How today’s ‘National Service’ is turning young people into adults
- Credit: INSPIRE SUFFOLK
It was said to transform youngsters into well-rounded adults and open their eyes to the real world.
Yet while two years of National Service may be no more, its modern alternative is still changing lives - albeit in a very different way.
National Citizen Service (NCS) was brought in by the coalition government in 2011 to give future generations the skills and confidence that previous generations got from conscription.
For some, the non-military programme - where people aged 15 to 17 complete a range of team-building activities before working together on a social action project, to make a difference in their community - can never rival the tough, boot camp experience of 24 months in the army.
But Inspire Suffolk, which runs NCS courses in Ipswich and Lowestoft, said any negativity about today’s alternative is misplaced - because of the huge benefits it brings to its participants.
Garry Mills, education programmes manager at Inspire Suffolk, said: “The programme is about helping to build their confidence. It’s more than just another youth programme.
“You see kids that are shy and lack confidence but really come through. They make life-long friendships and it really does give them that sense of purpose.”
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Many of the activities in the first week of NCS, which include canoeing, zip lining and raft races, are designed to push young people out of their comfort zones.
“We know how important that is in life,” Mr Mills said.
“If you don’t push yourself, then you don’t grow.”
But he also said the wider community benefits from the work NCS participants do, with young people this year helping to create a sensory garden at St Elizabeth Hospice.
Selina Perkins, a young person who took part in Inspire Suffolk’s summer NCS programme, said: “NCS has taught me a lot.
“It’s allowed me to be more trusting when working within a team and make more friends.”
Naima Ahad, a young person who was part of the St Elizabeth garden project, said: “We wanted our project to help other people. We all liked the idea of doing something hands on and that we could really get into.
“It’s really rewarding doing something like this knowing it will benefit the residents here and the staff and residents were all really pleased with our work.”
People can already sign up to Inspire Suffolk’s Summer 2019 NCS programme.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01473 353194. Alternatively visit www.inspiresuffolk.org.uk