Economic benefits of National Citizen Service outweigh running costs

An Office for Civil Society-commissioned evaluation finds that the youth scheme delivered benefits of at least £136.3m in 2016, compared with running costs of £118.9m

Young people taking part in the NCS scheme
Young people taking part in the NCS scheme

< This article has been amended; see final paragraph

The National Citizen Service is generating more economic benefits for the country than it costs to run its programmes, according to a new evaluation report.

The evaluation, which was carried out by Kantar Public on the behalf of the Office for Civil Society, compared the costs of running the two NCS programmes that ran in 2016 with the benefits they generated in leadership skills among participants and the value of additional volunteering they undertook.

It found that the NCS’s summer programme delivered total benefits of between £136.3m and £287.7m, compared with the programme’s total costs of £118.9m.

The autumn programme in 2016 also performed well, delivering between £32.7m and £66.5m benefit against total costs of £22.6m, the report says.

The NCS 2016 summer programme also performed well when measuring the impact on participants’ wellbeing, with between £115.1m and £331.3m of benefit against total costs of £118.9m.

Previous years have shown that the NCS’s programmes were more expensive to run than the value of the benefits participants got from attending, although this year a different methodology has been used to calculate the programmes’ cost benefits.

For example, the three programmes run in the spring, summer and autumn of 2015 generated between 70p and £2.38 for every pound spent on the programme.

The latest evaluation comes after a report released by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee earlier this year found that the cost of running the NCS was "unjustified", that the NCS Trust – which runs the programme – lacked transparency and that it was struggling to meet participation targets.

A National Audit Office report in January warned that participation targets were being missed by 40 per cent

A response by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to the PAC report, which was published in Treasury minutes in October, said it accepted the need to reduce the costs of running the NCS.

Earlier this year, the NCS was given royal charter status, which allows the government to provide the NCS Trust with grant-in-aid funding and makes the trust more accountable to parliament.

Michael Lynas, chief executive of the NCS Trust, said: "400,000 young people have now taken part in NCS, and we continue to see the transformational effect the programme has on both individual lives and the families and communities around them.

"It is gratifying to have this evaluation from DCMS not only confirm this, but also highlight that the impact of the programme year-on-year continues to improve – both for the young people we serve and for society as a whole."

< The orginal version of this article said that the latest study showed the economic benefits of the NCS programme had outweighed the running costs for the first time. However, the NCS Trust says that studies showed that the central estimations for the summer and autumn programmes in 2015 generated more than a pound for every one spent.  

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