I would like to thank all the young people who got involved in this year’s National Citizen Service summer scheme.

It is a fantastic summer volunteering programme for young people aged between 15 and 17. It was founded in 2011 under Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition Government and has gone from strength to strength since then.

The scheme helps young people acquire the skills needed to succeed in work and life during a four-phase programme spread over 3-4 weeks. It begins by taking the volunteers out of their comfort zone by living away from home and taking part in adventurous activities like abseiling, rafting, hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. This then culminates with the volunteers using the skills picked up during the initial phases of the programme and applying them to a team project that benefits their local community. In Swindon alone this year, they raised over £8,000 for various local charities and organisations as well as personally volunteering in care homes, really making a positive difference to our community.

Participants learn a variety of skills like leadership, teamwork and communication, whilst building their self-confidence, self-awareness and sense of responsibility. The programme also provides an opportunity to make new like-minded friends from a range of different backgrounds.

Nearly half a million young people have taken part in the programme since its inception, including thousands of participants in Swindon. Feedback from participants has been very positive, with 70 per cent of volunteers stating that they feel more confident about getting a job after taking part, along with 80 per cent feeling more positively about people from different backgrounds.

I have been a huge supporter of the programme since its introduction. I have previously presented awards to NCS participants, visited a number of NCS groups locally, and have spoken on the importance of the scheme in Parliament.

I am very proud of our local young people who took part in the NCS this summer and it was a real pleasure to meet many of them at this year’s graduation ceremony. It’s a great way for young people to grow as individuals, acquire new skills and build their CVs, all whilst giving back to their community.

You really do see a transformation in these young adults and full credit to them for having stepped up and engaged. I will continue to support this important programme and highly recommend it to those who are yet to take part.

Elsewhere in the town, I want to wish all those running in the Swindon Half Marathon on Sunday the very best of luck. I was pleased to read in the news week that a new race organising company has been found for the event, which should see the race secured into future years.

Since 2016, significant funds have been raised for important charitable causes locally, and this year looks set to see this grow even more. My good friend Robert Buckland MP and the Mayor and Mayoress Kevin and Barbara Parry will be running on the day so be sure to wave at them as they go past!