National Citizen Service can change the way your teen thinks

The Summer of a lifetime is not far away – how National Citizen Service can change the way your 16/17 year old thinks

The Easter school holidays are just around the corner; for young people in Year 11 it is also the countdown to their GCSE exams.

Whether or not you are a parent, carer or grandparent of someone currently studying for their exams, you will know from personal experience how stressful the whole experience can be.

It is well documented that exam stress is one of the biggest factors behind the rise in mental health issues amongst children and teenagers in the UK. Research carried out by the National Citizen Service trust says 58 per cent of teenagers surveyed said their biggest worry for the whole year is that they don’t achieve the exam results they want.

National Citizen Service or NCS is the Government's flagship youth programme. In Cumbria NCS is managed and delivered by Inspira – this summer we will be taking over 1300 young people out on a four-week adventure which includes outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’ and a community-based social action project to give something back to where they live.

Post programme surveys of NCS grads consistently point to evidence that those who have been on the experience are more confident about leading and working in teams, and that NCS lowers their anxiety and boosts resilience.

In August last year, the Government announced plans to train adults involved in NCS on mental health issues in-order to help support young people cope with exam stress, struggles at home and other challenges. Training is now underway, and this year's NCS cohort will benefit from this additional training.

As well as helping participants to build their self-confidence, leadership and team working skills – skills which employers are constantly saying they are looking for in individuals – the latest report supports claims of better social integration too.

Academic research supports the idea that socially cohesive groups are more productive, have greater well-being and, by definition, are less prone to conflict.

The new report, released last week and carried out at the Centre for Social Investigation, by James Laurence (University of Manchester), is being hailed as an important step towards

understanding and improving social integration among young people, especially among those who face the greatest barriers to social integration.

While previous evaluations of NCS focused on its impact across all young people, this report aims to evaluate the impact of NCS on those who were less socially integrated to begin with.

The key finding was that that young people with lower levels of social integration to begin with demonstrate the biggest increase in positive attitudes towards social integration and cohesion in their communities. Meaning that NCS helps to close the ‘integration gaps’ between more and less integrated young people and communities.

Feedback, testimonials and research consistently points to the positive impact the programme has on young people who participate.

Every year graduates carry on with their social action or volunteering, with a number participating in the annual Action Day in March.

There are still some places left across the county, and while the summer can be a busy time, we will help to accommodate prior plans. Go to www.NCSyes.co.uk for more information or contact your local Inspira team – www.inspira.org.uk

Thanks to government backing, the cost is only £50 for the whole experience, but this cost could be less or even free depending on your family circumstances.

Across Cumbria and Lancashire, Inspira is managing the programme for over 4000 young people, if you have any questions just ask – info@inspira.org.uk