The need to further improve young peoples’ access to life-changing opportunities in the North East was pushed into the national spotlight yesterday (19 October) at the House of Lords, Westminster.
Teenagers and MPs from across the North East joined influential delegates from the region and nationally at a National Citizen Service (NCS) North East event, which was sponsored by labour peer Lord Lennie of Longsands, at the parliamentary venue.
Event highlights included a key note speech by MP Anna Turley, which emphasised the ways in which NCS is benefiting communities in her constituency of Redcar and Cleveland.
Anna said: “NCS puts young people in the driving seat of positive, proactive social action – they decide where and how they want to help; it’s all totally youth led. In my constituency, projects have included cleaning up the local beach, raising awareness of mental health, improving facilities at a pet shelter – and contributing to a family fun day for households affected by closures in the iron and steel industry.
“NCS is a national movement yet I’ve seen first-hand that it is bringing about positive change at the most local of levels: within individual communities, families, and in our young people themselves. It is empowering teenagers to ‘be the change they want to see in the world’ by working together for something bigger than themselves, by creating a legacy. That’s why I’m proud to support the amazing shared experience that is NCS.”
Matthew Waterfield, Principal of Emmanuel College Gateshead, used the gathering to highlight the positive impact that NCS is having for students: “We want young people of all abilities and backgrounds to develop strong character shaped by values such as determination, integrity and compassion. Our support for NCS is grounded in the belief that it is a great programme that helps young people do exactly that.”
NCS graduate Claudia Titton, 17, from Willington in County Durham, also addressed esteemed guests including North East MPs Ian Mearns, Mary Glindon and Alan Campbell about her personal journey on NCS. Claudia, who attends St John’s School & 6th Form College in Bishop Auckland, said: “Despite how it may seem now, before I took part in NCS I was a shy, unconfident girl.”
Calling on other young people to take up the opportunity to get involved, she added: “Because of NCS my attitude to life has dramatically changed and many opportunities have come my way since taking part.
“I hope many others like me can have a completely life-changing NCS experience, and that friendships and social action continue to inspire young people.”
Since V•Inspired and the National Youth Agency (NYA) began delivering NCS in the North East in September 2015, nearly 5,000 teenagers have taken part in the scheme – collectively ploughing in a staggering 147,000 volunteering hours to good causes. This equates to an economic contribution of just under £1 million to the local economy, based on the minimum wage.
Jessica Taplin, CEO of V•Inspired, said: “At V•Inspired we are committed to working to support young people and their communities across the region. I passionately believe that NCS is a key part of the solution necessary to empower young people in the North East and beyond. The positive impact that the programme has on individual young people, schools, and communities shone through at this event.”
Kim Smith, Director of NCS North East, added: “We’re very proud of the programme, which empowers young people to do well by doing good. I therefore warmly welcome the commitment reiterated today by teenagers, schools, MPs and others in supporting efforts to enable even more young people to take part in NCS.”
Open to all 16 and 17 year olds in the North East, NCS involves teenagers spending time away from home enjoying adventure, fun and freedom before returning and developing important confidence, leadership and communication skills.
They then work with their team to design and deliver a rewarding community project that makes a real difference to the local area.
Bookings are now open for the unmissable NCS experience, with parents or teenagers urged to call 0191 247 4020 or visit NCSNORTHEAST.co.uk to secure a place on an upcoming programme.