James meeting NCS volunteers
James meeting NCS volunteers

I was recently invited to visit the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in my constituency, Bury North.

If you aren’t familiar with it, NCS brings together 15-17 year-olds from all different backgrounds on a four-week programme during the school holidays.

The programme breaks down divisions between young people as they embark on a variety of activities – rock-climbing and kayaking, learning to cook, setting budgets and volunteering in our community. They also get support with public speaking and campaigning and pitch their ideas for a ‘social action’ day to a team of professional business people. The end result is an incredible confidence boost and greater independence for these youngsters, thanks to the support of the inspirational programme leaders and from their peers.

NCS should fill us all with hope for the future. While it focuses on promoting and creating social integration, it helps our young people feel equipped for the wider world. Having seen the programme in action, I would encourage everyone between the ages of 15 and 17 to make the most of this incredible opportunity to learn lots and have enormous fun – this website tells you more: www.ncsthechallenge.org.

With the average cost of entertaining a teen over the summer said to be £600, the good news is that NCS is government subsidised, so the cost is just £50, which includes accommodation, food and activities. The young people can enjoy a summer of adventure, making new friends and learning new skills and, importantly, the programme involves them in their local community. This means they become more engaged and aware of their own power to make positive changes in our community – something we should all embrace.

Why is NCS relevant to our wider society, plus more specifically our constituency? Differences between communities can become divisions when there is a lack of meaningful mixing between people. Our constituency is diverse – by age, wealth, race, religion. We have all sorts of ‘differences’, however this programme is the ideal vehicle to bring our young people together as one.

By bringing together different nationalities, ethnicities, age, social class, employment status, sexuality, gender and abilities together, encouraging mixing and interaction across all social divides, Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of Intergroup Conflict found that young participants had an increase in understanding, empathy, respect, plus better connections with people they would ordinarily have judged as ‘different’. Half the young people who took part in NCS in 2017 planned to volunteer to help their local community, while one-third of participants felt more empowered to make a difference.

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to see our young people enjoying their summer on NCS and enriching their school holidays.

There are still spaces available for this summer so to sign up at the earliest opportunity, visit: www.ncsthechallenge.org or call 020 3510 5050.

James Frith

MP for Bury North

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