We shouldnt knock NCS, its the only good thing this government has done for young people in 7 years.

Earlier this week I was having a pretty down sort of day, nothing major in the major sense of the word, fed up, half way through a fairly quiet/dull week off annual leave and hadnt really done anything, then a few money worries added to this, and I played and lost a game of tennis against my son, less out of physical inability just mentally not in the right place. And in that ‘place’ I wrote my previous piece on the pending demise of NCS, and it was a brilliantly executed piece of prose, full of humour, wit and intelligence that was then shared around the place a bit. However, it was also hugely critical of NCS, a programme that has already taken a substantial knocking from the youth work fraternity. That post is here: https://wp.me/p2Az40-17V  

And, as a i reflected i realised, that, like many programmes, franchises and projects that are subject to funding outcomes and objectives, they are often delivered by people who try in the main to do a good job, despite circumstances, who have livelihoods, and who are doing what they can despite this to help young people. So, on the record, its not the persons who deliver or work for it that are in any way the problem.

Theres a long standing tradition also, for youth workers, teachers, social workers to be critical of government policies, funding and strategies that dictate the nature of, or termination of their work with young people. And so, in the spirit of trying to provide a balance, of criticism which is easy, and praise in the current circumstances, which might be more difficult. I put out on social media earlier, the following question:

How has this government in the last 7 years have improved life & opportunities for young people in the UK. Are there any examples? 

It comes in a week, when there might be many children who have parents who are 6 weeks without income due to universal credit, children who have had their exam grades all changed in the most recent GCSEs, young people who are waiting 18 months for mental health appointments and assessment and the rest, removal of EMA, restriction on housing benefit, increase in youth homelessness…, But what about the good things this government has done for young people?

These were the responses via social media;

  1. ‘Increase in the personal tax allowance. So yes, if young people have a low paid job, they can keep a bit more before tax. ‘
  2. Apprenticeships are better.
  3. ‘im struggling to think of any… NCS?

It is not a scientific survey i realise, but in 3 hours this is all the responses i have had, and NCS was one.

When I thought about it earlier today, NCS was the only thing I could think of.

It gives young people and their parents a 6 week course for £50. It might be easy to say that the tories have rescued the economy, to help young people in the long term with jobs/housing/health but they actually havent, an admission that Theresa May is making continuously, as if she wasnt part of the last 6 years. There may be a few other policies, practices or interventions that have been good for young people that have gone under the radar, but with every service for young people subject to targetted outcomes and inspection, its only young people who lose out, outcomes become the focus, ask every teacher, social worker, youth worker.

NCS is a metaphor in itself of the way in which the government views young people, an economic entity that can be fixed in 6 weeks. Then it reveals much. That NCS is deemed the best thing that this government has done for young people in the UK is an ironic indictment of how forgotten young people are in society. The government is about to wash its hands of NCS and hand it over to local government. Not wanting to be responsible when the ship sinks, currently it stinks.

Maybe the only good thing this government has done for young people, has enraged them. Whisper it quietly, but political youth culture is making a comeback.


Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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