The NCVYS closure : Whither the voluntary youth sector’s independent voice?

The independent voice of the voluntary youth sector

Most people will be aware that the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [NCVYS] is merging with AMBITION and will be closing its doors on April 1, 2016.

Ambition and NCVYS confirm merger

Susanne Rauprich, the NCVYS chief executive  has explained with passion: “The process we have undertaken with Ambition was never just about the future of NCVYS but about the future of the youth sector in its widest sense. I hope what we have started here can be a platform for wider consolidation and collaboration, and for the support of all youth organisations in achieving a more united and resilient sector. This is not a time to focus on our individual organisations, but to look wide and wider still.”

These are fine words, but we are not entirely convinced. To say this is not being bloody-minded, a sniping legacy of our differences with NCVYS in recent years. The organisation has a rich history, established as the the Standing Conference for Voluntary Youth Groups in 1936. The 11 organisations which contributed to its foundation were The National Association of Boys’ Clubs; Boys’ Brigade; YMCA; YWCA; The Girls’ Guildry; Church Lads’ Brigade (now known as the Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade); The Girls’ Friendly Society (now known as GFS Platform); Boy Scouts Association; Girl Guides Association; The National Council of Girls’ Clubs; and the Girls Life Brigade. As Bernard Davies notes in his History of the Youth Service its emergence was a collective, concerned response to the possibility of State intervention into the world of youth work as war loomed. In 1972 the Standing Conference became the NCVYS aspiring to be the organised, independent and, indeed, critical mouthpiece of the leading national voluntary youth organisations with local Council for Voluntary Youth Services providing its base.

As NCVYS merges with AMBITION, which, ironically, is the latest incarnation of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs, a founder member of the original Standing Conference and an organisation with an inward-looking history, we wonder what is going to happen to the proud declaration that NCVYS is/was ‘the independent voice of the voluntary youth sector’. Is becoming bigger better? Will it lead to a strengthening or weakening of the voluntary sector’s autonomy and capacity to challenge government policy? How does this square with the fact the AMBITION houses nowadays the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services (CHYPS), the organisation for leaders of local authority young people’s services?

We’re sad to see the NCVYS disappear. Of course we understand that in the present climate it is increasingly difficult for organisations to survive. Hence the merger is perfectly understandable, but it seems as much pragmatic as principled. For our part we think that a strong youth sector is best served by a plurality of voices, that debates and negotiates what is meant by collaboration and unity. Whatever we look forward to being involved with AMBITION in the struggle to defend both statutory and voluntary youth work in the face of a callous and cynical government.



  1. The below is the response in Third Sector Now
    Prof. Charles W Shaw • 10 months ago
    The Contribution of Susanne and all the staff at NCVYS has been significant and the need for a National Council for Voluntary Youth Services by whatever name still exists.
    Susanne took over NCVYS at a time when it had just the equivalent of one full time employee and part time admin and when a year or two before national voluntary organisations had stood up to the dismissiveness of its role when based at the National Youth Agency (having just changed itself from the National Youth Bureau).
    NCVYS built up a sizeable staff and a commitment to the sector.

    Clearly this will not be the the end and the sector both Nationally and Locally will have to decide on how the Independent Voice of the Voluntary Youth Sector is taken forward. This was not a government decision (even if funding was!) it is a decision based on likely prospects taken by the Trustees of NCVYS which they believe is in the best interests of the sector based on the advices of their officers”.

    The Sector is very fortunate in having ably led institutions such as UK Youth who can fulfill some of the roles in bringing key regional and local youth organisations together and bodies such as Ambition and the NYA which have faded into the background of late will have to re-assess how they can help assurances having been given that they will.

    The National Association of Boys and Girls clubs, the successfull coming together of county delivery organisations to really support each other as opposed to wastfull and unnecessary policy initiatives will be a real help to Youth Clubs and groups.

    Local and Regional infrastructure groups will be looking at how they can best (from the grass roots up) re-configure their support networks and connect with government and commerce. Scottish and Welsh equivalents of NCVYS continue and it will be for England to decide whether London led support and costs are the way forward or whether this can be done regionally or from a non London national base.

    It has been rightly said that NCVYS under Susanne was a friendly organisation with really nice staff who reflected the quality of the CEO’s leadership. This was a real achievement and we all wish them and Susanne well for the future.

    Again a big thank you to all of us who have been of and through NCVYS and especially the staff and officers.


    Prof Charles Shaw FRSA FRSPH
    Chair: Lincolnshire CVYS
    Lead: East Midlands Voluntary Youth
    CEO Lincolnshire Youth Association/The Youth Development Association
    YDA Chambers
    1a/2a Beaumont Fee LINCOLN LN1 1UU
    0871 288 6935
    01522 569776
    07818 434346

    Update 2017

    Please note that there is a meeting of CVYS networks in Wolverhampton 27th January 2017 12 noon onwards to plan the way forward contact 07818 434346 for details.


    Charles W. Shaw informs that the further meeting of Councils for Voluntary Youth Services Network is at. 11am to 2pm Friday 17th November 2017 for the purposes of continuing the work started in Wolverhampton at the beginning of 2017.

    Network CVYS will continue to examine how NCVYS lost its way, learn from this and plan a way to take positive steps forward and share with the sector.

    Meeting will be held at The Royal Society of Arts, 8 John Adam Street,
    London, WC2N 6EZ
    For further meeting details telephone 07818 434346 or email:

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