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

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