National Citizen Service partnership with Scouts is a step in the right direction

I am very pleased to note the news today of a new partnership between the Scouts Association and the National Citizen Service (NCS).

NCS has in many ways been greatly successful, helping many young people develop skills, confidence and connections.

But there have, rightly, been concerns about how NCS has operated. The cost per head of the NCS scheme is significant. Many voluntary organisations feel they could provide the same benefits at a lower price, while spending on NCS has come at the same time as many youth services have faced cuts. NCS has also been pushed to do more on diversity and inclusion.

For some time, NCVO has been calling on NCS to work more closely with the many expert charities, both national and local, which share its aims. Many in the sector feel NCS has not worked well with local charities and not integrated itself well into local volunteering ‘ecosystems’. This has been frustrating for those organisations and a missed opportunity for young people.

I hope today will mark a turning point in NCS’s relationship with the voluntary sector. All these concerns are being addressed as part of their nascent partnership with the Scouts Association.

NCS will fund the piloting of four strands of work with the Scouts, testing what might work for both local Scouts groups and NCS, under an agreement which may be worth as much as £1.5m:

  • Local Scout groups delivering the NCS programme
  • NCS graduates helping to grow Scouting in areas of deprivation
  • NCS graduates becoming young leaders in Scouting
  • Promotion of NCS to ‘explorer Scouts’ (those aged 14-18)

The elements of this partnership which seek to set young people on a lifetime of volunteering and involvement are particularly good news. We have consistently said NCS needs to focus on encouraging its graduates to take their next volunteering step. This partnership has the potential to create a virtuous circle of volunteering. The emphasis on working in areas of deprivation will help both the Scouts and NCS to enhance their reach to people who might otherwise be excluded.

With NCS set to have its own royal charter and firmly established as part of life in the UK for young people, it is the right time for it to be reviewing and enhancing its relationships with the many voluntary organisations who share its aims. I hope that we will see this partnership grow, and I hope we will see NCS develop others like it.

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Stuart Etherington Sir Stuart Etherington was chief executive of NCVO from 1994 to 2019.

4 Responses to National Citizen Service partnership with Scouts is a step in the right direction

  1. Andy Hillier says:

    Much of the opposition to the National Citizen Service has stemmed from the fact that charities have been told by central government that there is little funding to pay for what many in the voluntary sector would consider essential local services, such as women’s refuges, established youth projects and, even, food banks.

    Yet, the government has been able to find £1.5bn to fund NCS, a programme devised by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

    Now the NCS scheme consumes almost all of the Office for Civil Society’s annual budget, which sends the message that youth social action is the most important issue facing civil society.

    I suspect many in the voluntary sector would disagree with that view. Furthermore, I suspect that data and evidence gathered by government itself would suggest that there are more pressing issues.

    Andy Hillier, editor, Third Sector

  2. Rick Jones says:

    I absolutely agree with Andy. The NCS sucks much needed resources away from the far more successful local VCS into one organisation-the resources NCS have gobbled up would have had much more impact if pushed through to a local level through CVS and other volunteering infrastructure support orgs to support the diversity of our local VCS orgs doing amazing work with very little.
    The Scouts are a successful large player in the sector with good links to communities across the country. They’re also very wealthy-if the Scouts feel that they need a strategic push to engage young people in socially deprived areas then use some of the £40 million in their reserves to do this and show some solidarity to the rest of the sector struggling with diminishing income and sources of revenue.

  3. Lisa Goodwin says:

    As one of the few truly local charities that delivers NCS and ensures it has links with local community groups and volunteering opportunities, I am not particularly positive about this move. The Scouts is a large national charity with healthy funds, and I can’t see much in this ‘partnership’ that they shouldn’t / couldn’t already have been doing. Each year the ability to make NCS local at all is being eroded by more and more demands for using approved suppliers etc. One example this year is we’ve had to move from using local community centres for NCS accommodation (providing them with much needed funding) to university halls of residence. Am I to assume we’ll be using Scout Huts next summer?!

  4. I feel that what has the Scout Movement got that the statutory or voluntary youth services could provide, not every young person wants to be in a uniformed organisation.Young people themselves should have a choice of the organisation to develop their personal and social development, young people should have a voice in changes made on their behalf, the government did not listen when youth centres, youth projects and youth workers, lost a vital service to all young people that was universal to all young people. I work has a voluntary youth worker in projects and schools see the face to face contact has in the personal contact with young people. Maybe one day someone will listen, we can spend billions of pounds on Aircraft Carriers but who cares about people oops, did I say something positive!!!???