The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) was a membership network of over 290 diverse voluntary and community youth organisations, including regional and local networks, that work for the personal and social development of young people across England. The Council would share good practice and supported the work of its member organisations, helping them to build their capacity to deliver quality youth work. It is also the only national, independent representative body for the voluntary and community youth sector. It works to raise the profile of youth work and influence public policy that has an impact on young people and youth organisations.
The Council's predecessor, the Standing Conference of Juvenile Organisations (SCJO), was established on 24 March 1936, at a meeting of representatives of eleven of the largest voluntary youth organisations (then known as 'juvenile organisations'), in order to promote mutual co-operation and coordination between their organisations. They met under the auspices of the National Council of Social Services (NCSS), now the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). The first meeting of the SCJO took place on 26 May 1936. The founder organisations were: the National Association of Boys' Clubs, the Boys' Brigade, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Girls Guildery, the Church Lads Brigade, the Girls Friendly Society, the Boy Scouts Association, the Girl Guides Association, the National Council of Girls Clubs, and the Girl Life Brigade. It was decided that each of these organisation should have two representatives on the conference, and Captain Stanley Smith of the Boys' Brigade was elected as the first Chairman.
The Standing Conference was renamed a number of times. The SCJO became the Standing Conference of National Juvenile Organisations (SCNJO) in October 1939, and then the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations (SCNVYO) in September 1943. It finally adopted its present name, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), on 15 September 1972. The majority of its funding to cover administrative expenses came from membership subscriptions. From 1939, membership was open to national juvenile organisations formed for the primary purpose of assisting the mental, moral and physical training of youth for citizenship, which were non-political and had a membership of at least 10,000. In 1972, a revised constitution was adopted, which included a new statement of aims: 'to endeavour to meet the needs and aspirations of young people by strengthening and supporting the work of its members'. It aimed to do so by 'encouraging the effective identification of young people's needs', 'supporting joint action and sharing resources at all levels', 'expressing views to statutory and other bodies on matters concerning young people' and 'encouraging provision for young people and opportunities to influence the service offered to them'. Member organisations were no longer required to have a membership of over 10,000. There were now two categories of membership - full and observer members. Moreover, full membership was now open both to national voluntary youth organisations, as well as local councils for voluntary youth services.
The secretary of the conference was initially seconded from the NCSS, however, in 1938 the conference defined itself as 'an independent body, answerable only to its constituent organisations, but working in association with NCSS'. By 1941 it felt the need to hire its own full-time secretary. A gradual separation from the NCSS took place, and NCVYS finally became fully independent on 1 April 1980. However, it still remains a member of NCVO.
From early on, several sub-groups and committees were established, which reported to the regular meetings of the Standing Conference, such as the 'Training Group', the 'Juvenile Delinquency Group' and the 'Publicity Group'. Furthermore, numerous regional, Local Standing Conferences also grew up, and national meetings of all the local conferences were held biennially. Youth Liaison Officers worked to support these Local Standing Conferences, as well as liaising with Local Education Authorities. The Standing Conference worked closely with the various predecessor bodies if the Department for Education (such as the Board of Education, the Ministry of Education and the Department for Education and Science), and with various other government bodies, such as the National Fitness Council and the National Youth Bureau. Other bodies it worked with over the years include the Save the Children Fund and UNESCO. It, moreover, fostered international relationships with youth services in other European countries, organising successful youth exchange programmes.
The organisation produced regular publications, such as the SCNVYO Bulletin, annual reports and youth service directories. Throughout the 1970s NCVYS was involved in the production of reports on issues such as the age of consent, young people and homosexuality, and the homeless and young, (although the one on homosexuality was never formally endorsed), and in 1986, the NCVYS Council approved a 'Policy to Promote Equality of Opportunity for girls and young women, people from Black and other ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and lesbian and gay people', entitled 'White Man's Foot in Blossom'. Over the years NCVYS has run many conferences, campaigns and initiative. Some key concerns of the organisation have included issues such as: the raising of the school leaving age; supplementary education and leisure provisions for young people; social education; tackling youth unemployment; housing conditions for young people; the recruitment and training of youth leaders; encouraging the participation of young people in decision making; fighting discrimination; and exerting influence on the passing of legislation affecting young people and youth organisations.