The Government’s National Citizen Service (NCS) is only attracting a small number of young people despite hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, local government leaders find.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has calculated that Whitehall spent £634m on the NCS between 2014/15 and 2017/18. This amounted to 95% of its youth services budget.
However, despite this substantial investment, just 12% (93,000) of eligible youngsters took part in the NCS in 2016, while in some areas take-up was as low as 4%.
The NCS is a three to four week course where young people aged between 15 and 17 years-old can live away from home and learn new skills.
Councils have also been forced to cut spending on local youth services from £650m in 2010/11 to just £390m in 2016/17 as a result of Government funding cuts.
This has resulted in more than 600 youth centres closing and nearly 139,000 youth service places lost in the UK between 2012 and 2016.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, called on Whitehall to devolve a portion of the NCS’ funding to local authorities.
‘Councils have been forced to cut important services for thousands of young residents in recent years as a result of increasingly squeezed budgets, so it is wrong that nearly all of the Government’s funding for youth services is being spent on a very short programme which attracts only a small number of participants,’ she said.
‘The Government needs to devolve a slice of the funding to councils so they can begin to scale back the cuts to council youth services and provide targeted support to a much wider group of young people locally all year round, whether that is giving them safe spaces to meet, diverting them away from crime or supporting them to succeed in school, training or employment.’