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National Citizen Service

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
National Citizen Service (NCS)
TypeRoyal Charter
Legal statusTrust
PurposePersonal and social development
Mark Gifford[1]
Chair of NCS Trust
Harris Bokhari OBE[1]

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is a voluntary personal and social development program for 16–17-year-olds in England funded largely by money from the UK Government.[2] It was founded in 2009 and formally announced in 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron as part of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government's Big Society initiative, and it was launched in England in 2011.[3] After the 2015 general election, the programme was continued under the Conservative government. In October 2016 Cameron, who had resigned as Prime Minister, became chairman of the NCS Trust's patrons' board.[4] The scheme was made permanent through the National Citizen Service Act 2017.[5] With cross-party support, NCS became a Royal Charter Body in 2018.

The number of participants was always well below the target—in 2016 it was 12% of those eligible—and the cost of the programme was significant; from 2014 to 2018 government spending on NCS was 95% of all UK government spending on youth services. Funding dropped by 69% between 2019 and 2023.


The programme takes place in the spring, summer or autumn coinciding with school holidays. Groups of teenagers undertake a residential visit, usually to an activity centre for an outdoor education-style course in the countryside involving physical and team building activities. After this, participants undertake a residential phase, gaining a taste of independent living and learning a variety of skills for their future. In the third (and sometimes fourth) phase, participants plan and deliver a "social action" project in their local community, often to raise awareness of or fundraise for a particular cause.[6] Those completing the course receive a certificate at a graduation ceremony. The certificate is signed by the Prime Minister in office at the time of graduation. From 2013 onwards, participants have paid £50 each to take part in the scheme,[7] although there are bursaries for those from low-income households.


The programme was designed and piloted in 2009 by social integration charity The Challenge, which remains the largest provider of the programme.[8] It was formally announced in 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron as part of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government's Big Society initiative, and it was launched in 2011. When the scheme was launched critics expected it to be an unpopular and unsuccessful non-military version of national service. Subsequently, however, it achieved cross-party support in Parliament.[9]

After the 2015 general election, the programme was continued under the Conservative government. In October 2016 Cameron, who had resigned as Prime Minister, became chairman of the NCS Trust's patrons' board.[4] In the 2016 Queen's Speech it was announced that the scheme would be made permanent through the National Citizen Service Bill[10] which was then introduced into the House of Lords by Lord Ashton of Hyde. The bill received Royal Assent in April 2017 and the resulting National Citizen Service Act created a statutory framework for the programme as part of a £1.26 billion investment programme.[5]

By the end of 2018 more than 400,000 young people had completed the NCS programme.[11]


The expenditure on the scheme in 2012 was estimated at £1,400 per individual and the scheme received almost half the Office for Civil Society's total budget in 2013. The numbers who took part in the scheme were 26,000 in 2012, 40,000 in 2013, 57,000 in 2014, 75,000 in 2015, 93,000 in 2016 [9] and nearly 99,000 in 2017 meaning one in six eligible teenagers participated.[12]

In January 2017 the National Audit Office reported that the NCS had "weaknesses" in governance and had "not prioritised cost control". It estimated that just 213,000 people would be participating in the programme in 2020–21, compared to a target of 360,000. The report suggested costs would have to be reduced by 29% in order to meet participation targets.[13]

In March 2017 the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons said that the high cost of the scheme could not be justified and its participation targets remained challenging despite being significantly reduced. The total expenditure committed to the scheme by the government between 2011/12 and 2019/20 is £1.5 billion. £600 million of this had been spent by April 2017, with £900 million of the expenditure remaining.[14] Research carried out in the spring of 2017 indicated that affluent individuals are less likely to attend university if they take part in NCS, while poorer individuals are more likely to do so. At that time the cost per participant of NCS was £1,863.[15]

In July 2018 the Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch said that in 2016 NCS had spent almost £10m on places which were never filled. In August 2018 the Local Government Association said that in 2016 the number of young people taking part in NCS amounted to 12% of those eligible, and suggested that some of the money could be more effectively spent on local council youth services, spending on which fell from £650 million in 2010–11 to £390 million in 2016–17.[16] Over the four years from 2014–5 to 2017–18 UK government spending on NCS was £634 million which accounted for 95% of all UK government spending on youth services.[17]

In the four years from 2019 NCS funding dropped by 69%.[18]


The National Citizen Service is administered by the NCS Trust. The National Citizen Service Act 2017 enabled the staff and assets of the NCS Trust, a community interest company, to transfer to a royal charter body.[19] Under the legislation, the government is allowed to provide grant-in-aid funding to the NCS trust. The trust is required to publish business plans, accounts and annual reports and the National Audit Office is the trust's auditor. The government has the power to promote the scheme by sending letters to young people as they turn 16 on behalf of the Trust.[14]

The programme is delivered through a number of Regional Delivery Partners (RDPs) and Local Delivery Partners (LDPs). Current Regional Delivery Partners for NCS are listed on their Web site, and have included:[20]

A supply chain of over 100 organisations is involved in delivering the NCS. Each RDP is responsible for its team of LDPs and their delivery.

In Wales[edit]

A pilot scheme took place in Wales in 2014 and a report examining whether it duplicates or complements existing schemes was commissioned. Cameron urged the Welsh Government to consider taking up the scheme and offering it across Wales.[25]


  1. ^ a b "NCS Trust Board of Directors". NCS. Retrieved 27 May 2024.
  2. ^ "AboutNCS | NCS". wearencs.com. Retrieved 2015-09-07.
  3. ^ Mills, Sarah; Waite, Catherine (2018). "From Big Society to Shared Society? Geographies of social cohesion and encounter in the UK's National Citizen Service". Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography. 100 (2): 131–148. doi:10.1080/04353684.2017.1392229. S2CID 149093560.
  4. ^ a b Simpson, Fiona (12 October 2016). "David Cameron reveals next job after quitting politics". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  5. ^ a b "National Citizen Service Act 2017". UK Parliament. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  6. ^ Mills, Sarah; Waite, Catherine (2017). "Brands of youth citizenship and the politics of scale: National Citizen Service in the United Kingdom". Political Geography. 56: 66–76. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2016.11.007.
  7. ^ Jane Merrick (2013-09-01). "Teenage volunteers show true grit at the National Citizen Service". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-06-18. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  8. ^ "Our Story". The Challenge. Archived from the original on 27 March 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b Theo Merz (30 Apr 2014). "National Citizen Service: training the citizens of tomorrow". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  10. ^ "National Citizen Service to have permanent statutory status". CivilSociety.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Teens Make a Difference on National Citizen Service". CXK. 30 November 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  12. ^ NCS (2017). NCS Trust Annual Report (PDF) (Report). p. 3.
  13. ^ Lepper, Joe (13 January 2017). "National Citizen Service initiative 'costs too much', spending watchdog warns". Children & Young People Now.
  14. ^ a b Andy Ricketts (28 April 2017). "National Citizen Service legislation given royal assent". Third Sector.
  15. ^ Jess Staufenberg (28 May 2017). "Affluent pupils less likely to go to university if they do National Citizen Service". Schools Week.
  16. ^ Peter Walker (2 August 2018). "Cameron's £1.5bn 'big society' youth scheme reaching few teenagers". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Buchan, Lizzy (2 August 2018). "Council leaders condemn massive funding of David Cameron's citizenship scheme, while youth services slashed". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-06-18.
  18. ^ Legraien, Léa. "National Citizen Service Trust's income dropped by 69% in four years". Civil Society.
  19. ^ "National Citizen Service Trust Draft Royal Charter". GOV.UK. Department for Culture, Media & Sport. 17 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Network Providers". NCS. Retrieved 27 May 2024.
  21. ^ "Say yes to NCS!". APM UK. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  22. ^ "NCS". The EBP. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  23. ^ "English Football League Trust". EFL Trust. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  24. ^ "National Citizen Service". Inspira. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  25. ^ "David Cameron praises National Citizen Service on Wales visit". BBC News. Wales. 7 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.

External links[edit]