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.



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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.


LGA/NYA Conference: Proposing a vision from above – a failure of the imagination?


Tomorrow the Local Government Association [LGA] and the National Youth Agency [NYA] are hosting a conference entitled, A New Vision for Youth Services. With such a quest we have no problem. Indeed we have just held a series of ‘Is the tide turning? events, within which the LGA/NYA desire ‘to consider what the youth services landscape looks like both now and in the future’ would have been appreciated.

However, leave aside the usual standard failure to recognise that the changing landscape is not the result of natural causes, but the consequence of almost four decades of neoliberalism, there is a glaring gap in terms of contributors and, almost certainly, of those attending. Whilst young people are given rightly a platform, youth workers and their organisations are nowhere to be seen.  Where are the youth work trade unions or the Institute of Youth Work? Voices from the grassroots will be absent, not least because it costs £345 plus VAT to attend.


I hardly need to spell out the irony accompanying the location of this top-down event, dominated by senior management in one guise or another. It is being held in Transport House, the former headquarters of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G), and also originally of the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress. Although I must temper my sardonic tone, knowing that the building was ever the home of bureaucrats rather than workers.

Imagining a future beyond the instrumental and marketised agenda imposed on youth work, reflected uncritically in the day’s programme, for example, the National Citizen Service gets a slot of its own, will require the serious involvement of everyone involved in what has always been at its best a pluralist adventure. Perhaps tomorrow’s conference is a step on the way, but the early signs are not promising. We will be happy to be proved wrong.


Who should attend:
Lead members for children’s services, deputy directors of children’s services, youth work team leaders, organisations delivering youth work


    9.30 Registration and refreshments
  10.15 Welcome and introduction

Cllr Roy Perry, Vice-Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board and Leader of Hampshire County Council

  10.25 Launch of the LGA’s vision for local government’s role in youth services

Cllr Ryan Brent, LGA Representative on the National Youth Agency Board and Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Portsmouth City Council

  10.40 National Youth Agency

Leigh Middleton, Managing Director, National Youth Agency

  10.55 The role of local government in delivering youth services: panel discussion session

Cllr Ryan Brent, Local Government Association

Michael Bracey, Corporate Director – Children, Milton Keynes Council

Leigh Middleton, National Youth Agency

Matt Lent, Director of Partnerships and Policy, UK Youth

  11.40 Refreshments
  11.55 Keynote speech

Helen Judge, Director General for Performance and Strategy, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Questions and discussion

  12.40 National Citizen Service

Jonathan Freeman, NCS Localities Lead

Questions and discussion

  1.10 Lunch and networking
  1.50 The voice of young people

Bernadette Killeen, Youth Involvement Team Manager, Leicester City Council

Brahmpreet Gulati, Leicester City Young People’s Council

Katie Walker, Leicester City Young People’s Council

Elizabeth Harding, Chief Executive, Youth Focus NW

  2.30 Chair’s closing remarks and introduction to workshops
  2.40 Workshops

W1. Delivery models
Aileen Wilson, Head of Early Help Services, Nottingham City Council
Shelley Nicholls, Strategic Lead for Youth Justice and Family Intervention Services, Nottingham City Council
Sandra Richardson, Chief Executive Officer, Knowsley Youth Mutual
Erik Mesel, Senior Grants and Public Policy Manager, John Lyons Charity

W2. Youth Services in Wales
Tim Opie
, Lifelong Learning Policy Officer (Youth), Welsh Local Government Association

  3.25 Comfort break with refreshments
  3.35 Workshops

W3. Youth Services and Social Cohesion
Elaine Morrison, Head of Youth Strategy, Manchester City Council

W4. Mental Health and Wellbeing
Aaron Mansfield
, Health and Wellbeing Project Manager (Young People), Royal Society for Public Health

  4.20 Conference close




Improving Services for Young People ; The Illusion of Shared Ambitions?


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Ta to lonerwolf

The Campaigns arm of the British Youth Council is seeking young people’s involvement in the following survey:

Have your say and help make sure services are focused on the needs of children and young people. (Plus your chance to WIN £30 VOUCHER)

The Local Government Association have teamed up with the British Youth Council to ask young people to help them develop a set of ambitions that all organisations who work with young people should have for them.

Here is your link to the survey:

The Local government Association work with local councils across the UK to support, promote and improve local government (

The Local Government Association is working to ensure our public services are ‘rewired’ to ensure they are able to deliver top quality services. They want to ensure all organisations (public, private or voluntary sector) who work with children and young people hold ‘shared ambitions’ for children and young people. These ‘shared ambitions’ should help make sure services are focused on children and young people’s needs.


As is often the case the idea proposed – the sharing of ambitions – seems simply good and beyond reproach. The reality is that the Local Government Association [LGA] is actively promoting a particular ambition for both children and young people; that they should grow into ’emotionally resilient’ individuals as prescribed in the Young Foundation’s Framework of Outcomes for Young People. At the very least this ought to be a contested rather than a shared ambition. Tony Taylor’s critique of the Outcomes agenda notes  that the Foundation’s and indeed the LGA’s ideological ambition is clear.


The die is cast immediately. The product of the framework is to be the ’emotionally resilient’ young individual, who through the planned interventions of youth workers, will shrug their shoulders at adversity. Utterly in tune with government policy this manufactured individual will have less need for public services such as health and social welfare and will be willing to work for whatever wages, zero-hour contracts or indeed benefits are on offer. This is the self-centred compliant young person of neo-liberalism’s dreams. The last thing such an obedient cipher would do is to ask, “how come this is happening to me, my mates, to thousands of others?” Nowhere in the Framework is there an acknowledgement that to talk of personal change demands an engagement with the social and political circumstances underpinning young people’s lives.


Meanwhile of course young people should be encouraged to respond, alongside, if it fits, chatting collectively about what the survey is getting at. It would be interesting to unpack what quite is meant by ‘rewired’ public services!



A Free and Enticing Prospect? Online Forum for the Youth Sector

A new free online forum for the youth sector.
Today [March 12], the National Youth Agency (NYA) working on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA) and in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) has launched the Supporting Services for Young People community. The community is a free learning environment where people with an interest in the youth sector, not just those in local government, can discuss issues, access resources and take part in discussions.

Thus begins the press release announcing what I think is the relaunch of this proposal to create an online forum that might be used by folk concerned about services for young people. Sadly, as usual the initiative is accompanied by overblown rhetoric. It’s new?  It’s free! As if anyone would cough up money to be involved. As ever the notion of community is abused. The NYA  launches one where none exists. A spoonful of humility would go a long way. Why not say that you are hoping to encourage the possible creation of an online community? More realistic, methinks. And is telling us ‘we can discuss issues..and take part in discussions’ simply sloppy or a recognition we rarely do either seriously? For what it’s worth, in my experience, such forums struggle to survive – often depending problematically on a handful of contributors to give the appearance of life.

Enough scepticism. For my part I will enter into the spirit of the Knowledge Hub’s slogan,

Connect, collaborate, learn, innovate

Although, for my purposes, I will insert ‘criticise’ in the interests of lively debate.  Make up your own mind whether you can be bothered.

Full press release here – includes details of how to get involved.

PS Early signs of neurosis setting in! I registered 24 hours ago, but still awaiting e-mail acceptance. How come even the corner shop can sign you up for home delivery in 30 seconds flat and the LGA takes over a day to respond? The reply service will have been outsourced. Who are the enterprising, yet inefficient culprits?