Young people taking part in the National Citizen Service programme this summer have been able to share their ideas with their MP during a Dragon’s Den style presentation.
Around 220 young people in Adur and Worthing are taking part this year and all have been set the task of taking social action to have an impact in the community.
The 16 and 17-year-olds, from all walks of life, are divided into wave groups and East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton spent the day with them all yesterday.
He said it was great to see such a large bunch of people involved. He told them some of the history of NCS, explaining he had been involved from the start, helping David Cameron to design the project ten years ago, ahead of its official launch in 2010.
“David Cameron wanted to have a scheme for young people aged 16 and 17 who had just done their GCSEs at school,” he explained.
“It would bring young people together, take them out of their comfort zone and challenge them to work in the community.
“I got fed up of reading all the negative stories about young people when, as minister for children and families, I was going around the country seeing some fantastic projects involving young people in their own communities.
“People of that age are much more likely to be volunteering than in any other age group and yet they don’t get the credit.”
Mr Loughton said young people in London, Leeds and Liverpool helped design the format of the scheme and were able to say what they wanted to be part of it.
“What makes it so valuable is that it really mixes everybody up. It was all about taking people from all sorts of backgrounds and putting them together, so they get to meet people they would not normally meet in their everyday lives,” he added.
“It is actually quite a challenge. It involves commitment, hard work and taking an interest in the local community. It is really important that it is fun as well.”
Each group gave a presentation about its chosen community project to a panel, which included Mr Loughton. They took on board the feedback to improve and finalise their plans today before putting them into action next week.
Joe Butler, wave leader, said: “It is incredibly driven by them. As staff, we just facilitate by giving them an opportunity to follow what they are interested. We never try to press particular causes on them.
“They are so imaginative and creative. One of the things that is really amazing is they find big issues that other people might not feel able to deal with, like sexual assault and mental health issues. They find these causes and really champion them. They don’t just want to do the popular charities, they look for more local causes that are small, so that can make more of an impact.
“The leaders come from different backgrounds as well. It is about breaking down the barriers and stereotypes, which has such large benefits.”
The charity Concordia Volunteers runs the NCS programme in Adur and Worthing.
Fiona Callender, volunteer and development manager, said: “Concordia has been running NCS for six years and have had more than 1,000 young people graduate from our programme.
“This year, we have had 223 young people aged 16 to 17 from Worthing, Lancing and Shoreham. They have contributed 6,690 hours of social action to support local causes and to make a difference in their community.
“I always love to see how much the young people grow in confidence over the programme.”