A critical youth work study: The NCS as a neo-communitarian project

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The National Citizen Service is described as the UK Government’s flagship citizenship initiative. Since 2011, over 300,000 16- to 17-years-old have participated in the NCS, undertaking activities such as a residential work, team building, life skills and a social action project. In April 2017, the Government introduced the NCS Act creating a legislative framework for The NCS Trust operations and placed a statutory duty on schools to promote the service. Recently, The Trust has come under increased public scrutiny with concerns expressed about its operational accountability and service effectiveness. The NCS has already received over £600 million of public funding (2011-16) with a projected £900 million further funding for 2017–21, and some serious questions are being asked. Firstly, the National Audit Office (2017) has highlighted concerns about value for money, stating that the NCS had failure to meet its target in 2016, with a high drop-out rate; and identifying that only 28% of young people expressing an interest were able to take part. Secondly, a parliamentary scrutiny report raised concerns about the transparency of the NCS Trust and its governance arrangements, noting its relatively high operational costs, as well as expressing serious concerns about the safeguarding arrangements (House of Commons, 2017).

This article draws upon recent empirical data from a series of in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with professional youth workers and contemporary experiences of social action and youth citizenship projects across the North East of England. It offers some useful insights into approaches to practice interventions, the impact of the NCS within our communities, and contests the type of citizen envisaged within its curricula and pedagogy. The research study offers a more nuanced understanding of the NCS, as an aid to making sense of the meaning of citizenship in the 21st century.  It poses questions about the types of curriculum, nature of provision and considers its effectiveness in preparing young people to take on civic responsibilities.

Click here to download full article. The findings contribute towards a critical appraisal of the NCS as a policy vehicle for youth social action in the changing social, economic and political landscapes in a post-Brexit society. Read article via Google Scholar

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