One of the Government’s best kept secrets is the National Citizen Service programme aimed at 16 and 17 year olds to get them more engaged in volunteering and their local communities.
Last Wednesday I was invited to Worthing Assembly rooms to congratulate the 160 graduates of this year’s local programme and congratulate them on their success.
I have done many of these events since being responsible for the initiative as Minister for Children & Young People and having being asked by David Cameron to help design and pilot it.
As usual there was a phenomenal buzz in the hall with lots of energetic teenagers enthusing about their experience and lots of proud parents there to celebrate their graduation.
Again as usual the biggest complaint to me from parents was ‘why did we not know about this before?’
More than 400,000 young people have now gone through NCS across England and this year the scheme was made permanent with a Royal Charter and generous grant from central government.
It is provided on the ground by a range of youth organisations – in Sussex it is the volunteering charity Concordia which has been supporting young people since 1943.
They did a great job again with this year’s intake.
Over three weeks they were involved in everything from working with local mental health and homelessness charities to raise awareness and funds, gardening at St Barnabas Hospice, running open mic and karaoke nights, and even a sponsored conga along Worthing prom.
In all they raised more than £3,000 for local good causes and donated 4,412 hours of community work.
More importantly they learned a lot about what makes local communities tick and how they could influence them, how to survive out of their comfort zone with the help of team building, boost their confidence levels and have a great time.
Having gone through such a challenging scheme they also earned the right to be respected as young adults which is what NCS is all about.
We need to hear a lot more about schemes like this in the media rather than all the mundane and usually wholly unrepresentative stories about young people we are usually subjected too.
You can find out more about NCS at: www.ncsyes.co.uk
• If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org