand in the way of opportunities (or mock) because they may have a political perspective on a source of funding or the philosophical intention. We’ve danced around and courted controversial funding for years. It’s not just likes of SERCO involved. Evaluation and learning lessons is all part of hearing often unheard voices: particularly in this context. There have been some very meaningful experiences through NCS, much as it pains me to acknowledge considering the investment paralleled with the cuts to 52 week services . NCS is supposed to be planned alongside young people, and done well, some of the cringe-worthy aims and objectives of the scheme can be blatantly ignored . Young people from all backgrounds and abilities are currently eating, sleeping, laughing, planning, working and experiencing new challenges together. Lets wait and see what an evaluation with those most marginalised tells us.



Kev Jones : Some background – The Fed were contacted by Cabinet Office who were inquiring about how the Fed and NCS could work together. Reading between the lines my feeling is that this initial contact was made with a view to using the Fed’s contacts to boost recruitment to NCS which, as providers will tell you, is one of the main drivers from Cabinet Office. There is, of course, politics here and I’ll leave it to you all to decide how much of this recruitment drive is to ensure that young people have access to a “life-changing” opportunity, and how much is driven by the huge embarrassment which would ensue were NCS to fail, or (maybe worse) be greeted with apathy.


Anyway – we dispatched Graeme, who had a long conversation with Cabinet Office about the values of the Fed, and Youth Work in general, the content and working methods of NCS, the limitations and biases of evaluations to date etc etc. It was decided that in a spirit of critical inquiry we pull together a small event to examine NCS in this context, and with reference to the young people Detached Youth Workers often work with and their engagement with / disdain of / indifference to the programme – and the programme’s engagement with / disdain of / indifference to them. All contributions to stimulate the conversation will be most welcome – it should be good ;o)



Tony Taylor :Heike/Kev Many thanks for the responses and clarification. Would it be OK to copy and paste them into a follow up post for the web site? I’ve no doubt many young people are having a cracking time – the recipe of outdoor residential and groupwork is often a winner if decently organised. And of course I know the FED is acting in a spirit of critical inquiry. So I’ll definitely encourage involvement in the process. This said I think there will be folk, who do see the move as problematic and in a sense controversial. Just from a trade union point of view there are issues around pay and conditions etc.. Let’s hope the critical conversation flowers. Thanks again.



Kev : Course you can fella – The event’s hanging in the balance anyway, but some of the info Graeme’s collected already is pretty illuminating, it’ll be good to see what else turns up including anything about pay / training etc etc. Catch up soon.



Heike :No problem with that. The issue you raise ref pay is confusing to me. My experience is not that govt or our partners set our pay for our staff that are involved we did. I have now moved out of the org that is involved in NCS, and it is still reputationally well respected for honouring, campaigning for and promoting positive staff terms. Staff in my org were paid JNC terms and conditions (and still are). I wonder if those subcontracted are trying to make payments to staff with a squeezed and unrealistic budget, and that maybe those with the contract management role are taking a huge cut, and then asking delivery agencies to deliver unrealistically? Again not in my experience, and I am a strong supporter of union membership and investing in youth workers according to rates of pay and terms and conditions negotiated through national agreements. There is not one size fits all methodology to delivering NCS. I suppose that’s where I am coming from. That’s why I find sweeping critiques difficult when I feel they don’t represent how some good 3rd sector orgs have delivered.


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