Brazier welcomes NCS Bill but expresses fears about the future of Adventure Training

In a speech during the Second Reading of the National Citizen Service Bill on Monday 16th January 2017, Sir Julian Brazier welcomed the incorporation of the new NCS Trust as a Royal Charter body:

Sir Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): “I welcome this Bill, as I am a strong supporter of the NCS. I had the opportunity to meet some of the 130 constituents who did their National Citizen Service last year, and I was very impressed. Clearly, they had enjoyed the earlier adventure training phase and were producing some really interesting ideas for working with local charities.”

Sir Julian proceeded to highlight the importance of Adventure Training, a key component of the National Citizen Service programme, and drew attention to concerns over the future of Adventure Training opportunities for children in the UK.

Sir Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): “Adventure training, which every NCS student does for at least one week, and sometimes two, usually at the beginning of the programme, develops team work and confidence. It involves pushing the boundaries and learning how to manage risk in a positive and constructive manner. It is very, very important and also increasingly rare. As far back as 12 years ago, the then Education Committee pointed out that this country, which produced the team that cracked Everest, had actually slipped down the league and was, arguably, below average around the world in our capacity for adventure training.

Five years ago, the English Outdoor Council produced a list of residential centres that deliver good quality adventure training. Of those 180 centres, 30 have since closed. Equally disturbing, a number of others have been taken over by providers, which are giving a good commercial offer in the sense that their insurance premiums are low because their risks are extremely low, but which, according to one expert in the field, typically deliver every meal indoors for the children. In other words, these so-called adventure opportunities involve nothing that lasts for more than two or three hours at a time.”

Later in his speech, Sir Julian stressed the importance of ensuring that the upcoming Health and Safety Executive (HSE) public consultation on the future of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) addresses the concerns around the closure of residential centres and the reported decline in the quality of experiences provided.

Sir Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): “It is crucial that at a time when we are about to start a public consultation on the future of the AALA, which will be conducted by a panel appointed by the HSE, the licensing authority not only survives but has its brief expanded so that it can ask why such centres have been closing over the past few years and, crucially, ask not just whether the practice is safe in the centres but what the quality is of the adventure that is being delivered”

In his reply, the Minister pledged to look at the issues raised by Sir Julian:

Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): “My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury made some excellent points about adventure training and the challenges that that represents for residential centres. That matter is not within the scope of this Bill, but I am happy to look at the issues he raises.”