National Citizen Service saga continues – Overspent and Underused!

Just imagine a youth service or youth work organisation that announces the following:

Unfortunately, in terms of our summer programme we have overspent our annual budget by 26%,  failed to meet our target figure in terms of the number taking up our provision by 18%, not to mention that another 11% dropped out.

Despite the organisation’s claim that the overwhelming majority of young people found its programme positive my suspicion is that the said outfit would be in deep mire. Indeed in these robust and rigorous times of austerity focused on cuts to the public purse I can’t envisage it surviving, all the more so as it failed to attract the expected private investment. As we all know the iron law of the market will prevail.

However there are notable exceptions.

Analysis of the National Citizen Service for 16 – 17 year olds

In 2012, 32,000 places were offered to young people, but only 26,003 were filled and approximately 3,500 of those who started the programme dropped out – meaning that almost 10,000 places either went unfilled or weren’t completed.

The cost per place of the programme – a residential module and a volunteering project – has also risen significantly. In 2011, figures provided by the government to the Education Select Committee indicated that the cost per place would be £1,182 for 2011, but the actual cost for that year was £1,553.

The government’s estimate was £1,233 for 2012, when the actual figure was £1,662 – 26 per cent higher than the estimate. The government also failed to realise its hopes of attracting notable outside investment in the programme in 2012, which cost £36.8m to deliver. In 2011, £3m of the £17.2m invested in the programme came from outside sources.

The scheme is criticised by Andrew Mycock, reader in politics at the University of Huddersfield.

“I’m not opposed to the service, because it obviously does some good, but it’s not surprising it’s doing that, given the amount of money that has been spent on it,” he says. He points out that an NCS place costs 29 per cent of the £5,700 average cost of a year of secondary education.

We might notice that Choose Youth argues that just £350 per young person per year would allow all young people access to youth services in their immediate locality.

Mycock continues.

“It’s not great at improving social mixing, and most of those who are taking part are already socially active.”

“The speed of the expansion is not justified. It is clearly a political agenda and not based on the evidence.”

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