NCS funding should go to local youth services

With nearly all government spending on youth services currently invested in the National Citizen Service (NCS), the Local Government Association (LGA) says that funding should be devolved to local youth services.

The government spent £634 million on the four-week voluntary initiative for 15 to 17-year-olds between 2014 and 2017, totalling 95 per cent of its youth services budget. In the same period, councils have been forced to cut spending on local youth services from £650 million in 2010 to just £390 million in 2016. Equally, over 600 youth centres closed and nearly 139,000 youth service places were lost in the UK between 2012 and 2016, as a result of government funding cuts.

Therefore, the LGA states that the NCS money would be better spent on all-year-round provision for young people in their local areas, rather than targeting a programme that is limited yo a certain age group and is attracting only a relatively small number of teenagers. According to the LGA, only 12 per cent of eligible teenagers took part in the NCS in 2016, while in some areas take-up was as low as four per cent.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “While the NCS is a good programme which can be a positive experience for those who take part, we believe this should be part of a much wider youth service offering to support children and young people. A time limited programme of work cannot provide the trusted, longer-term relationships that are a valued element of youth work, and that are needed by some young people to develop the self-esteem, confidence and skills to take part in such programmes.

“Councils have been forced to cut important services for thousands of young residents in recent years as a result of increasingly squeezed budgets, so it is wrong that nearly all of the government’s funding for youth services is being spent on a very short programme which attracts only a small number of participants. The government needs to devolve a slice of the funding to councils so they can begin to scale back the cuts to council youth services and provide targeted support to a much wider group of young people locally all year round, whether that is giving them safe spaces to meet, diverting them away from crime or supporting them to succeed in school, training or employment.”

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