National Citizen Service

NCS is a government-backed programme which brings together young people from diverse backgrounds, providing them with strong skills for life, work, and adulthood.

All 16 and 17 year-olds across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible and The Challenge is the largest provider in the whole of the UK.

We deliver our NCS programme in London, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Birmingham and West Midlands, Manchester, and Lancashire. From 2015, we will also deliver in North and West Yorkshire.

NCS is an intensive, part-residential programme followed by a number of social action days, designed to empower participants to meaningfully impact their local community and gain new life skills.

The programme is divided into three stages:


NCS Personal Challenge – Get Active

Participants face their fears, develop confidence and bond with team mates on an action packed residential.

NCS Team Challenge – Get Involved

Teammates work together to learn a new skill in sport, media, photography, music, drama or enterprise in a university setting.

NCS Social Action – Make Your Mark

Using their newly-acquired skills, teams design a social action project in their local area and pitch their project to win funding to make it happen.

NCS has an enormous impact on its participants’ communities:

  • Young people taking part in NCS have designed and delivered over 3,500 social action projects with over 2,000 community partners.
  • In 2015, over 30,000 16 and 17 year olds will take part in NCS delivered by The Challenge.
  • In 2014, 52% of participants were from a black and minority ethnic background, 94% attended state schools, 13% were on free school meals and 7% had a disability.
  • In a recent survey of NCS participants, 67% of young people reported that they are more likely to participate in volunteering in the community as a result of the programme.
  • 81% of participants felt that they gained an understanding of what life is like for others.

Additionally, the skills and experiences gained by NCS graduates, is now recognised positively by employers and educational institutions alike:

  • 72% agreed with the statement ‘I am more able to trust people’.
  • 88% felt they were better at working in a team.
  • 71% felt they were better at leading people.
  • 76% felt more confident about getting a job in the future.

The Challenge is proud of the strong range of alumni activities which we offer to NCS graduates – these include opportunities to build on their involvement in their community through The Challenge Society, and to learn valuable life and employment skills through participating in our HeadStart and Step Forward programmes.


If you are interested in the National Citizen Service or require any further information, please visit our dedicated NCS with The Challenge website.


  • The Challenge is the largest provider of the National Citizen Service in the UK



  • 72% of our NCS participants agreed with the statement: ‘I am more able to trust people’



  • We employ over 400 permanent staff nationally and over 3,500 seasonal staff



  • 76% of our NCS participants felt more confident about getting a job in the future



  • In 2014, 93% of HeadStart graduates felt they had improved communication skills



  • In 2014, 66% of HeadStart graduates felt they would continue volunteering after HeadStart



  • Nearly a third of young people who have heard of Step Forward rated it as their first choice when leaving school



  • In 2014, 85% of HeadStart graduates felt they better trusted people from different walks of life



  • In 2014, The Challenge collaborated with 800 community and business partners



  • In 2014, 78% of HeadStart graduates felt more connected to their community



  • 88% of our NCS participants felt they were better at working in a team



  • 94% of young people attending NCS, delivered by The Challenge in 2014, attended state schools, with 13% on free school meals



  • Step Forward received over 400 applications in its first year for just 48 places



  • 7% of those attending NCS, delivered by The Challenge in 2014, had a disability



  • In 2014, 52% of participants in NCS, delivered by The Challenge, were from a black and minority ethnic background



  • Over 30,000 16 and 17 year olds will take part in NCS delivered by The Challenge in 2015