A pilot programme of the National Citizen Service (NCS), sponsored by the UK Cabinet Office, will bring together young people from different community backgrounds in Northern Ireland.
An introductory event at NICVA outlined key aspects, and offered the opportunity for potential bidders to ask further questions.
Paul Oginsky, Youth Policy Advisor to Prime Minister, David Cameron, explained what NCS is and seeks to promote.
National Citizen Service (NCS) is a “voluntary, high-quality, personal and social development programme, which brings young people from different backgrounds together”.
Its aim is to promote a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society by mixing young people from different backgrounds, helping young people’s transition into adulthood, and enabling young people to work together to create social action projects in their local communities.
It is specially addressed to young people of 15-17 years old, and up to 25 for those with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The programme is split in eight phases.
A first phase intends to be an introduction, to set expectations and build relationships between participants and staff.
A second phase is to be conducted outside participants’ homes, where young people will enjoy outdoor activities and face daily team tasks. It’s intended to last a minimum of four days, and aims to “build personal responsibility, self confidence and self awareness”.
Phases 3, 4 and 5 are to be done together over weekends and evenings. During these phases, participants should complete a total of 65 hours in no more than 6 weeks, with the goal of getting to know the local community, developing personal and social skills, and designing and delivering a social action project.
Phase 6 is carried out over a weekend in England in mid-December, where participants will be tested on the skills that they have developed throughout the programme.
Phase 7 is the celebration and graduation of the successful participants back in their home communities, which Oginsky said intends to be a reward for them all.
An eighth phase, called Graduate Programme, is designed to help graduates continuing improving their skills, respecting each other, and helping communities. This could include, for example, graduates volunteering in identified international schemes.
In summary, the Northern Ireland NCS experience “should lead to longer-term engagement in social action in local communities”.