The National Citizen Service is often over-emphasised when the good work of the charity sector is discussed, the think tank NPC has said in a submission to the House of Lords.
NPC made the submission to the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee as part of its written evidence, which were published last week.
The committee has been asking a number of questions about the NCS programme.
NPC said: “NCS is just one small part of the story - and too often over-emphasised in debates relative to all the good work done by the voluntary, charity and community sector within communities.”
It said that policy-makers should not put too much weight on NCS to “transform the way that young people see themselves in society, their relationships with other people of different backgrounds (socioeconomic, ethnic and other), and their commitment to social action in the future”.
NPC cautioned that the “evidence that the programme has had a lasting impact in these areas, let alone that it is cost-effective, is not yet in or conclusive”.
NPC also said of NCS that “insufficient consideration was given to value for money from the outset”, and questioned whether the same thing could have been “achieved more cheaply by harnessing the existing charity sector rather than establishing a new programme from scratch”.
However, the think tank added that while it is important to look back at how the NCS was created, this is of “limited use now that NCS is well-established and clearly remains a political priority”. As a result, it said that the “focus should be on ensuring that it works effectively and on making sure we do have the necessary data to understand and improve the impact the programme has”.
It said that the recently announced partnership of NCS with the Scouts is “a positive step in engaging the wider sector and building on the established expertise of charities already active in this space”.
The submission also stated that while recognising the role the third sector plays in supporting active citizenship, government should “avoid placing specific responsibilities on third sector organisations to do this”.
More collaboration with NCS and sector needed
In its submission, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said that more collaboration is needed between the NCS and the rest of the sector.
NCVO said it is opposed to making programmes like NCS, which include an element of volunteering, compulsory because it “would be contradictory to the principle of volunteering and counter-productive to the spirit of altruism that is at the heart of volunteering.”
The umbrella body also said more can be done to improve the social action element of the programme, and that NCS must also “support smaller, local organisations so that they are able to effectively deliver the programme and ensure that commissioning processes are accessible to these organisations”.
It said that so far NCS has “failed to nurture and capitalise on this expertise to support the effective delivery of the programme and the quality of the offer for young people”.
NCVO also called for collaboration between the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee and the full-time social action review currently being undertaken by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It said this is “so it can seek assurances that any growth in full-time social action will be driven by a commitment to high quality and accessible opportunities for a diverse range of young people”.