National Citizen Service (NCS)

The National Citizen Service, a.k.a NCS is usually undertaken by 16-17 years olds during the summer after their GCSEs. If you do it, you’ll get to learn loads of new things and meet people your age from your local area. Sound interesting? Read on to find out more about becoming an NCS volunteer.

A group of young people are sitting in a circle. They are taking part in NCS. This is a full-body image.

What is the NCS?

NCS is a volunteering opportunity for 16 to 17 year-olds that allows you to get to know new people and develop loads of those all-important ‘employable’ skills, all while giving back to your community.

‘But what’s an NCS?’, we hear you ask. Well, it’s a national government-funded scheme. In fact, it became incorporated by royal charter with cross-party support in 2018, meaning it’s now a national institution. The scheme is aimed at helping young people develop employment-friendly skills, get involved in their community, and generally just become a well-rounded and err… nicer individual. 

How long is NCS?

‘How long is NCS’ is pretty straightforward to answer tbh. 

It’s three weeks, two of which you spend living away from home, followed by 30 hours of volunteering work.

What does the NCS involve?

Okay, this one’s gonna need a bit more of an explanation. So here’s a breakdown of what National Citizen Service involves:

First week – You get to venture out into the real world and spend the week away doing outdoor activities, such as rafting and rock-climbing with people your age from your local area. 

Second week – You go back to your local town, but not your family home. Instead, you’ll be put up in a hostel or uni halls of residence. Then, you’ll get placed into groups and spend time learning about your local community. Once you’ve done that you’ll have to plan a project that would help said community. 

Third week – You meet your group every day to work on your project and figure out how you’re going to deliver it.

After that you’ve got 30 hours (spread out over the week) to put your plan into action.

In case you’re wondering, your community project could be almost anything. This includes, but is not limited to, fundraising for a local charity, helping out at an old folks’ home, removing graffiti or clearing up a park. Basically, just whatever you think your local community needs.

What’s the NCS like?

Linda Sarfo-Gyamsi, 17, took part in NCS last summer. “I had so much fun. The summer after exams is so so long, that you end up feeling kind of lost. By doing NCS I made loads of friends and did lots of cool stuff rather than just hanging about,” she says.

Linda and her group decided to help the homeless. “We hosted a huge sleepout to raise money for and awareness of homelessness. It was freezing cold and I didn’t get any sleep, but that didn’t matter. We ended up having great fun and raised over £500.”

Who can take part in the NCS?

ANYONE in England between the ages of 16 and 17. If you have a disability, you can still take part if you’re 16 or 17, and in some cases up to the age of 25.

 Unfortunately, it’s only available to people living in England. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of volunteering opportunities in the rest of the UK. If you’re Welsh, Scottish or Irish and fancy volunteering, check out local opportunities on

Do I have to pay to become an NCS volunteer?

NCS providers ask for a small contribution towards the cost of taking part (never more than £50). However, this covers your travel, food, accommodation, EVERYTHING. There’s also financial support available if you can’t afford the fee – your local provider can tell you about the bursaries available.

How do I apply to get onto the NCS?

You can apply through the NCS website. It’s really simple. They’ll just ask you to fill in your details and then the website will let you know who your local provider is. Keep in mind that there are over 100 providers all over England, so chances are they’ll be one near you.

Does NCS count as work experience?

Technically speaking, no. But it’ll still boost your CV since you develop so many skills by doing it, which will make you more attractive to employers.

Why become an NCS volunteer?

Hopefully, now that you’ve read all the details you’re far beyond asking ‘What’s an NCS?’ and are now wondering about the benefits of taking part. 

Apart from saving you from the boredom of a very long, and no-doubt rainy British summer, you’ll get to meet a bunch of new people, which is a great confidence booster before starting the next chapter in your life. Plus, all that project planning gives you great skills to chuck on your CV. Not to mention that employers adore seeing ‘volunteering’ on an application form.

But, most importantly, you’re giving back. OK, yes it’s kind of corny, but you’ll genuinely feel amazing after helping out your local community. So much so that you may even consider volunteering in the future. 

“What I enjoyed most was getting to know my community better,” says Linda. “I actually know my neighbours now. Yes, I learnt loads of skills to put on my CV, but I also made loads of friends who I still meet up with now. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.”

Next Steps



By Holly Bourne

Updated on 03-Apr-2022