How a National Citizen Service can prove its worth

By John Copps 23 July 2010

After much discussion, the UK is finally getting a National Citizen Service. Starting next summer, 10,000 young people will spend six or seven weeks volunteering in the school summer holidays after they take their exams at age 16.

This is all part of a long-established drive to increase volunteering and provide positive activities for young people – and neatly fits with the new government’s enthusiasm for charities and ‘Big Society’.

Large scheme like this are not cheap. And they always attract ire, very often with a political motive. For these reasons, the National Citizen Service must justify its worth.

So how can the scheme prove its impact?

As it focuses on teenagers in the summer before college or A levels, the most obvious approach of looking at ‘what young people do next’ is unlikely to tell us very much. Instead, the service should look to demonstrate its success in other areas.

We know that to be successful young people need to be confident, feel valued and be resilient enough to cope with setbacks. How can the National Citizen Service demonstrate that it improves young people’s abilities in these areas?

Well, NPC has an answer. Our well-being measure is designed for young people up to the age of 16 and offers a neat, simple and robust way of measuring many of these things. Charities such as The Outward Bound Trust, Beatbullying and The Place2Be have already benefitted from using it.

The theory and method underpinning the tool has been developed and we are in the process of translating it into an online tool, which will be completed later in 2010. You can read more here.

If the National Citizen Service is going to work, it must demonstrate that it is a success. Understanding its impact on the well-being of young people is the place to start.