The cost of a place on the National Citizen Service summer programme increased by more than £100 in 2012, according to the government’s latest evaluation.
Put out today by the research charity NatCen Social Research, the evaluation shows that 22,132 young people took part in the summer programme last year at a cost of £36.8m – which works out at £1,662 per place.
A further 3,871 young people took part in the autumn aspect of the programme, but the study did not say how much money was spent on delivering this aspect of the scheme.
The average cost of a place on the scheme in 2011 was £1,553, NatCen figures showed last year.
The National Citizen Service brings together 16 and 17-year-olds from different backgrounds in England and Northern Ireland and helps them to take part in residential activities and community projects. In June, the Chancellor George Osborne said that the scheme would be expanded to 150,000 places by 2016.
The study also shows that a total of 32,000 places were offered on the NCS programme in 2012, but only 26,003 young people took part – a shortfall of 6,000 places.
"Despite some clear lessons learned around recruitment, some challenges remain in relation to lead-in time and expansion of the programme," the evaluation says. "Questions continued to be raised by providers around the awareness of NCS, particularly in schools not approached in 2011."
Overall, nine out of 10 participants said they believed the National Citizen Service had given them the chance to develop skills that would be useful in the future, while nearly three-quarters said they felt more confident about getting a job. The researchers found that the monetary benefits to society of the summer 2012 programme were up to 2.8 times the cost of delivering the scheme.
Nine out of 10 participants agreed that taking part in the service had "given them a better understanding of what life is like for people who are different to me".
Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, said: "Two things really please us about this research. The first is that rapid NCS growth is not coming at the cost of quality. The second is that the very positive impacts on young people appear to stick over time. This gives us the confidence to press ahead with really ambitious expansion plans. Young people love NCS because of the chance to make new friends, learn valuable skills and do something very positive for their community. We want every 16-year-old to have this opportunity."