Clause 9 aims to support the growth of NCS into a rite of passage for young people. It gives Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs the power to send information to young people and their parents or carers about NCS. This is designed to support the NCS Trust in promoting NCS. The clause requires that the NCS Trust actually writes and designs the communication. The trust would put together an engaging letter or other communication that it wishes, telling the addressee about NCS and telling them that they are eligible to take part. HMRC would then take this letter and use its database to address it and send it. It will not look like a communication from the taxman: it is a letter from the trust sent by the Government. The Government are committed to growing NCS and allowing more young people to benefit from it, and they can only do so if they are aware of the programme.
The trust markets NCS in a variety of ways, and the power contained in clause 9 will complement that. The Government want to do all they can to ensure that every eligible young person hears about the programme. HMRC has central Government’s most suitable dataset for this group of young people. The power contained in this clause would avoid the need for sharing taxpayer data, while allowing as many eligible young people as possible to hear about NCS. Clause 9 defines young people differently from the terms in clause 1; the range is limited to 15, 16 and 17-year-olds. Given that the core age range for going on NCS is 16 and 17, it makes absolute sense for HMRC to market the programme to people of that age, along with those about to be eligible. Clause 1 defines young people to reflect the possibility that—as I said earlier—the NCS Trust might allow people between 18 and 24 to go on a course in exceptional cases. However, it would not be appropriate for HMRC to write to everyone in the age ranges not normally able to take part. It will write at a particular point in time when potential candidates are in or are approaching the core age range. If a young person is unable to participate at that time because of their circumstances, they can agree with the NCS Trust to take part later but they will at least have heard about the programme.
Given that both organisations—HMRC and NCS—will be receiving public funding, how will the Minister mitigate the propensity for duplication between NCS, which is targeting a group of potentially vulnerable people who want to get themselves on to NCS programme, and HMRC, which is doing so at the same time?
The clause will allow for the NCS Trust—as part of its marketing effort—to pay directly for the communication that it is putting out. HMRC’s budget would still remain completely separate, so this is a communication that will be paid for, but the dataset it goes to will be controlled by HMRC in the normal way that it operates. Funding for HMRC to send communications would come out of the existing budget of NCS. This approach is designed to reduce the need for the NCS Trust to buy expensive and often inaccurate commercially held data to promote NCS. It is a sensible solution that would allow the Government to assist the trust in carrying out its functions to promote the programme. Finally, giving HMRC clear powers in legislation ensures a transparent approach to sending out communications about NCS. It is the Government’s manifesto commitment to provide a place on NCS to any young person who wants one. Clause 9 demonstrates our commitment to do just that.