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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.



fiftieshousewife Thu 08-Mar-12 13:24:36

Thanks Kiran. Do you think it's going to make a big difference to your future career/choices? (Although with four A-Levels, it doesn't sound as though you're going to be having too muych dificulty grin)

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:24:39


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.)

Hi, i'm 16 myself and I did this programme at 16 and i've definetly benefited from this experience. I understand what you mean about doing something else, but personally i really think this is a good way to spend your holidays after just finishing gcse exmas, which are stressful, as you need time to relax and spend some time with friends and let loose really. For the record I'm doing maths and three alevels at the moment in college and I think we have great teaching.

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:26:01


Can I ask another question? What was it like growing up with a politician as a parent? Do you have kids and worry about what it's like for them - or was it a good experience?

Hi Crumblemum
It made me promise myself not to become an MP. My wife is the daughter of an MP. She promised herself that she would never marry an MP. Go figure!

LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 13:26:27

BeanAboutTown, I think that's good question. One of the careers I would specifically advise my daughter (16) not to pursue is politics, because of the loss of privacy, the party expectations, the detriment to family life and constant denigrations (e.g. unevidenced accusations of being on the gravy train / in thrall to Big Money). It must be particularly horrible being a decent Minister in today's politics.

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:26:56


Thanks Kiran. Do you think it's going to make a big difference to your future career/choices? (Although with four A-Levels, it doesn't sound as though you're going to be having too muych dificulty grin)

Well NCS has definetly made a difference to my future career choices already! Its giving me a chance to see if I like doing the coaching side of sports and right now to be honest I don't actually know what I want to do future wise, but all in good time.

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:27:35


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?

Hi BeanAboutTown

I am very proud of my Dad and I tried to buy his Spitting image on Ebay. Its his birthday today !

NarkedPuffin Thu 08-Mar-12 13:29:44

That sounds like a good programme.

Sir Stuart Etherington's (chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations) recently commented that Public spending cuts are "knocking out the voluntary sector capacity" needed to support the government’s big society agenda.

On International Women's Day perhaps you could address the impact of cuts on charitable organisations like The Stratford Advice Arcade which aims to help those suffering from domestic violence. Shelters for women and children fleeing domestic violence are having to turn people away every day thanks to funding cuts.

You're quoted as saying We know that government can't solve all the problems so why not give us all more power and responsibility to improve our own lives, the communities we share and the public services we use?

Willpower alone can't provide beds, counselling and legal advice. How can 'Big Society' help the victims of domestic violence when the Government is cutting funding and forcing Local Authorities to do the same?

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:31:00


What do you think about the work experience programme? And the Labour Force Survey's figures that 44% of young black people (18-24) are unemployed as opposed to 20% of white youngsters? What are you doing about this and how will the NCS help?

Hi TheBlackShiksa

What I care about is young people getting jobs. I am told that 50% of those going through the Work Experience programme end up with jobs and that sounds good to me. The figures you quote are worrying. In my experience NCS can help a young person become more " workready" because it helps build the so called " social skills" that employers keep telling us are missing from too many young people.

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 13:31:16

Great delegation of responsibility above to Boffinmum!

Unfortunately, the government has the overall responsibility and are 'in the know' long before the tax payer. The average tax payer faces many challenges caused by decisions made by the government. There is much talk of 'different' backgrounds, but surely that is because there are so many rich public school Tories who haven't got a clue what life is like for a large percentage of the population.

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:31:36


I'd like to ask Kiran a question. Was it difficult deciding to join the scheme or were you always keen? On projects I've been involved with (which weren't of the same scale) it was really difficult persuading people to get involved.

It wasn't really difficult for me to decide as I didn't have much else to do in that time period, and also i was the only person who joined from my school. So when i went i didnt actually know anybody. I agree with you it is difficult to persuade people and this was also the case in my school but I think if you have people who have already experienced it (like myself) it brings in more people as now my friends do wish thay did it instead of stay at home !

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:33:00


Sounds like a rip-off of the Princes' Trust.

Hi bananaistheanswer

I am a big fan of Princes Trust and would not waste taxpayers money replicating what they do . NCS is different and very complementary

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 13:34:59

Surestart Centres - so few now, how does that help the 'Big Society'? These helped people in deprived areas and beyond!

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:36:49


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

Hi AlOuise

The programme is mostly funded by the taxpayer at the moment. We think that is justified because it is an investment in young people and the early results of this programme are very positive. 9 out of 10 young people would recommend it to their friends. 9 out of 10 parents would recommend it to other parents. Schools like it because it seems to increase the engagement of young people when back in school. But you make a good point about tough times and other spending priorities. That is why we are piloting it to make sure that it works for the taxpayer as well as the young people.

Voidka Thu 08-Mar-12 13:38:58

Are you aiming to help more than 1700 people, the number of disabled people who will be left without jobs when the Remploy factories close?

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:39:07


Do you think 2 weeks is really enough time for kids to learn life skills? How are we paying for this? And what about disadvantaged or troubled youngsters? Don't you think by 16 they're often 'too far gone' to be reached or respond to authority?

Hi, its kiran and I'd like to answer your question

2weeks does sound like a short time but thats not all of the programme, thats only half, you still have the community side of it which also counts as time to learn skill. All throughout the scheme i was learning things. I learnt things from the army when they came in on our residential and also when we was doing our community side, interacting with younger kids then ourselves and confidence. But you also got that when you went away, those two weeks build up team work skills and social.

Also i dont think anyone can be 'too far gone', everyone is at a different stage in life and you cant assume that because of their age that they are further 'gone' then others. Everyone deserves another chance to be helped.

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:39:11


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?

Hi Gleek

I am a strong believer in good mentorship schemes particularly at key transition points in a young persons life. I think they complement NCS which in my experience can change a young persons view of him/herself and what they can achieve.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 08-Mar-12 13:42:21

As it's International Women's Day today (and this is a web-chat on Mumsnet) can you tell us how the scheme specifically helps young women ?

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 13:43:00

How many children could actually be part of this scheme, should interest be great? and how are they chosen if numbers exceed expectation?

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:43:26


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?

Hi Bellstar

Understand the point but there is a huge amount of effort and investment going into reforming education and improving standards. This is a tiny investment compared to that and so far has definitely not been a waste of money. I have emails from people who have been working in the youth sector for many years and say it is the best programme they have ever come across. And I don't think that any programme that helps brings kids together ; gives them the skills they need ; and connects them with their community can be dismissed in that way !

thebestisyettocome Thu 08-Mar-12 13:45:07

Hi Nick and Kiran.

I wonder what you both think of the idea of National Service for young people? What if there was a compulsary programme for young people to do things they were interested in whether it's military training or community work. Is this something that's been mooted at Government level Nick?

Good luck with your A levels Kiran smile

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 13:45:11


How many children could actually be part of this scheme, should interest be great? and how are they chosen if numbers exceed expectation?

Hi Jenski

30,000 places piloted this year. 90,000 places in 2014. PM has said that ultimately we want to make it available to all 16 year olds if it proves its value.

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 13:46:38


As it's International Women's Day today (and this is a web-chat on Mumsnet) can you tell us how the scheme specifically helps young women ?

Hi, its kiran
And I guess i'm classed as a young women, I don't think it targets specifically young women but everyone. Everyone when i was there was given an equal chance and if you didnt want to do something you were nver pressured so that you felt uncomfortable. It opens your eyes to whats around you and what you can do to help your community. Also when you're away, there's female group leaders so that you can always go to them if you dont feel comfortable going to a male.

Merrylegs Thu 08-Mar-12 13:47:05

Yikes, hope I am not too late to this and have only skimmed thread but ..

My son did this NCS last summer after his GCSEs. Or rather - he tried to. Here in Norfolk it was called One Big Summer and it sounded really good. A bit of fun, some community work, a graduation - something structured yet useful in the downtime after GCSEs and before the holdays 'proper' started.

In reality it was a massive letdown.

Because it wasn't delivered properly.

Here the Youth Service has been cut, there are no Youth Workers, so the very people who had the infrastucture, the peer group contacts, the understanding of young people weren't around to deliver it.

It was handed over to a football club who are great at summer schools and fun but were beyond useless at recruiting and engaging with the very group they were trying to reach. My 16 year old was really up for the volunteering side of things and not so interested in the PGL adventure camp (kind of too old now) but all the time the emphasis was on the fun and they really played down the community side as a 'boring' add on. It was woeful actually. It seemed as if they just didn't believe in the whole thing and as a concsequence found it really hard to recruit any young people.

My point is, you can't have the 'big ideas' and the 'big society' without an understanding of who is actually going to facilitate and deliver these ideas.

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 13:47:23

Where will jobs be advertised for specialists wishing to work on the program?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 08-Mar-12 13:48:59

Thanks Kiran,
I'm glad you had such a good experience on the programme and felt well supported, including by female group leaders smile All the best for your future !

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