Routes to Success - Special Focus
National Youth Agency, as part of its programme of work funded by the Local Government Association, launched its Routes to Success programme – a comprehensive package of opportunities designed to support local authorities in shaping and developing their offer to young people. This Special Focus Feature highlights the impact of the Tailored Support received by five of our councils in 2011.
The programme, which runs for three years, is set at three levels:
1) Foundation: Available to all local authorities free of charge, this strand of activity includes access to the new Supporting Services for Young People Knowledge Hub, which provides a single forum for the youth sector to share best practice and gain insight on key issues and opportunities. Authorities also have the chance to attend two major conferences, including one in the Midlands in autumn 2012. Councils also receive a copy of The Edge – the magazine for councillors and the wider youth sector.
2) Tailored Support: Providing free consultancy to local authorities through NYA’s trusted associate network on a variety of issues including restructuring and reconfiguring services; commissioning, workforce development and working with partner organisations. Plus research and information capture projects designed to share emerging findings with the field in monthly and quarterly reports.
3) Emerging Themes: Allowing NYA to respond to key issues as they develop over the year, this strand will include building on last year’s work to support councils in bringing new resource into the sector by establishing and maintaining relationships with businesses. Work will be undertaken to help councils to respond to the new Government priorities, such as supporting the vulnerable families agenda.
During 2011, the NYA supported 21 councils to develop their services for young people through the Tailored Support strand of the Routes to Success programme. In 2012, even more councils – up to 40 – will benefit from the offer of free consultancy.
In 2011, the Policy, Performance & Resources Division within Bolton Children’s Services brought together sport, health and inclusion, youth and play into a single service covering the 5-19 age range. The authority requested tailored support from the NYA to help develop the newly integrated service, through working with managers to identify needs and options. The service also took part in the Peer-to-Peer strand of Routes to Success, working with Cumbria County Council on issues relating to commissioning and the participation of vulnerable young people.
The NYA associate worked with the head of positive activities, colleagues with strategic responsibility for the voluntary and community sector and the operations manager responsible for youth and play, sport and targeted youth support, to facilitate a focus a focus group for managers from partner services. These included Connexions, teenage pregnancy and sexual health, the youth offending team and the young people’s drugs and alcohol team, and reported back to the management team and assistant director. The report highlighted strengths of the service and identified key areas for development, including:
• Creating a unifying vision and strategy for the 5 – 19 service;
• Developing a transparent resource allocation strategy and planning processes;
• Increasing joint work with other services;
• Supporting voluntary and community groups in offering provision;
• Improving young people’s participation in developing services.
Benefits of Tailored Support
Bolton Council’s Head of service Chris McIver comments on the value of the process:
“It gave us thinking time, an opportunity for professional dialogue and to work things through properly, which was hugely important.
“As a new service, we hadn’t really come together as managers – this meant that the operational managers were genuinely engaged in a process where they could look at the future together and have some control. “Having an understanding and knowledgeable outsider involved was critical – someone who knows the issues and pressures we face, but who can step back and challenge us, make us justify our approach.
“I’m sure we’re not the only service where changes have meant that people become more inwardly focused, but this process has encouraged us to stick our heads up again and look at how we can improve our services, even when times are difficult. It feels really important that we’ve had external validation for our direction of travel.”
Dorset County Council
Dorset has reconfigured its children’s services to establish six locality teams, each with a team leader from a range of professional backgrounds, reporting to three locality managers. The council is prioritising a drive towards increased early intervention and prevention, with a view to reducing the need for more specialist services.
The integrated teams cover 0-19 services at tiers 1 and 2 in a four-tier model, and include youth workers alongside children’s centre workers and locality social workers. The new service became fully operational in September 2011. The authority asked for support related to measuring outcomes for youth work provision and assessing value for money.
The planned support included facilitating stakeholder events to explore approaches and priorities for developing an outcomes framework; desk research to identify benchmark data to support value for money analysis; and supporting young inspectors.
Stakeholder events successfully brought together service managers and staff, commissioners, and voluntary and community sector organisations (with which the authority has well established support and communication mechanisms).
A draft outcomes framework has been produced, which draws on national drivers including Positive for Youth and the Young Foundation’s work on outcomes, as well as locally determined priorities, and this is being tested out with young people to see what outcomes make sense to them.
The NYA has also worked with Action for Children to train young people in inspection skills, and they are due to start inspecting both open access and targeted provision in the near future.
Benefits of Tailored Support
Anne Salter, Head of Strategic Planning, Commissioning and Performance, comments: “We’re moving towards an enabling and facilitating model. It’s easy for providers to think that we’re ‘doing’ to them, but what we want is to work in partnership to confirm our agreed priorities, ensure that young people are involved, and identify goals which will support appropriate commissioning. The credibility of NYA has supported this shift.
“We’re reporting on progress to the management team, but we now need to build on the current work to scope out strong recommendations – realistically, this is unlikely to be before September. The process has taken longer than anticipated, mainly because of having to juggle so many activities and responsibilities, but the most important thing is to make sure that we do a thorough job.”
Nottinghamshire County Council
Nottinghamshire has a high level of political support for Young People’s Services. In 2009, following a change of administration, the council abandoned moves towards integrated youth support, and instead created two distinct, but complementary services: Young People’s Services, responsible for open access provision, and Targeted Support and Youth Justice Services. The elected members believed that this structure would secure the future of open access provision, which they saw as critical for effective early intervention which would lessen the need for acute provision. Young People’s Services (YPS) was streamlined in 2010-11, with the loss of most management posts, but its funding is reasonably stable for the next two years.
While YPS has consistently performed well, the authority sought the National Youth Agency’s support to further improve its quality and cost effectiveness, through exploring alternative methods of delivery and market testing.
Three events were planned and held over the six months: an event for key stakeholders from the voluntary and community sector (VCS) and private sector to test their potential role as providers of open access services; an event for some young people involved in the county’s participation structures (which include a young peoples’ board, district assemblies and specialist fora) to gain their views on YPS; and an options appraisal workshop.
The stakeholder event found that, contrary to expectations, the VCS and private organisations were not interested in offering mainstream provision, although they were keen to provide targeted services.
The young people consulted were generally positive about the service, highlighting the value of relationships with youth workers, but identified the need to improve the website and publicise the youth offer more effectively, particularly provision for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people.
The service is now taking this forward with young people. The options appraisal workshop involved a small number of participants including the lead elected member, VCS representative, and two YPS managers. After looking at current provision and delivery options, they decided that the current model, through which open access services are delivered in-house, continues to be appropriate unless circumstances change. The NYA associate’s final report has now been approved by the young people’s board, and will go to Cabinet members in April 2012.
Benefits of Tailored Support
Service manager Chris Warren comments:
“Involvement in Routes to Success has given us reflection time and helped us clarify the role of the service and give us stability of direction for the next two years. It has also equipped us to meet any potential challenges under the Localism Act provisions – we can demonstrate that we have done the work to explore options and analyse who is best placed to deliver services. “It’s also helped show how well our service meets the approaches described in the government’s Positive for Youth policy.”