The National Citizen Service is a life-changing experience. The programme delivers good value for money for the taxpayer, and the most recent evaluation showed that the summer programme generated over £2 in benefits for every £1 spent.
I think the outcomes from the NCS are very powerful. It brings communities together and it is one of the most effective things that we have in making sure that people come together at a young age and understand our national life as a whole. Of course we are always seeking to improve its administration; the hon. Gentleman would expect nothing less.
Just over 99,000 young people participated in the NCS last year. This year, the target is 100,000—so a little bit higher. We are looking to increase and broaden participation so that people from all backgrounds and communities get the opportunity to engage. In fact, engagement is very strong among the most disadvantaged groups.
In reviewing the cost-effectiveness of the NCS, will the Secretary of State take into account the absolutely brilliant impact it has on so many young people? I have seen this for myself in Nottingham. Many young people who are disadvantaged or facing other challenges in life come together in the programme, and it makes a real difference to them.
Yes; the hon. Gentleman is a man after my own heart. The outcomes from the NCS are incredibly positive, and that will always be at the forefront of our minds.
I would like it to become universal, but we are not requiring it to be universal because we want people to want to be on the programme. However, I think the message is increasingly getting out there that this should be done.