David Cameron’s National Citizen Service (NCS) was always an ill-conceived ‘vanity project’, now that it’s been shown to be a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money, it needs a radical re-think if it’s to survive, according to Unite, Britain’s biggest union.
Unite, which represents thousands of youth and play workers, has condemned the spiralling costs of the NCS, its lack of transparency and low take-up, as reported by the House of Commons public accounts committee, while the country’s youth services are being destroyed.
According to the committee of MPs, which published their report yesterday (14 March), the expected cost per head in 2016 of the scheme was more than £300 higher than the spending review allowed and was slammed for ‘not meeting the standards of transparency to be expected from organisations funded almost entirely by the taxpayer.’
Responding to the MPs’ report, Unite national officer, Colenzo Jarret-Thorpe said: “It is hard to defend such a costly short-term programme, when across the country universal youth services are being destroyed.
“Over the last seven years cash-strapped councils have been slashing their services, youth clubs are being boarded up and thousands of youth and play workers have lost their jobs. Young people between the ages of 13-19 are losing out on the support they need to help them reach their full potential.
“It is a slap in the face for existing struggling youth services that more will be spent funding the NCS scheme, than on the entirety of youth services provided by local councils, and yet it reaches far fewer young people for just a few weeks a year.
“Unite firmly believes that that universal youth services are a better, and more efficient use of taxpayers’ money. In 2011, the Education select committee praised the sector for providing value for money, with youth services costing just £350m a year for 13-19 year olds, compared to the £1.5bn planned bill for the NCS scheme between 2011-2020.
“The government now needs to do two things; first the NCS scheme needs to be opened up, so that young people of all ages can take part, and secondly local authorities and employee-led community organisations should be allowed to deliver NCS schemes, without these changes the entire project will be nothing more than a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.
“We also call on the government to do more to protect universal youth services. It can start by putting the service on a firmer statutory footing and ensuring that local councils are meeting their legal obligations, and not stand by while these vital services are dismantled.”