I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The National Citizen Service is a huge success. More than 300,000 young people have taken part, and many of them say that the NCS has changed their lives forever. For those who do not know, the NCS is a summer programme that lasts for up to four weeks, with no cost to parents who cannot afford it. It is open to all 15 to 17-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland. Indeed, the foundational strength of the programme is that it brings together people from all backgrounds. There is a focus on fun, and personal and social development, along with the design and delivery of a social action project. As Michael Lynas, the chief executive of the NCS Trust, has written:
“We build bridges across social divides and ladders to opportunity. We bring young people together in common purpose to change their perspectives and lives for good…Above all we try to show them that life is not a spectator sport.”
I got a sense of how transformational the programme is when I visited Liverpool last summer and met representatives of Everton football club’s NCS project. There was tremendous enthusiasm, and I was told by several people that they had become firm friends with neighbours from the same street whom they had not previously known at all. That is not untypical. An independent Ipsos MORI evaluation found that the vast majority of NCS graduates leave feeling more positive about people from dissimilar backgrounds and about themselves. Expanding the horizons of young people while increasing social cohesion is a massive win-win.