National Citizen Service - What's the Impact?

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As we move past the milestone of 100,000 people having taken part, it seems a useful time for some reflection on the value and impact of National Citizen Service, which the Analysis & Insight team has led the evaluation of from the start. Taking a look at the most recently published evaluation results gives us a great insight into understanding the real value of NCS.

What is NCS?

Originally launched in 2011, National Citizen Service (NCS) is a national programme of personal and social development available to all 15-17 year olds. It consists of a series of exciting and engaging activities with the intention of building a movement of young people who are more capable, confident, connected and compassionate (click here for an outline of each of the four stages: NCS is not just a holiday programme, but something which induces change for life, as thousands of young people are brought together and become NCS graduates, and part of a more aware, cohesive and fulfilled society.

The Evaluation Process

Since the initial 2011 pilots of the programme, we have implemented a robust independent evaluation to measure the impact of NCS- initially conducted by NatCen and then by Ipsos Mori from Summer 2013. It consists of an analysis of impact surveys both before and after participation in the programme, providing an understanding of distance travelled by participants. At each stage, the participant group is compared with a matched control group, who expressed an interest in, but did not participate in NCS. This ensures that as far as possible, changes found can be attributed to the programme. The video below provides a great visual summary of this:

So what impacts did we find?

Evaluating in this way has provided us with some really interesting and useful evidence, contributing to both the development of the programme and also the sector. As well as being a financial investment in our future, with up to £6.10 of benefits returned to society for every £1 spent, NCS is helping to build a more cohesive and engaged society. Some of the most interesting findings from evaluating NCS have been those relating to increased participant wellbeing.

Sustained Increase in Participant Wellbeing  

NCS would be expected to boost wellbeing given that the curriculum incorporates some of the key drivers – social connections, learning and altruism- and the evidence doesn’t disappoint. Starting in 2011, participants experienced a 9 percentage point (pp) reduction in anxiety, which has not only been sustained 1 year on, but increased to 11pp. The results for 2013 programmes were equally positive, with an 8pp reduction in anxiety and a 9pp increase in feelings that the things they do are worthwhile. Findings like these are testament to the success of the programme, as well as reflecting the robustness of an evaluation which has measured such impacts from the very beginning in order to gain an in-depth and reliable understanding of the programme.

How can I find out more?

If you’d like to find out more about the programme or read the latest evaluation report, you can do so by following the links on here: To really bring this to life, you can watch the short video below to get a taste of the NCS experience from the young people themselves. If you have any thoughts on the programme or have come into contact with it yourself, then please do comment below, we would love to hear from you.


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