With over 500,000 NCSers that have gone before you, chances are you’re not the first to ask it. We’ve pulled together all our FAQs to try and make your life a little easier.
If we don’t have the answer for you here, get in touch.
I’VE NEVER HEARD OF NCS BEFORE - WHO ARE THEY?
NCS has been delivering programmes to Young People in England since its pilot programme back in 2009. With the support of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) it has since taken over half a million young people on the programme. In December 2019, NCS transitioned from a not-for-profit Community Interest Company to a Royal Charter body, achieving security as a national institution.
WHO RUNS THE PROGRAMME?
Because we run our programme all over the UK, we partner with some amazing regional experts whose mission it is to deliver the best NCS experience in your area. Your local NCS Team will be the ones meticulously planning every little detail to make your experience one to remember. Check out wearencs.com/network-providers to see who operates in your area.
THE SUMMER PROGRAMME
HOW LONG IS IT?
It depends on what programme you go on. We have two models, which last either two weeks or three weeks in summer.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE IN PROGRAMMES?
We will be offering two programmes in summer 2021, one is three weeks long, and the other is two weeks long.
But don’t worry, you’ll have the same amazing time whichever programme you go on! They’ll both include meeting new friends, navigating fun and exciting new challenges together, and learning life skills that’ll help you smash your future goals. You’ll also find out more about your local community and work together as a team to turn your passion into action, delivering a social action project that tackles an issue that’s important to you.
For the three week programme, you’ll do all of this, plus have a residential week, where you’ll stay in selected accommodation overnight for four nights. For the two week programme, you’ll do all of this in your local area, with no residential aspect. For each programme, the week lasts five days, with a two day break in between.
WHERE DO PROGRAMMES TAKE PLACE?
You’ll find us dotted all over the country, in various locations. You’ll take part in loads of fun activities in and around your local area. However, if you’re taking part in a three week programme, you’ll also get a taste of independent life and spend four nights away from home in our selected accommodation. It’ll still be pretty close to home, but leave the logistics up to us - we’ll get you there and back!
WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU MEAN BY ‘SELECTED ACCOMMODATION’?
You could be living it up, sleeping under the stars in a festival-style wigwam, or hopping in a hostel bed for the week...or maybe some new places even we haven’t discovered yet! It all depends on where your experience takes place and what’s available in your local area. Your local NCS team will be able to tell you the exact details once you’re all signed up and sorted.
WHAT ACTIVITIES WILL I BE DOING?
For the first part of every programme, you’ll tickle your adventurous side. You might find yourself swinging from the high ropes, climbing impressive walls or building winning rafts. You will then move on to activities that are all about getting life skills to set you up for the future (think money management, cooking, developing your public speaking) You’ll be feeling pretty fearless by this stage so when it comes to the final week, it won’t faze you that you’ll be in charge; helping to plan and bring to life a rewarding community project. And don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of down time to refresh and recharge too!
WILL I EVER BE FORCED TO DO AN ACTIVITY?
Nope, that’s not our style. You can absolutely sit out if you really don’t want to do something, without feeling any pressure. No one will ever force you to do anything, and that includes your mates! What we may do though is encourage you to challenge yourself where you can – you might just surprise yourself. But in the end it’ll always be your decision.
WHO WILL I BE WITH?
You’ll be in a team of around 15 other young people from your local area. You might recognise the odd face from your school or college, or you might be meeting everyone for the first time. That’s the beauty of it – lots of new mates await at NCS! You’ll likely join up with others too, for the first part of the programme. So if your friends have signed up for the same dates but aren't in your team of 15, chances are you’ll be at the same location.
WILL I MAKE FRIENDS?
Yes! Why are we so confident? Well, we have thousands of stories of young people going it alone on NCS, and leaving with newfound mates they were so grateful to meet. So don’t be worried about not knowing anyone – most will be in the same boat.
CAN I COME WITH MY MATES?
If you’ve got a mate going on NCS, we’ll try our very best to get you booked onto the same programme. Just drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, live chat us via our website, or give us a call on 0800 197 8010. Our early summer programmes get booked up quickly, so picking a later date or being flexible will give you the best chance of going with a friend. Just remember, whether you come with your bestie or on your own, you’ll make loads of mates (we have hundreds of thousands of happy grads to prove it).
WHAT DO I EAT?
Important question. The food varies at each location and for each week – there could be self-service canteens, or you might be getting your chef’s hat on and doing some food prep yourselves. Have any requirements? Is your diet vegan, halal, gluten free? You name it, we cater for it. Just let us know beforehand and we’ll be sure to keep your belly full. And hey, if you’re worried about what’ll be on the menu, why not make a little space in your suitcase for some snacks!
WHAT WILL BE IN PLACE TO ENABLE ME TO PRACTISE MY FAITH DURING NCS?
We’ll always provide a designated multi-faith space for those that wish to pray, quietly reflect or meditate. And if you have any dietary requirements, like kosher or halal – or anything else for that matter – let us when you fill in the Young Person Joiner Form. Our venues will be able to cater for this.
DO I NEED EXTRA £££ ON PROGRAMME?
In short, no. Your contribution covers all of your food, accommodation and activities while away from home and lunch on non-residential programmes. Some people bring some extra cash along for things like snacks, but you don’t need to. When you’re back home you might need some change for the bus or some lunch money. But it’s your neighbourhood so you’ll know better than us.
CAN I BRING MY PHONE?
Big question, but yes don’t panic, you can keep up with the outside world while on NCS. In fact we want you to share and shout about your experience! There will be times that we’ll ask you to leave your phone behind – like if you’re about to take the plunge into an outdoor activity – but apart from that, tap away.
AM I ALLOWED STUFF LIKE STRAIGHTENERS AND MAKEUP?
Sure. It’s important you feel comfortable from start to finish, so bring along whatever you need to feel at ease (within reason that is – we may not have room for your TV or drum kit). Even if you’re sleeping under the stars there’ll still be showers and places to get ready for your day ahead, so rest assured you’ll feel right at home.
WHAT ABOUT MY XBOX OR PLAYSTATION (OR BOTH)?
Unfortunately not, but it’s safe to say you won’t miss it. From learning new skills to just relaxing around with your new mates, there’s going to be so much for you to experience that we’re willing to bet you won’t think about those home comforts once.
WILL THERE BE WIFI?
Good question, nobody wants to be away from Instagram for too long. It will depend on what you’re doing each day, but most venues should have all the WiFi you need – along with plenty of sockets to keep your phone juiced up. It also depends on the activities you are doing – not much wifi to be had if you’re on top of a mountain – but your local NCS team will be able to share more information on this.
IS THERE A CURFEW?
Well, yes, there is a ‘lights out’ time. But only to make sure you feel totally refreshed and energised for each day and to help you make the most of your experience. Plus, not everyone is a night owl, so we aim to find the right balance to suit everybody.
DOES NCS COUNT TOWARDS UCAS POINTS?
It doesn't, but do remember that UCAS looks for more than just points. Experiences like NCS show you have a wider range of skills and experience. And while we’re at it, employers are also looking for more than just grades – it’s you as a whole they’re interested in!
Signing up or changing your plans
HOW OLD DO I NEED TO BE TO GO ON SUMMER PROGRAMME?
NCS is designed for 16 and 17 year olds. Saying that, you can go this summer as a 15-year-old, as long as you turn 16 on or by 31 August 2021. If you have already turned 18 by this date, you unfortunately won’t be eligible. Sorry, folks.
HOW MUCH DOES SUMMER PROGRAMME COST?
Whether you are taking part in a two week or three week experience, the most we’ll ask you to contribute is £50 (a pretty sweet deal considering a place at NCS can cost up to £1,500, which is funded by the government). We also have a bursary scheme available that’s 100% confidential, so if £50 is too much of a stretch, please get in touch by calling us on 0800 197 8010.
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR A NCS BURSARY?
We want everyone to be able to take part in NCS, so if the £50 contribution is a bit of a stretch, we have a bursary policy in place to help. Bursaries of up to 80% of the contribution are available. You’re eligible for a bursary if:
- You are in or have recently left care
- Are in receipt of Free School Meals
- You have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
- You are a young carer
Give us a call and we’ll see how we can best support you. To find out more or to apply for our bursary, contact us on 0800 197 8010 or via live chat.
WHEN WILL I KNOW IF I’VE GOT A PLACE?
Once you’ve completed your Joiner Form and paid your contribution, we’ll check everything over and let you know if we need anything else (such as further medical or support information). Then once that’s all tied up, keep an eye out for an email confirming your place on NCS. Happy days! Once you are allocated to your programme, more details will be available in MyNCS.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE I’VE SIGNED UP?
Once you’ve completed your Joiner Form, all your medical details and paid your contribution, your local NCS team will be in touch leading up to your experience, and you’ll get invited to check out MyNCS, where you’ll find more programme information. You may even have the chance to attend events beforehand, where you can meet others going on NCS – so you won't have to wait until summer for the fun to begin!
I NEED TO MISS A DAY ON PROGRAMME, IS THIS POSSIBLE?
You’ll be required to attend the entire programme (and trust us, you won’t want to miss a moment), but we get that this isn’t always possible. So if you have any exceptional circumstances – bereavement, illness, serious injury, medical, significant family occasion, your school prom etc – you’ll need to discuss these with your local NCS team as soon as possible to see what steps can be taken.
WHAT IF I NEED TO CHANGE MY DATES OR CAN NO LONGER ATTEND?
If you can no longer make it or if you’d like to change your date, let us know ASAP and we’ll try to get you booked onto a programme that better fits your plans. If you change your mind and no longer wish to take part in NCS, you have 14 days from making your payment to let us know and we will give you a refund.
I HAVE A DISABILITY – CAN I STILL TAKE PART?
Yes, it’s our job to make NCS accessible for everyone, so we’ll do everything we can to ensure you have a positive NCS experience. When you sign up, tell us more about yourself in the Joiner Form so we can support you in the best way possible. In some cases, you might get a call from us to discuss your individual requirements and to find the best NCS programme for you. Have any questions? Call 0800 197 8010. Or head to the NCS website for our live chat.
WHAT ADJUSTMENTS CAN BE MADE FOR MY YOUNG PERSON WITH ADDITIONAL NEEDS?
At NCS, we’ll do everything we can to ensure our programmes are inclusive and accessible at every stage. So when your young person signs up, we’ll ask you to tell us more about their individual needs in the Joiner Form. In some cases, you might get a call from us to chat about how we can support them and find the NCS programme that’s best for them. Adjustments made will always respond to the individual. This might include (but isn’t limited to) physical spaces, level and type of staffing support, equipment and activities.
ARE UNACCOMPANIED ASYLUM-SEEKING CHILDREN ELIGIBLE?
Yes, everyone is welcome on NCS. Your key worker will just need to provide all the necessary documentation and act as your ‘guardian’ for any concerns. If you’d like to chat to us about questions, call 0800 197 8010.
ARE ALLERGIES/DIETARY NEEDS CATERED FOR?
They certainly are. To stop dietary requirements and allergies getting in the way of your experience, we ensure our venues can cater for everyone. Just let us know your needs when you sign up via the Joiner Form. Or if you’d like to chat to somebody, call 0800 197 8010. Or head to the NCS website for our live chat.
WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU HAVE IN PLACE FOR TRANSGENDER YOUNG PEOPLE?
NCS is open to all, and trans people are no exception. We’ll always do what we can to create an environment where all teens feel safe to be themselves. So if you have any questions or concerns – for example, you might like to discuss accommodation preferences, toilets, changing room facilities etc – let us know and we’ll work with you to make your experience as comfortable as possible.
IF I HAVE A YOUNG CARER WHO WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND HOW CAN WE GET THEM THE SUPPORT THEY NEED AT HOME?
While we can’t provide respite cover, we can work with your Local Authority to look into arranging appropriate cover. We want everyone to be able to experience NCS so get in touch and we’ll discuss how we can best support you.
WHO ARE THE STAFF ON THE PROGRAMME? WHAT EXPERIENCE DO THEY HAVE?
Rest assured, your teen is in excellent hands. Those who run the programme are made up of staff from local NCS teams (https://wearencs.com/network-providers) and seasonal staff. Our seasonal staff come from a variety of backgrounds – teachers, youth workers and even NCS graduates. They go through a robust recruitment process to ensure they’re suitable, have full training and are required to complete an enhanced DBS check, too.
WHAT IS YOUR SAFEGUARDING PROCESS?
The health, wellbeing and safety of all young people on NCS is of utmost importance to us. There’ll be a ‘go-to’ staff member for anyone feeling worried, anxious or wants to chat. We have a team available 24 hours a day to deal with all safeguarding issues – all our staff are DBS checked and clear guidance and training is provided in order for all young people to feel safe. If any issues or concerns are raised before the programme starts, a plan will be put in place to ensure they have a safe, positive NCS experience.
IS THERE A CONTACT NUMBER I CAN GIVE MY PARENTS?
There sure is. They can contact us on 0800 197 8010 between 9am-8pm Mon-Fri, 9am - 6pm on Saturdays and 10am-4pm Sundays. Once you’ve started NCS, your local team will give you an emergency number that parents/guardians can call if needed.
I’M A PARENT, HOW CAN I GET IN CONTACT WITH MY YOUNG PERSON WHILST THEY ARE ON PROGRAMME?
If you need to contact your teen (or just full-on miss them), call or text their number if they’re taking a phone with them – they’ll have some down time during the programme to chat. You’ll also be given an emergency contact number from the local NCS team should you need it. Rest assured, you’re in excellent hands. Those who run the programme are made up of staff from local NCS teams (wearencs.com/network-providers) and seasonal staff. Our seasonal staff come from a variety of backgrounds – teachers, youth workers and even NCS graduates. They go through a robust recruitment pro.
IF MY RESIDENTIAL IS CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19, WHAT HAPPENS?
If residential programmes are unable to go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions, you should still be able to take part in the two non-residential weeks. However if that’s not what you want to do, we will give you a full refund.
HOW ARE YOU KEEPING EVERYONE SAFE DURING NCS?
We’re following the government and the National Youth Agency’s guidance on managing youth sector activities and spaces during COVID-19.
That means you'll be in venues that have been selected and checked following rigorous guidelines and specifications to ensure the safest environment possible.
When you're in a group, it will have no more than 15 people in it - plus the staff looking after you (who have all been trained in delivering high quality, safe experiences...and are there to make sure you're having lots of fun too!). Or, if you're on a school or college programme, we'll stick to the current groupings where possible.
There will also be signs up in all buildings and supervision to make sure you're able to move around safely. And, any activity you take part in will have been designed with COVID-19 considerations in place. So that's requirements on social distancing, PPE and how many people can be involved.
WILL I BE TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS BEFORE I TAKE PART IN MY NCS EXPERIENCE?
We want everyone to be safe and healthy when they take part in NCS and will be following all relevant government guidelines surrounding COVID-19. We recommend that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you apply to be tested via NHS.UK prior to attending your NCS activities, or isolate for at least 10 days following the development of your symptoms. However, there is no legal requirement for you to take a COVID-19 test before taking part in NCS.
WHAT ABOUT PPE - DO I NEED TO BRING A FACE COVERING?
In England, face coverings are now required by law to be worn in shops, supermarkets, indoor transport hubs, indoor shopping centres, banks, building societies, post offices, on public transport and, importantly, community centres. The law now requires all those over 11-years of age to wear a face covering unless with good reason when attending youth sector activities. We strongly recommend that you wear a face covering in any enclosed public space where there are people you do not normally meet.
Please bring your face covering along with you unless you qualify as exempt from wearing one. Your local delivery provider will have theirs and will advise you on when you need to wear them during your NCS experience. A reminder that face coverings should be worn on public transport, if that is how you’ll be travelling to get to your NCS Activity.
The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.
We also recommend bringing a little bottle of hand sanitiser with you to keep your mitts clean!
WHAT IF I FALL ILL WHILST ATTENDING MY NCS ACTIVITIES?
In the event that you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during your NCS experience, you should inform the staff member present and return home to self-isolate for 10 days, as well as arranging to have a test to see if you have COVID-19. You can do this by visiting NHS.UK to arrange a test or contact NHS 119 via telephone. Wherever possible we will arrange for your parents / guardians to collect you should you become unwell during NCS activities.
If your COVID-19 test comes back negative, you will be able to return to your activities with NCS. If your test is negative but you remain unwell, you should not return to your NCS activities until you have fully recovered.
If you do test positive for COVID-19, NHS Test and Trace will speak directly to those that you have been in contact with to offer advice. This advice may be that the rest of their group should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.
WHAT IF MY LOCAL AREA OR REGION GOES BACK INTO LOCKDOWN?
With the support of government and sector bodies, youth work has thus far been enabled to continue in areas affected by lockdown, representing the shared view that youth sector activities are an essential service and a key part of the transition back to school.
In the event of a local lockdown we will therefore do everything we can to ensure you can still take part in your summer experience as planned. In exceptional circumstances, where a programme cannot take place, your local team will contact you to discuss alternative options.