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Another £1.5b confidence and supply agreement?

JUNE 01, 2018

The Scout Association has entered into a three-year partnership with the National Citizen Service in a deal that is expected to be worth about £1.5m.

The two organisations said they hoped the ‘arrangement’ would enable them to support more young people and have a greater impact in general, with details yet to be finalised.

Since 2011, the Office for Civil Society has spent £443m on the NCS scheme up to 2015/16 and has committed a further £1.26bn to it up to 2020. But the NCS programme has continually struggled to fill all of its places and earlier this year it significantly reduced its participation targets by 100,000 places. Last week the scheme appointed 18 new patrons in an attempt to get more young people to participate in the projects.

A recent article published in Youth and Policy argues that since its inception in 2011, the NCS received a mixed reception in the youth sector.  Although any spending on youth activities was ‘uncritically welcomed’ by some mainstream organisations, many challenged that such resources would be better spent in keeping youth services open at a time of cuts and wide-scale destruction of services both in the statutory and voluntary sectors.

The Education Select Committee’s (2011) Services for Young People inquiry recommended that NCS should not continue in its current form in the light of ‘concerns about the scheme’s cost and practical implementation’ and similar ‘value for money’ concerns have been the subject of ongoing scrutiny with the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee saying as recently as March 2017 that the high cost of the scheme could not be justified.

And so it is no wonder that we now have this new ‘partnership’ agreement between NCS and the Scout Association, recently identified as good value compared with NCS. Just another confidence and supply arrangement, convenient at a time when NCS has failed so miserably in achieving its participation figures and has been heavily criticised for its cost per head, this coming together is little more than a last ditch attempt to secures its future. But at what cost.

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