The National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme has been found by new studies to have a positive impact on the social integration of young people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds – especially those from the more segregated communities.
NCS was launched by David Cameron back in 2011 while he was Prime Minister as part of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s ‘Big Society’ initiative.
It is a national civic and social engagement scheme for young people, allowing them to partake in a variety of team-building activities and community projects, helping to support their transition into adulthood.
With nearly 400,000 teenagers having taken part in the scheme so far, NCS brings together 16 and 17-year olds from a range of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, allowing them to develop friendships across social divides to support a more cohesive, mobile, and engaged society.
To find out if the organisations activities are effective at building social integration, Dr. James Laurence from The University of Manchester’s Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research has worked with NCS, looking closely at young people’s attitudes towards people from other ethnic groups, and their positive experiences of integrating with these other groups.
From his time working with the organisation he found that overall it helped with social integration among young people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. This was particularly the case with young people from the most disadvantaged and segregated communities, where social integration is often the weakest.
James commented, “It is clear from these findings that NCS has a valuable role to play in helping to close the gaps in social integration between young people in society. By bringing peers from different backgrounds together in environments where they work as a team, NCS helps to overcome barriers and build the kinds of bridges which help foster social integration.”
After taking part in the scheme, participants from these backgrounds saw the biggest improvements in their attitudes towards other ethnic groups, and how frequently they mixed with them.
Stephen Webster, Head of Research at NCS commented on the findings saying, “We have been delighted with this independent report, which confirms that NCS is having a profound impact in creating a more cohesive society by fostering greater integration between young people of different backgrounds – particularly those who were least integrated initially.”