In a report published today, Thursday 23 June, the Education Select Committee warns that extending the National Citizen Service (NCS) offer to all 600,000 16-year olds could have a price tag in excess of £350 million each year even if only 50% of young people take part. This would make it more costly than the entirety of youth services currently provided by local authorities.
Instead, the Committee calls for the NCS to be retained but become a form of accreditation for existing schemes which meet the Government’s objectives.
The hard hitting report criticises the Government’s "regrettable" failure yet to outline a youth policy or strategic vision for the sector.
It says that youth services are suffering "disproportionate" cuts and that the Government should be prepared to take action to ensure that local authorities meet their statutory obligations.
The Committee found that evidence on the effectiveness of youth services was lacking and called for more effort by government and service providers to help guide local authorities on where best to spend scarce resources.
The report said that youth services could not be immune from public spending cuts and the sector must make better use of non-public forms of funding, including charitable, philanthropic and private sources.
Graham Stuart MP, Committee Chair, said:
"Youth services matter. Children spend more than 80% of their time outside school yet we don't know what services best help them lead rich and fulfilling lives. We need a better understanding, backed by research, to help guide spending decisions.
The Government hasn't produced a youth strategy and, in the meantime, services like youth clubs are being slashed by local authorities in their bid to balance the books. The Government, local authorities and service providers all need to understand and demonstrate the effectiveness of youth services – not stand by while they are dismantled.
The Government's idea of using the National Citizen Service to inspire young people to engage with their communities, mix socially and build their skills is a good one. However, the pilots are proving to be expensive and full roll-out would be hard to justify when cuts, which the Government itself calls disproportionate, are impacting existing youth services provided by local authorities. The NCS should be adapted so that it accredits existing programmes while introducing a new focus and resources into the sector."