David Cameron’s controversial legacy project has had its budget slashed by two-thirds during a review of government funding for young people.
The National Citizen Service (NCS), established by the then Prime Minister in 2011, has seen its cash share cut from 90% of the government’s overall youth funding budget to just 30%.
It follows an investigation The Independent which revealed that the program had consistently failed to meet government goals or value for money, that executives were paid six-figure salaries despite declining youth participation, and that a former board member said the program was little more than a “summer camp for most of the kids in the class.
The NCS, which has received £1.3bn of taxpayers’ money since 2011, was set up to run summer and autumn residential programs for 16 and 17 year olds to help them become better citizens, but no residentials were run in 2021 and only a smaller residential in fall 2020 due to Covid-19.
Now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has cut funding for the program drastically. He announced a total youth services package of £560m over the next three years, of which £171m – 30% of the total – is earmarked for the NCS, up from over 90% in previous years.
This gives the NCS just £57m a year, less than a third of its typical pre-Covid funding package of around £180m a year, and a big cut in funding too for the last two Covid-hit years of £75m and £85m respectively.
Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell, MP, said the Government had ‘played favourites’ for years with Cameron’s pet project ‘without guaranteeing results and value for money’.
She added: “Ministers cannot turn away from their legacy of failure, which has shattered grassroots youth support in communities across the country, while disproportionately funding the National Citizen Service. There is a desert of support in many parts of the North and Midlands because this government has played favorites without guaranteeing results and value for money.
DCMS said its new spending plans were the result of consultations with 6,000 young people and 170 youth organisations, in which the biggest clear demand from young people was for “regular weekly clubs and activities” – in stark contrast to the occasional residences. proposed by the NCS, which involved young people only two or three weeks a year. DCMS will instead use the majority of the youth budget to fund up to 300 new and refurbished youth facilities “in the most deprived parts of England”, giving young people “space to engage in positive activities outside of school” and “continuous access”. the support of youth workers”.
DCMS also effectively slapped NCS for being too middle class, demanding that the organization begin to ‘reform’, be more ‘profitable’ and reach more young people ‘from disadvantaged backgrounds’ in a ‘year-round offering’. as part of the government’s so-called “race to the top” program.
Chief executive Mark Gifford agreed that the organization would need to evolve its strategy to meet user expectations as well as to meet government expectations for an “upgrading programme”.
Asked about the £85million last year, Mr Gifford said: “Although we did not run any residences due to government restrictions, we did run schemes which offered a similar experience, but with day trips to activities in the local community. In the summer programme, despite the Covid, we reached around 35,000 young people and in the fall we reached just over 12,000. We also organized skills-building sessions in various schools. Some programs are still ongoing and we are unable to confirm final numbers for this fiscal year until April 2022.”
Mr Gifford sought to remain optimistic, despite the review funding falling short of expectations. He said: “We have always been ambitious in our plans, but we are also aware of the incredible demands on the public purse as the country emerges from Covid. Far from disappointed, we are filled with energy and optimism about what we can do to support the next generation of citizens.
Mr Gifford continues to receive an aggregate remuneration of over £160,000, with five other members of the management team being paid well over £100,000 a year. But with current annual costs of £72m outpacing the future funding package of £15m, the organization faces tough choices and severe cuts as it seeks to reinvent its purpose, balance your budget and keep a clear vision.