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Live webchat with Big Society Minister Nick Hurd MP

(115 Posts)
KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 07-Mar-12 15:59:48


We're pleased to welcome Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, for a webchat on the government's National Citizen Service on Thursday 8th March from 1pm- 2pm. Also joining us will be 16-year-old Kiran Dhingra-Smith from Stratford, London, who recently completed the programme with National Citizen Service Provider the Football League Trust.

The National Citizen Service aims to aims to encourage integration of young people from diverse backgrounds helping them learn new life skills - and both our guests are looking forward to answering your questions on the programme.

Do post your question live on Thursday, but as ever, if you're not able to join us - please do post away below.



KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 12:05:53


LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 12:07:07

Dear Nick Hurd MP,

Many of your Liberal Democrat colleagues in Government are hugely sceptical of the 'Big Society' agenda, seeing it as a Cameronian concept with which you are all now lumbered. Do you agree that there are real communication problems with the Big Society, and that these are an artefact of the concept's incoherence?


LineRunner (Mother To Two Teenagers)

LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 12:10:48

Dear Kiran,

What's it like being a teenager living in Stratford; and did you feel stereotyped doing a football related programme? What if you had wanted to get involved in, say, the financial or legal sectors - would that have been possible?

Good luck and all best wishes for the future; and thank you for coming onto this web chat on MN.


FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 08-Mar-12 12:13:12


Sorry Boffin Mum just testing here and accidentally deleted your message! Sorry!


PeahenTailFeathers Thu 08-Mar-12 12:34:17

Dear Mr Hurd
Do you think the National Citizen Service idea is, at best, a drop in the ocean, when compared to the Government's current policies that create a two-tier society, with particular reference to the scrapping of ESA for young people from families on low incomes therefore seemingly restricting access to further education to those who can afford it rather than those who deserve it and what are now incredibly high levels of youth unemployment with no real attempt by the Government to provide a solution (and unpaid labour that does not lead to either a job or a qualification is not a solution, despite what some Coalition spokespeople have said)?
Best regards

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 12:44:19

For Mr Hurd,
How much does this cost? How financially effective is this? Would it not be better money into secondary school to provide EVERY child with this opportunity, using already skilled teachers, and boosting the moral of communities in deprevied areas, and improving the image of younger people locally?

Oh, and please do define 'The Big Society' as asked earlier. My opinion is that local community is of more importance.

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 12:45:43

Sorry 'placing money into secondary schools'

LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 12:49:29

Just general comment, really, to pass the time...

Margaret Thatcher famously said there is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families. I wonder if this is an embarrassment now?

Personally I'd rather my 16 year old daughter, in an urban state school, had two weeks' quality maths teaching than anything else right now. What does that tell you? (And Michael Gove hasn't got a gnat's clue abaout education if he doesn't get it that allowing poor teaching is at the heart of everything.)

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 12:58:35

Hi everybody, very pleased to be here and thank you to Mumsnet for inviting me, I hope to cover all your questions, we're just waiting for Kiran but we'll make a start

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:04:53



Could you please provide a quick rundown of exactly what the National Citizens Service is for those of us too lazy busy to read the bumph? blush

Hello OPIorange, NCS is a programme for 16 yr olds, after they've taken their GCSE's we throw together young people from very different backgrounds so they get a chance to meet people they wouldn't otherwise meet. They leave their community to go and live together for 2 weeks, the first week is spent teambuilding doing outward bound stuff like canoeing, rock climbing , abseiling all of which is brilliant for building confidence. The 2nd week is spent learning about their community and at the end they are challenged to lead their own community action project. Its all designed to make them more work ready and connected with their power to make a positive difference in their own communities.

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:08:02

Hi I'm here now, sorry for the delay you know how trains and buses are
If anyone has any questions for me , fire away smile

rampart Thu 08-Mar-12 13:09:01

I live in a very rural area. We have lost practically ALL services since this government came into power. All youth provision has been scrapped - for a while the youth workers continued, unpaid, but this wasn't realistic long term. Transport has been stopped so now they can't travel to the nearest towns (both an hour away) to go to college or find work. The number of NEETS is growing. What chance do young people have if there is no investment in them?

LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 13:09:40

"at the end they are challenged to lead their own community action project."

How does this happen, in practice?

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:11:10


Hi Nick,

What do you specifically feel is lacking at the moment in society that this programme is aiming to address?

Is it the lack of involvement of people of all ages in community projects, is it a lack of specific skills and confidence to tackle new ventures, or do you feel that people from different backgrounds don't mingle enought to understand each other's issues?

In other words, how are you expecting this programme to benefit society as a whole?

Thanks smile

Hi VenetiaLanyon,

Let me answer this by what young people who have been on the programme say. They like the chance to make friends with people from different schools and different backgrounds. They like the opportunity to do things that they never thought they would or could do. That helps build their confidence and self esteem. And they like the chance to do something very positive in their communities. Most of them are sick of how young people are portrayed. Over three quarters of them will go on to do more community work. So I think the programme helps build social cohesion ;helps young people build their skills and confidence and engage with the area they live in.

LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 13:11:35

Hello Kiran, yes the buses in my area are awful!

I asked you a question back up the thread. Nice to 'meet' you. smile

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:13:07


Dear Kiran,

What's it like being a teenager living in Stratford; and did you feel stereotyped doing a football related programme? What if you had wanted to get involved in, say, the financial or legal sectors - would that have been possible?

Good luck and all best wishes for the future; and thank you for coming onto this web chat on MN.


To be honest I dont really know how to answer, its normal for me growing up around stratford and forest gate. I think if you know your area you'll be okay and it aint to bad, but thats just me.
Well even though it was done by a football club they made it clear to us that it werent actually them running it and itwerent neccesasrily to do with football. But for me that wasnt a problem as im into sports.
Also I think if you do want to get involved in that you could still do ncs , it just opens your eyes to different sides of things as one of my friends from it now does more about journalism because of ncs.

Thank you for the questions

Al0uise Thu 08-Mar-12 13:14:26

How is this programme being funded while we're in such dire straits financially?

Gleek Thu 08-Mar-12 13:14:36

Whilst I think the idea of NCS is an ok one, would long term mentor schemes not be as/even more effective? Were these considered as part of the policy making?

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:15:38


I don't understand the timing of the scheme. It seems to happen in the summer after the end of Year 11, after GCSEs. At this stage, children have already decided their next step and applied for sixth form, college or work.
Wouldn't it make more sense to have the scheme at the end of Year 10, to inspire them to make choices (that they might not have made otherwise) during the upcoming Year 11?

Hi senua,

We are still piloting it and may test how it works with different ages. However, we chose the end of year 11 for two reasons. 1) kids have more 'down time' post their GCSE's and 2) 16 is a complicated age and we think this challenging programme will help them make the difficult transition to adulthood.

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:15:57


Hello Kiran,

Can you tell us what you did on your programme, and how you think it will be useful to you? Are you going back into full-time education, or are you going to go into employment now?

I did a two week residential in both sheffield and chigwell and then did 30hours working in my local youth centre, to help with coaching and running it.
I am in full time education, studying 4alevels but i also do volunteering work for leyton orient, which i got through the ncs programme.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 08-Mar-12 13:16:32

I would like to ask the Minister, what advantage NCS has over a long tried and tested programmes like The Duke of Edinburgh's Awards or other youth programmes run by the Scouts, Guides etc? Could the Government not be accused of re-inventing the wheel (at great expense), when a programme like the DofE already delivers to 300,000 plus young people a year in the UK at virtually no expense to the tax payer?

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:20:33


Hello Nick,

Over here in Boffinland, some of us are at present trying to write an academic paper on certain aspects of the Big Society, but I must confess there has been a collective realisation amongst myself and colleagues that we are not actually sure what it is, as messages seem a bit confused at the moment. We think we know what you mean by this term, from manifestos and policy documents and media reports and so on, but we are not entirely sure. Could you point us towards an exact definition, please? If there is one? Or would you say defining it is a work in progress?

Many thanks,
BoffinMum and team

Hi Boffin Mum and all residents of Boffinland

I am very relaxed about definitions of Big Society. For me it is about encouraging more people to work together for the common good. We face so many challenges as a country : it makes no sense to delegate all responsibility to Government. Government has an incredibly important role to play but I think we all have responsibilities beyond paying our taxes and I think there are so many people out there with talent, experiences and ideas that we do not make enough use of. So we should be encouraging and supporting more people to get involved in their communities. Thats what we are trying to do.

BeanAboutTown Thu 08-Mar-12 13:20:43

Mr Hurd: hope you don't mind me asking this (and it's not really on-topic), but how did you feel, as you were growing up, about your dad's depiction in the press and on telly? I'm thinking in particular about the 'ice-cream hair' on Spitting Image. Did it secretly upset you or were you pretty robust about the whole thing?

Bellstar Thu 08-Mar-12 13:22:01

I would like to ask the minister-why are you wasting money on schemes like this when so many children are leaving school unable to read or write properly?

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:23:44


"at the end they are challenged to lead their own community action project."

How does this happen, in practice?

Let me give you an example. Last year a group learnt about homelessness in Harrow ( which many of them were unaware of) .They were introduced to a local charity that was trying to do something about it. They slept rough to get a taste and they were so inspired by the whole experience that they decided their community project was to raise money for that charity and raise awareness of homelessness among their peer group.

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