This is a chapter of 'Bright Futures: our vision for youth services' – the LGA's long-term vision for youth services and provision.
The vision for youth provision in an area should be firmly based on the desired outcomes for young people, supported by a clear understanding of how each service, whether directly delivered or externally commissioned, contributes to its delivery. For each service, it is helpful when commissioning to consider why that service is expected to contribute to that outcome and feed into the bigger picture, to ensure that the offer for young people evolves to meet changing needs.
Provision by alternative providers such as the voluntary and community sector, schools or religious groups can also help to deliver these outcomes. Clearly this cannot be specified by the council; this is where it is useful to develop the local vision in partnership with other sectors, to encourage progress towards a shared vision for young people. Other provision that is not explicitly youth services, for example health services, parks, housing and transport, can help to meet outcomes as part of a systemic approach to supporting young people. Mapping all of this against the needs analysis and outcomes needed to deliver the vision will help to identify gaps in provision.
Evaluating and reporting on outcomes effectively is not easy, and commissioners should acknowledge this, building in proportionate resources to contracts for robust outcome monitoring. In the context of reduced funding, it is not easy to divert money from frontline delivery; councils have a responsibility to their younger residents to ensure high quality services, and contributing to a good evidence base that allows rigorous scrutiny of services is one way to support this. A clear outcomes framework can help to effectively monitor the impact of a service at key milestones to spot where things aren’t working and provide opportunities to make changes where needed. It can also support evidence of collective impact across the system, helping to ensure that everyone is working together toward the same outcomes.
As the voluntary and community sector is increasingly involved in the delivery of youth provision, councils will want to consider their commissioning and contract monitoring arrangements to check that these are proportionate and not excluding smaller organisations from putting themselves forward.
Involving young people meaningfully in service design and commissioning can also be effective in ensuring the delivery of appropriate services for young people. Working with young people to identify needs, establish the right outcomes for different services and consider the offers of different organisations can be invaluable in ensuring that the right service and the right provider are appointed. Skilled practitioners, for example youth workers, youth offending team officers, edge-of-care workers or mental health workers should also be involved to bring their expert knowledge to the table and identify potential issues that require further investigation.
A further opportunity arising from developing a shared vision for youth services in the area is joint commissioning and potentially aligned or pooled budgets. Where outcomes are shared by a range of partners, working with those partners to commission and deliver services that meet those shared objectives is more likely to result in more joined-up, efficient services for young people alongside economic benefits.