I have been a supporter of the National Citizen Service since it was first piloted in 2011. It is aimed at training the community leaders of the future, by teaching young people aged 16 and 17 the value of volunteering, personal resilience, life skills, social skills, and outdoor skills, and I am glad that it has achieved such cross-party support in Parliament.
A couple of particularly enjoyable NCS moments stand out for me. The first was a couple of years ago, when I visited Hormead School to see the work that a group of teenagers had been doing to create a garden area, as part of the programme. Fifteen young people gave up several weekends to clear an overgrown area in the school playground, moving quantities of earth, levelling the surface, pegging down weed-proof lining, and spreading enormous amounts of gravel. The garden was later planted with flowers and vegetables.
The second was last year, when I met one of my constituents, George Napier, who was selected to be one of the NCS’s Leaders for 2014/15, at an NCS Parliamentary reception. It was encouraging to see young people from North East Hertfordshire achieving so much in their local communities.
An impressive 817 young people took part in the NCS in North East Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas last year, and I am keen to see these numbers keep rising.
In reply to a Written Parliamentary Question that I sent to the Cabinet Office on the subject of the NCS, the Minister told me that the Chancellor had announced the Government’s ambition that 300,000 young people should “participate in NCS every year by 2019/20 so that they can learn new skills and give back to their communities”. This is excellent news, and I look forward to the NCS going from strength to strength in the years to come.