From education to employment

Local authorities review support for young people – Ofsted report

Local authorities have been challenged to review their provision of support for young people, as part of the Government’s agenda to reform public services.

A report, An evaluation of approaches to commissioning young people’s services, published by Ofsted, reveals that local authorities are not always considering the voluntary and community sector, charities, or other arms of the public sector, when commissioning services for young people. Many are in the process of determining the structures and approaches that will shape delivery for the future.

To evaluate the approaches adopted in commissioning services for young people, Ofsted inspectors visited 12 local authority areas and met with representatives from key national organisations involved in this work.

Miriam Rosen, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: “Youth services play a vital role in young people’s educational and social development. Different approaches to commissioning services bring different advantages, however the best approach should reflect local circumstances and priorities, and take account of existing relationships, available resources and geography.
“Local authorities should take a lead role in creating a shared approach to commissioning. In a time of rapid change and reducing budget, maintaining local networks of practitioners and other local organisations will be extremely valuable.”

The report identifies some of the difficulties faced by local authorities and youth organisations, and puts forward recommendations.

Key findings:

– The Inspectors judged that only five of the 12 local authority areas visited had sufficiently well-established commissioning arrangements for youth services with established systems in place and the remainder were in the process of determining their approach.

– Only two local authorities systematically managed commissioning as a strategic process that incorporated a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of current arrangements and took into account the full range of alternative providers.

– Insufficient consideration had been given to engaging alternative providers from the voluntary and community sector, charities, or other arms of the public sector such as social landlords.

– Only three local authorities had worked collaboratively with neighbouring authorities to carry out joint commissioning.

– Structural changes within local authorities in the light of the current financial climate had militated against long-term planning in the areas visited.

– Lack of clarity about the legal and financial implications in relation to liabilities, such as employee pensions, were inhibiting decision-making within the local authorities and providers visited.

– Practice in relation to young people’s participation in commissioning activity was often good. The young people involved learned much from this.

– Monitoring arrangements took insufficient account of young people’s learning, achievement and progress.

– Creating a collaborative culture of shared values across organisations within a local area is as critical as getting the technical aspects of commissioning correct.

– In the less effective practice, the process of commissioning was poorly understood; confusion between procurement and commissioning impaired planning.

Recommendations put forward, the local authorities should:

– take a lead role in creating a collaborative and shared approach to commissioning.

– ensure commissioning is informed by evidence-based judgements.

– ensure they give proper consideration to using new providers, including those from the voluntary sector, community and charitable organisations

– ensure a proper role for voluntary, community and charitable organisations in the design, decision-making and monitoring of commissioned services

– recognise the value in maintaining local networks of practitioners and other local organisations.

Aastha Gill

Related Articles