Southend-on-Sea Borough Council: Improving outcomes for 18-25s

Rubicon Regeneration were commissioned as part of the LGA’s Economic Growth Advisers programme to support Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to improve outcomes for 18-25s in Southend-on-Sea.

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The challenge

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council wants to equip all of its young people with the right skills and abilities so they can live independent, fulfilling lives. This work with the LGA provided a valuable opportunity for the council to evaluate, learn from others and re-shape its partnership approach to supporting 18-25 year olds. With research (such as Resolution Foundation - Young Workers)  highlighting the expected disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council asked the LGA to work with them to review the landscape in Southend. The aim was to understand more about the age group and to identify how those young people could access greater opportunities, largely focused on employment and skills.

In September 2020 the LGA supported a peer challenge project in Southend-on-Sea, the purpose of which was to explore the support, opportunities and challenges for 18-25s in the borough and make recommendations as to actions which could be taken to reduce the impact of the pandemic. It was recognised that the council and partners were doing, and indeed continue to do, a great deal with young people to ensure they access the right skills and opportunities that prepare them for the world of work. But the council was keen to understand how they and partners could more effectively support 18–25 year olds, because the world and the economy is changing, with the prediction being that 65% of primary school age children will go into jobs that do not exist today. Automisation, AI and virtual working will change the face of the workplace as we know it.

The Council wanted to better understand the 18-25 cohort, quantitatively and qualitatively, recognising that it’s not a homogenous group. It also wanted to understand more about what disadvantage looked like for this cohort and how it might be overcome. Further, knowing that the support landscape is a busy one and subject to local, regional and national change, mapping out the provision and understanding the gaps and obstacles to challenge Southend to use its shared capacity and resources on activity and interventions which make the most impact.

The solution

Building on the findings from the peer review, Southend-on-Sea received support as part of the LGA’s Economic Growth Advisers programme to identify ways to improve outcomes for 18-25s.

The commission focused on carrying out research which created an evidence base for interventions to support the 18-25s age group. This comprised of:

  • a data and engagement-led approach to provide a clear understanding of the different cohorts
  • a mapping of support for different pathways
  • an understanding of gaps and obstacles for interventions.

Emerging evidence on the economic and social impact of COVID-19 shows that young people are one of the worst-affected groups, particularly in terms of the labour market and mental health outcomes. There are an estimated 14,903 young people aged 18-25 resident in Southend-on-Sea. Locally, the data shows that:

  • as of December 2020, just over half of young people[1] were in work (57%)
  • 12% of the cohort or 1,800 were unemployed (Nov 2020) (Alternative claimant count)
  • of the remaining 31% classed as economically inactive, 2530 (or 17% of the overall figure) are in full time education
  • 14% were estimated to be economically inactive/not claiming.

The general view is that future provision for young people, needs to be flexible, responsive, and personalised to meet needs, opportunities and requirements and not necessarily be shaped by age criteria. The aspiration set out in the Southend 2050 ambition is to secure “fulfilling careers for all”.

The research carried out by the advisers confirms that there is a lot of good practice on which to build: the expertise and commitment of stakeholders including the pioneering work of the Adult Community College and YMCA; the willingness of the partners to engage and develop services; the relatively high levels of satisfaction with school-based careers advice from the better qualified students and high praise for the support that disadvantaged young people receive post 16. New funding opportunities such as Kickstart and other European Social Fund programmes indicate that, in the short term, funding isn’t a constraint. Capacity is an issue and there is a need for better communication and signposting to the wealth of support that is there and open it out to all young people not just those unemployed or those claiming Universal Credit.

Suggested actions include:

  • Embed the needs and aspirations of young people within the policy framework, specifically within the council’s Skills Strategy refresh.        
  • Address the concerns of young people through holistic support, helping them address their current needs rather than their future prospects to ensure that they benefit over the long-term from careers support when the time is right. 
  • Extend the provision of the experience of work.  
  • Simplify and communicate the employment and skills landscape.
  • Provide leadership and coordination, with the council providing co-ordination, supporting and facilitating collaboration and providing local intelligence.
  • Ensure that services are inter-connected through ‘wraparound’ services for young people, for example YMCA and A Better Start Southend (ABSS) covering health, well-being, safeguarding as well as providing support and advice to training, employment and education.
  • Provide a continued focus on Education to Employment transition to ensure that quality, consistent and bespoke provision is available for young people moving from education to employment.
  • Provide an enhanced sector focus including considering the opportunity for further sector-led skills programmes (such as those for care and construction) with regards to hospitality, digital and retail.
  • Incentivise local employers to create high quality employment opportunities for young people and improve local take-up of employment programmes including Kickstart, Apprenticeships and Traineeships. 
  • Promote the Good Youth Employment Charter.

[1] Annual Population Survey data is only available for 16–24-year-olds not 18–25-year-olds.

The impact

The work was not motivated by identification of cost savings or income generation but rather it was outcome focused and centred on minimising the potential disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the group (as highlighted by national research) and understanding what would be needed to help individuals on different paths fulfil their economic potential.

The recommendations are being taken forward by the council to lead to a sustained approach to supporting 18-25s as listed below.

The research will also provide important information and intelligence both for Southend’s multi-agency Skills Leadership Group and the Council.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The findings of the study are being used to:

  • inform Southend’s economic recovery work which is a partnership response
  • inform funding bids and partnership working
  • inform service design and provision through the council’s Economic Growth Team and Adult Community Learning service
  • inform a new economic proposition bringing together growth and skills priorities, opportunities and challenges in a light-touch summary document.

The study findings have been shared with a range of stakeholders.  This is considered a key part of the approach as it impacts across the system and requires a collaborative approach to meet the needs and aspirations of young people in Southend-on-Sea.

Lessons learned

  • Develop an ongoing data dashboard for the group utilising data from across the partnership
  • Ensure future provision for young people is flexible, responsive and personalised to meet needs, opportunities and requirements and not necessarily be shaped by age criteria
  • Hear the voices of 18-25s – match/compare data with lived experience
  • Provide leadership and coordination – there isn’t a single problem owned by one organisation but does require convening to bring people together


Emma Cooney

Director of Regeneration & Growth

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

[email protected]