NCS coming under increasing political pressure from local government


15. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.

We won’t get above ourselves, but perhaps the Local Government Association has seen the leaflet containing our proposals. Be that as it may, the National Citizen Service is coming under increasing pressure as this Guardian piece reveals.



Ta to

Councils have urged ministers to shift funds from David Cameron’s residential youth scheme to their own year-round schemes after it emerged his project used 95% of all government spending on youth services despite reaching relatively few teenagers.

The Local Government Association said some of the £634m allocated to the National Citizen Service (NCS) over the past few years would make up for some of the cuts to council schemes. More than 600 youth centres had closed.

The NCS was one of Cameron’s early announcements as prime minister in 2010 – part of his “big society” policy. It offers three to four-week programmes where 15- to 17-year-olds work in teams on projects connected to skills and the community.

The scheme, which was allocated £1.5bn in funding overall, has faced criticism for lax spending controls and poor management.

Last month a parliamentary answer from Tracey Crouch, the culture minister, revealed the NCS had, in 2016 alone, spent almost £10m on places which were never filled.

Other questions from Labour to Crouch found that companies working with the NHS were permitted to make profits from the service and that two local partners delivering the scheme had hit serious financial difficulties.

You must forgive me for raising an eyebrow at the sweeping reply from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport [DCMS].

A spokeswoman for the Department for DCMS said the NCS had “improved the lives of 400,000 young people in disadvantaged areas across the country”.

Given the emphasis nowadays on what we are told is sophisticated data collection in the youth sector I might have expected a more revealing sense of what improvement and disadvantage mean. Then again perhaps not.

The response from such as the National Youth Agency, who have actively and uncritically supported Cameron’s increasingly discredited vanity project, will be significant. What price now the absurd claim that NCS is the fastest growing youth movement in the UK since the Scouts started a century ago? As if a grassroots youth movement could be created from above by government diktat.

Let’s keep the pressure on to revive and reimagine via the Labour Party consultation and NYA’s National Youth Work Week.


‘Big Society’ Cameron rises from the ashes as NCS Chief of Staff and saviour of our young people

You’ve probably heard that a discredited and disreputable former Prime Minister has taken up the job of leading young people into a promised land of diversity and opportunity.  David Cameron is to chair an expanded National Citizen Service, his very own public school-influenced pet project. At this point you might hope, and I’ve given it a passing start, for a scathing satirical piece, taking the piss out of notions of leadership, strategy and tactics, ethics and judgement when attached to this particular individual – not to mention pricking the bubble of his rhetoric. Frankly it’s beyond my wit, never mind energy. And in my defence I will copy and paste quotes in italics from his own self-congratulatory piece in the Telegraph – I’ve found my first job after politics, building the Big Society. Mind-boggling self-delusion and hubris. So a word in David’s ear NCS is a conscious neoliberal political intervention. As the Guardian puts it in its coverage, “Former PM’s first job after quitting as MP is to chair organisation whose aim is to instil social responsibility in young people.” There’s nothing post-politics about Cameron’s new role.


Ta to the new statesman

In the meantime I wonder how long it will be before our leading youth organisations rush forward to applaud Cameron’s ‘job from the boys’ appointment, hailing it as a major breakthrough for the sector.

When I look back over six years as prime minister, one of my proudest achievements is the creation of National Citizen Service. I often get stopped in the street by parents who tell me what a difference NCS has made in the lives of their children; and I regularly receive letters from young people who have so enjoyed taking part.

From the pilot projects that I began as Leader of the Opposition to the full-scale programme that we have today, more than 275,000 people have taken part in what has become the fastest- growing youth movement of its kind in the world.

Overall, NCS is a fantastic example of the positive and inspirational role young people can play in our modern, vibrant society. It is the Big Society in action.

NCS is supported by government funding, which means that young people pay no more than £50 to take part, with bursaries available for those who are not able to afford this. So I am delighted that Theresa May is continuing the vital work to support NCS and that today the Government is introducing the National Citizen Service Bill. With cross-party support, this will create a Royal Charter to secure the NCS Trust as a permanent national institution that can ultimately offer a place to every 16- and 17-year-old. That should be our goal – not necessarily a compulsory programme, but one that is universally available and becomes a normal part of growing up for every teenager.

But making NCS a rite of passage requires more than political leadership. It requires leadership from every part of society. From industry to the arts, from sport to the media, from local communities to the wider public sector, we need everyone involved in a national mission to make NCS a normal part of growing up that can give every generation a greater sense of purpose, optimism and belonging.

By bringing together expertise from every part of society we can embed NCS in our national fabric. And we can continue to build this special movement – empowering our young people to be united in their diversity, with the skills to get on in life and the compassion to support each other.

That is the vision for NCS that I had all those years ago when I first thought about developing the programme; and together we now have the opportunity to make it a reality for generations to come.

Back in May we posted under the following title, Two Fingers to Youth Service as NCS put on Statutory Footing. Cameron’s contempt for youth work and the youth service is made plain by the utter absence of any acknowledgement of a history, within which the elements of NCS have always been staples of practice.

Here’s a paragraph from a piece on Youth Work and Neoliberalism I’ve been co-writing, which might see the light of day sometime in the future.

The Conservative government’s intention to recast informal youth work in its own image is symbolised by the launch of a National Citizen Service (NCS). Aimed at 15-17 year-old school leavers, this comprises an unremarkable three week programme of team-building and volunteering kicked off by a residential outdoor activities week. In 2014-15, on a budget of £140M the take-up was just 58,000 compared with the up to a million young people who had been sampling or making regular use of local Youth Service provision (NCVYS, 2013). Crucially NCS replaced this open access, year long, informal youth work with a time-limited non-formal practice infected from the outset by neo-liberal assumptions. Branded as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ with a marketing budget in 2015 of over £8m delivery contracts were awarded only to private and voluntary organisations. Spurious ‘monetised claims were made about its outcomes, suggesting that the social return on NCS was worth almost three times its cost (de St Croix, 2016). In the real world its participants, lauded as NCS graduates, found that with the collapse of the Youth Service infrastructure a dead end was often reached. Yet, after consistently ignoring the youth work field’s pressure to strengthen the legislative basis of the local authority Youth Service, in 2016 the anti-statist Conservative government ignored its own ideology in announcing legislation requiring local authorities, schools and other state bodies to promote a programme, which was failing palpably to meet its targets. In the teeth of the evidence £1.2bn was set aside to fund NCS through to 2020 – more than enough to restore the cuts to open access youth work provision made in the previous five years.

We might add that between 2012 and 2016 over 600 youth centres were closed, 139,000 youth service places lost and some 3660 youth worker jobs abolished (Unison, 2016). And to add insult to injury the NCS advertising budget is now £75 milion with the Trust looking to recruit a firm with “a proven track record of creating and executing potent campaigns to shape brand perception and behaviour amongst youth and parents/guardians. We need to connect and engage with young people and inspire them to participate in NCS, pre-, during and post-programme.”

Such has been the failure of the NCS in meeting its targets that the Trust has set up pathfinder programmes in an attempt  “to bring on board organisations that have a pre-existing relationship with young people and a “deep reach” into communities.”

And so the hypocrisy and deception continues. With Cameron at the helm we can but expect more bullshit.

Troubled Families report ‘suppressed’

troubled families

Thus runs the title of a BBC News Report –  read in full at Troubled Families report ‘suppressed‘.

An unfavourable evaluation of the government’s flagship policy response to the 2011 riots has been suppressed, BBC Newsnight has learned.
The analysis found that the Troubled Families programme had “no discernible” effect on unemployment, truancy or criminality.
The initial scheme sought to “turn around” 120,000 households at a cost of around £400m.
The local government department denies that the report has been suppressed.
A spokesperson said: “There were several strands to the evaluation work commissioned by the last government and there is not yet a final report.”
The report, which the government has had since last autumn – and seen exclusively by BBC Newsnight – is embarrassing for ministers, who not only implemented the scheme, but have since decided to extend it. Officials have told Newsnight that they believe it would have been published, had it been positive.
Ministers had trumpeted previous data related to the scheme, which had suggested that 98.9% of families participating in the scheme had been “turned around”.
Furthermore, a second wave of the Troubled Families programme was announced in June 2013, and began to roll out in April 2015. It covers another 400,000 families at a further cost of £900m.
The “troubled families” programme was aimed at those affected by high unemployment, truancy and anti-social behaviour.
The scheme was intended to save money and prevent future rioting by reducing the problems of this group of disadvantaged families.
A senior civil servant told Newsnight that the report is “damning”, and attacked the scheme as “window-dressing”.

Back in February we put up a post, ‘Troubled Families is a fraudulent scam’- some thoughts from within. Clearly we weren’t far off the mark.

Also see the report, The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy?written by Stephen Crossley of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

No social policy can expect to achieve a 100 per cent success rate and yet,
according to government, the Troubled Families Programme has achieved
almost exactly that. The programme has apparently turned around the lives of
some of the most disadvantaged and excluded families in a remarkably short
period of time. All of this has occurred against a backdrop of cuts to local
services and welfare reforms which have hit, not just families, but also the
organisations and councils that deliver services to them. This briefing paper
traces the history of the programme and questions claims of success made by
government and their problematic use of data. Quite simply, the reported
successes of the Troubled Families Programme are too good to be true and
require closer public and political scrutiny than they have received to date.

Welfare post-riots: 'How could you make it any tougher?' – video

In the aftermath of the English riots, David Cameron has said the welfare reform bill doesn’t go far enough in tightening up rules for claimants. Those in the system talk about life in an already strict world of benefit ‘sanctions’ and ‘voluntary’ work placements. Cameron gave his infamous, self-serving speech to an audience of young people in Witney.

The video is moving and without pretence.

Oxfordshire Strike Back

Our roving reporter informs us that the Oxfordshire young people are on the streets again.

The partnership with Oxfordshire Save Our Services is proving really positive. They’ve produced thousands of postcards with a joint message from the 2 groups, plus a giant postcard (4ft x 3ft) to deliver to Cameron’s office in person.There are already well over 2k postcards circulating, so Cameron must be deluged with them. We got them onto the Oxfordshire coaches for the March for the Alternative and now we’re circulating them in young people’s centres and projects, at meetings etc.We’ll keep printing more while Oxfordshire County Council are deliberating on the responses to their consultation about the redesign of Children and Young People’s services.

On Thursday last week  a group of young people from West Oxfordshire and Banbury youth work projects delivered a giant postcard to David Cameron’s Witney office. The front of the card lists all 36 youth work projects under threat and asks David Cameron to stand up for young people in Oxfordshire. The message on the back of the postcard says:

Oxfordshire County Council plans to stop funding for all of its 36 youth work centres and projects. Thousands of young people use these services and they are hurt and angry about the plans. They say youth work makes them feel trusted and valued, not judged. It enables them to have fun, learn together and to get involved in their communities.

Please talk to Oxfordshire County Council and look at alternative ways of raising the money to keep all the youth centres and projects open. The £4 million it costs to run Oxfordshire’s youth service is less than 0.1% of the £25 billion you could raise by stopping corporate tax avoidance.

On the following Saturday they took their protest to Banbury.   Oxford Save Our Services made a video of the young people’s silent protest, “Scene Not Heard” with the young people spelling out STOP THE CUTS with their bodies. The video will be posted on YouTube and Cameron will be sent the link.

Passers by in Banbury were impressed and many joined in by signing postcards to Cameron and asking to hold the placards themselves.

The continued media coverage and the mountain of postcards and other complaints going to the County Council and to Cameron is being felt.

The Oxfordshire  plan is to cut all youth work and just have targetted case work with young people deemed to be at risk or in trouble.

“The county will not be providing youth work of the sort that has been provided in the past… The Early Intervention Service is about where young people and their families already have some issues.. The outreach will be one to one …Youth work will not exist as it has in the past” (OCC representative, Ruth Ashwell, Area Service Manager – Youth, 22/03/11)

It’s interesting that the OCC consultation ended on April 4th and the cabinet meet on the 19th, but the Director of CYP&F was on holiday until 11th April according to her email system. We would’ve expected that to be the week that she would need to read and deliberate in order to get a paper ready for cabinet…. A done deal?

Not as far as we are concerned. We won’t go away!!

More images of resistance here.


Most of you will have seen the Coalition’s shallow and weary resuscitation of a form of National Service for Young People.

David Cameron unveils pilot plans for a National Citizen Service designed to teach 16-year-old school leavers social responsibility as part of the prime minister’s “big society”.

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/PA

Doug Nicholls responds in combative style, arguing that we don’t need short-term gimmicks; that we already have the flesh and bones of a universal service for young people; and it is this Service, which needs to be defended and extended. His opening salvo begins:

Since 1961 we have had a national youth citizens service. Participation in it is voluntary. It operates 365 days a year. For every £1 invested in it, at least £8’s worth of voluntary activity is generated. It organises around 500,000 committed adult volunteers to support it and 40,000 trained youth support workers and over 7,000 fully professionally qualified youth workers. Their work generates hundreds of millions of hours of voluntary youth involvement each year.

Read it in full and circulate – Our National Youth Service

You will find attached too the August edition of RAPPORT, the CYWU’s journal with its front page, DON’T BREAK BRITAIN – CUTS KILL COMMUNITIES