The government will introduce legislation to put the National Citizen Service on a permanent statutory footing and bring in a bill to reform the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, the Queen announced today.
In today’s Queen’s speech, the government announced that a National Citizen Service Bill would be introduced alongside a Small Charitable Donations Bill, which will reform the GASDS.
The NCS bill is expected to introduce a new duty on schools, councils and government departments to promote the NCS, which the government said in the Autumn Statement last year would be expanded from 80,000 places a year to 300,000 by 2020.
The programme, which will be supported by £1.2bn of government funds, will become accountable to parliament for its performance, the government said.
Individual secretaries of state will be responsible for reporting back on what their departments have done to promote the scheme.
The NCS Trust, the organisation that runs the programme on behalf of the government, will be set in statute under the bill.
The measures would ensure the scheme, which gives 16 and 17-year-olds the opportunity take part in residential activities and community work, was available to all children, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, a government statement said.
The scheme has consistently failed to hit its participation targets since it was launched in 2011. Almost 58,000 of the 80,000 places offered in 2014/2015 were filled. In 2013/14, fewer than 40,000 young people took part, against a target of 50,000.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said in a statement: "The National Citizen Service has been a huge success, boosting the life chances of more than 200,000 young people by building their confidence, resilience and leadership skills.
"We are making NCS a permanent feature of British life and we want to make sure schools and councils do all they can to extend its reach to all, especially those from the most deprived backgrounds."
The government also used the Queen’s speech to announce a Small Charitable Donations Bill, which will be used to reform the GASDS.
The scheme, which allows charities to claim Gift Aid-like relief on up to £8,000 of small cash donations each year without individual paperwork, has been criticised by charity umbrella bodies for being inaccessible for the small charities at which it is primarily aimed.
The government said the bill would make it "easier to claim, to allow more charities, particularly small or new charities, to benefit", and would enable groups that normally operate away from community buildings to benefit from top-ups to donations collected away from those buildings.