The Queen’s Speech, delivered today in parliament, confirmed that the government intends to introduce a legislative bill to place the NCS “on a permanent statutory footing”.
Background notes published by the Cabinet Office reveal that the National Citizen Service Bill will aim for the expansion of the initiative “so more young people can mix with people of other backgrounds, and learn what it means to serve their community”.
It will include a new statutory framework to deliver the programme, and a £1.2bn cash injection. There will also be a new duty on schools and local authorities to promote the scheme to all young people and their parents.
The briefing notes state the purpose of the bill is to strengthen links between young people and schools, local governments and central governments to promote the programme.
It also said the government is in discussions with the devolved administrations about extending the bill to their jurisdictions. The programme has only ever been delivered in England and Northern Ireland since it launched in 2011. But last month youth minister Rob Wilson called for an expansion of the programme into Scotland and Wales while responding to a parliamentary question.
Since NCS launched, more than 200,000 young people aged 15 to 17 have taken part in the programme.
Generation Change, a coalition of 18 charities and social enterprises that support more than 600,000 young people to take part in volunteering projects, said it welcomes the government’s continued support of NCS, but said more needs to be done to support youth social action.
Jessica Taplin, chief executive of vInspired and a member of Generation Change, said: “We urge the government to create a legal status for young people taking part in full-time ‘service years’ and to do more to support schools and established youth organisations to work with existing youth social action programmes, particularly those supporting disadvantaged young people.”
Sophie Livingstone, chief executive of City Year UK and a member of Generation Change, said: “By bringing people from all backgrounds together, NCS is a great driver of social mobility, that’s why it is important that we take the opportunity to progress these young people into quality opportunities afterwards to build on the interest and motivation sparked by NCS.
“A range of recognised full-time service year schemes, such as those seen in America, Germany and France, would offer a powerful life opportunity for young people and give them a chance to make a real impact on their country’s most challenging issues.
“Recognition of these full-time programmes would be a natural next step for young people who take part in NCS during their school holidays.”