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Civil Service

Meet the parents... of National Citizen Service teenagers

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Improved outcomes
Head shot of Anna Blackwell
Anna Blackwell

Back in May, we heard about Dan Grishin and his exciting journey from the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme into Whitehall and beyond.

This month I’ve been speaking to some Civil Service colleagues whose teenagers have previously taken part in the programme to find out why NCS is something they would recommend as an autumn 2016 half-term activity to fellow parents and young people.

The members of our parent panel are:

  • Simon Dawson, Business Partnerships Team, Cabinet Office, father of Beth, an NCS participant in autumn 2014; and
  • Afsheen Nasir, HR Business Partner, Cabinet Office, mother of NCS participant Zaib.

What is the National Citizen Service?

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is a unique opportunity aimed at 15-to-17-year olds across England and Northern Ireland. More than 275,000 young people have taken part in the programme to date, making NCS the fastest-growing national youth movement in over 100 years.

For a £50 fee, with financial assistance available if required, participants embark on a two-to-four-week adventure during their school holidays, working in diverse teams of 12 to 15 people, none of whom they will have met before. They build new skills for work and life, while embracing new experiences, making new friends and contributing to their communities.

NCS is in three phases. In the first phase, participants live with their team in an outdoor activity centre, taking on new challenges, bonding as a group and developing their confidence.

Teenagers in boats on a lake
Outward bound on National Citizen Service

In the second phase, the same group live away from home in university-style accommodation, learning to cook for themselves while developing other new skills for the future, from leadership, to team working, communication skills to resilience.

In the final phase, these new skills and collaborative spirit are put into practice as participants invent and undertake a 30-hour social action team project designed to tackle an issue they have observed in their local community. Teenagers plan their own projects, fundraise to get their ideas off the ground and deliver their initiative in the community, giving back to and raising money for their local area. Projects have included disability-confident campaigns, raising awareness of mental health, and skills exchange events that bring different generations together.

Young people making a public pitch
National Citizen Service participants make a pitch for their community project

All this activity culminates in a graduation ceremony celebrating the young people’s achievements on the programme and the award of certificates signed by the Prime Minister. There are also opportunities to continue to be involved in the programme through applying to become an NCS Leader or an NCS mentor. Additionally, an online ‘Opportunity Hub’ is available to all NCS graduates hosting a range of employment and further volunteering opportunities young people can browse and apply for.

So that’s the programme, what’s the verdict from our parent colleagues?

Why did their teenagers sign up?

Simon’s daughter Beth heard about NCS via her school, and Afsheen’s daughter Zaib through a video shared on a YouTube channel she had subscribed to. Both young women were motivated to use their holidays to experience something different and exciting with new people, so decided to apply to the programme.

What impact did NCS have on their teenagers?


Whilst Zaib was already a very confident and outgoing girl, the chance to have this sort of experience with a diverse group of peers expanded her horizons and gave her a chance to prove how she could operate quite independently, forming new friendships in a short period of time. She was also given the nickname of ‘mother hen’ by her group, due to her inclination to look after people and take over responsibility for cooking!


The programme was a great opportunity for Beth to make new friends and meet peers from very diverse backgrounds, with whom she could collaborate in new, fun and rewarding activities. And, of course, to build on her previous experiences of the outdoors.

How have their teenagers gone on to use NCS?

Both Beth and Zaib used examples from the programme when drafting their personal statements for university. Zaib continues to be involved as a mentor, providing inspirational support to NCS participants.

What would you say to parents of teenagers of NCS-eligible age?

Simon urges parents to encourage their teenagers to take up the opportunity and to speak with teachers about NCS if schools are not already aware of the programme. He also reflects that it is great value for money, with only a very small contribution required to take part.

Afsheen encourages young people to definitely give it a go: “It's a tremendous initiative, giving youngsters from all walks of life a unique opportunity and lifelong memories.”

For more information on how to unlock this opportunity for your teenager, please visit

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  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    What a fantastic way in which to enable young people to learn some valuable life skills and to gain an understanding on the benefits of an inclusive society.