Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum for YMCA England


  The YMCA, with its mission to work for young people, is one of the largest single voluntary sector providers of support and placements signed up to the Government's New Deal for the young unemployed.

  By mid-2000 the YMCA had already provided help to at least 2000 New Dealers, either through the Initial Gateway or on an option placement. YMCA runs schemes across England, in rural and urban communities. They run pilot schemes designed for hard cases, through to work and voluntary sector options. No one YMCA runs their provision in the same way, and because of this we feel have a great deal of good practice to share and a unique overview of New Deal as a National scheme.

  Last year the Employment Policy Institute produced an evaluation of New Deal provision in the 29 YMCA centres that run such schemes. "Going the Extra Mile" was a major piece of work that evaluated good practice and highlighted our concerns. This report builds on that piece of work and in particular looks at the factors that have determined successes or failures of our New Deal clients and schemes.


  Despite confronting some difficulties in delivering the New Deal those YMCAs that have participated remain committed to the programme. Many feel their success lies with their ability to deal with hard to help cases. There are four key areas the YMCA would encourage the select committee to consider when looking at success or failure of the programme, especially for hard to help groups:

    —  expertise;

    —  flexibility;

    —  referrals;

    —  funding.


  The YMCA is one of the largest youth and community organisations in Britain and world's largest Christian charities and has emerged as one of the largest single providers of New Deal services and placements, having worked with over 2,000 New Dealers either in the Gateway or on an option.

  The reason why YMCAs across England chose to take on New Deal projects was because they felt that they had the experience and expertise to do so. We already work with young unemployed, homeless and hard to help young people and our holistic approach to personal development has meant we have an excellent track record in supporting and helping young people.

  It is therefore not a surprise that the YMCA is a key provider of New Deal options for "hard cases". Mandatory referrals can comprise up to 80 per cent of the YMCA New Deal client group.

New Deal clients benefit from the YMCAs expertise in holistic and integrated support

  The key to our success in this are a is due to young people on New Deal benefiting from the other services that we provide. It is recognised YMCA provision for New Dealers exceeds contractual responsibilities as provision for all young people that come into a local YMCA is shaped by our ethos of integrated support for young people. In one instance New Dealers can receive services provided at twice the cost of funding received by the YMCA. Seventy per cent of the YMCA New Deal providers say that they do not receive enough funding.

Some New Deal clients fail because the cost of providing New Deal exceeds the funding

  For some YMCAs, a related problem arises from having to deal with mandatory referrals by the Employment Service of young people with little motivation toward the New Deal. The later have a higher absentee rate that again means lower than expected funding for the YMCA despite having made resource and staff time available.

  Moreover, since mandatory referrals are less likely to complete the New Deal, providing places for them can resulting the loss of the additional payments made when New Dealers reach target levels of training. Some YMCAs have responded to this by becoming more selective about which New Dealers they will help—a decision taken with reluctance. The majority continue to take whoever is referred to them. Numbers have dropped but at least now they are sent clients who are interested in their option, partly due to the fact they have become more selective as the paperwork generated for a person that only stays two weeks is not worth it. It also means they are not taking the hard cases just to get them "off the books".

  Bridgwater YMCA runs EFT2 which is designed for the hard cases and are paid extra. However, despite the extra money there are still not enough referrals to allow the YMCA to undertake the scheme without cost to them. Staff costs exist regardless of the number of referrals. People are pleased with their work on EFT2. They provide the right atmosphere by adding a social element to the programme (a Breakfast Club). Their clients have multiple disadvantages including mental health problems that most other organisations could not cope with.

Clients with multiple needs who have a successful assessment at the start are less likely to be moved around placements and given to a YMCA as a last resort.

  In fact a worrying number of YMCAs have reported that New Dealers are often given no indication of what an option entails—sometimes creating a gap between expectations and reality that can lead to difficulty for the option provider.

  Experienced organisations like the YMCA would like to be actively engaged along New Deal Personal Advisors from the very start of the Gateway period, especially when the young person has multiple problems. That way all their needs can be addressed in one go and the correct placement sought and no need to parachute a client into any option whey they have failed on others. For some YMCAs this may help resolve some of the issues about turnover of New Deal Personal Advisors which has meant a lack of continuity in some areas.

  Bristol the hard cases often come in on the voluntary sector option. They have often been through other schemes or options prior to going to the YMCA. They feel the voluntary sector option should not be used as a last resort as for many they will never get a job with the organisation they are working for.

  Forest YMCA in Walthamstow is contracted as a specialist access point of those with housing needs. They are finding that standard access points will not refer young people with housing needs to them as financially it is more beneficial to keep the young person on their scheme. Young people come to them as a last resort, which should not be the case.

However, some New Deal clients succeed because expert providers have planned for being the last resort.

  Watford have shown that when dealing with hard cases, variety and flexibility is key. They run the Princes Trust New Deal scheme. The activities base of the scheme means people are more likely to stay for the full duration of the option, and hard cases respond well. They feel their role is to be a last resort. Another YMCA who has done extensive work with hard cases is Ipswich YMCA. They have been used by flexisave job centre as the last resort for the employment option where a client is difficult or will not travel.

  Bridgwater also is geared up to be "last resort" with their EFT2 project.

  For most hard cases a good result is not always getting a job at the end but the skills they have gained and the "distance they have travelled".


  The most important outcome for us as providers to date has been the success of choice and flexibility when dealing with hard to help cases. As Watford's programme highlights content and flexibility have a lot to do with retention and overall success.

Potential partners with existing programmes and expertise are discouraged.

  Many who have not undertaken New Deal programmes have expressed that they would like to do so but the contracting process was too difficult or funding was an issue.

  When originally bidding for programmes and options, a common complaint was that it was often hard to obtain clarification of the rules of the programme from the Employment Service and that "the goalposts would move" during the bidding process.

  Difficulties in contracting also arose where YMCAs had little time to draw up bids. These bids were often difficult to price with any accuracy. A major problem in this respect was that YMCAs tended to be unsure about how many New Dealers would be referred to them. This remains an issue.

  Many feel that the contract process should be more open and easier. One YMCA tried several times to discuss with the Employment Service setting up their own contract due to their main contractor continually being slow on payments. They were told that this was not possible and later found that they could, yet the form was 117 pages and takes three months to complete the process. By this time the forms would have changed again (due in March 2001) so they have not taken it forward.

  Chester YMCA no longer run their Gateway as they were sub-contracted with the local TEC who pulled out at the end of the last financial year. There is no indication of who will take over Gateway. Chester YMCA feel the funding available does not make it worth them undertaking that function despite being well placed to do so.

  For some YMCAs referrals are so low that they cannot employ the necessary staff, therefore they have withdrawn from schemes. Southend YMCA was put off even becoming a sub-contractor as it would be financially untenable when working with hard cases, although they still feel they would have a lot to offer New Dealers through the other services they provide.

  Finding ways to involve small organisations, especially those who have previous experience or provide complementary services to young people would offer clients more choice and flexibility over their New Deal and help them succeed.

Success and failure often comes down to addressing some fundamental skill gaps

  YMCAs cited numerous cases of young people who needed intensive one-to-one help but considered the Gateway too limited and inflexible to provide this. Although examples of good practice were highlighted—such as one YMCA that was providing a personal counselling service within the Gateway—it was generally felt that New Deal personal Advisers were not coping well with young people exhibiting multiple disadvantages.

  Hornsey YMCA in North London says the lack of social skills amongst many of their clients is the first area that needs addressing. Knowing how their actions affect the rest of the group is important. To improve timekeeping, they now operate a 15 minute leeway period, after which the client would be sent home and not accredited for attending. The basic skills of self-discipline, punctuality, respect for others and adherence to policy is a big problem at Hornsey, they have had incidents of stabbing, attacks and arguments. Without adapting their programme to suit the problems and needs of their client groups they would not be able to succeed.

  Forest YMCA have a number of referrals of clients who are unable to speak English which makes it very hard for them to access Gateway in any way useful. It would be good to provide ESOL Courses to be undertaken before Gateway begins.

  Herrington Burn believes the variety of options on one site (including their non-New Deal activities) and their ethos of working with young people make them successful. Ipswich feel the extra support they offer to young people makes up for where the New Deal's basic assessment doesn't go—they offer three to four hours rounded assessments with proper CV development.

  Herrington Burn has heard that clients will now be inducted through a two-week programme before they go to providers. They welcome this as it would be able to identify the hard cases and direct them appropriately at the start and work on some of the core skills.

Helping harder cases succeeded through an extended New Deal

  Those in the highest level of need should be able to stay on Gateway longer to give them some assistance with life skills—they need time to resolve some of the main issues that stop them getting a job such as housing, family conflict.


  It is clear that for a number of reasons, YMCA's are not getting as many referrals as anticipated when New Deal bids were submitted—in many cases only half the level expected. Our research suggests some explanations: falling youth unemployment, a "rationing" of referrals by local New Deal delivery units, and an effective exclusion of the YMCA and other specialist voluntary sector providers from participation in the New Deal by some delivery units. However, referrals do not appear to be related to unemployment rates in different areas.

Lack of referrals has forced some expert projects to close or renegotiate contracts hampering successful outcomes for their clients

  Whatever the reason for the drop in referrals, some YMCAs have had to re-negotiate their contracts in light of the numbers of referrals they finally received. One respondent from YMCA Training explained that a three-day outdoor activities residential course was offered to New Dealers in the Gateway. This part of their contract, with the aim of confidence building, had to be dropped, as they did not receive any referrals. This kind of experience indicates that the speed of the contracting process can lead to some contracts being set up inappropriately of both providers and the Employment Service.

  In such cases YMCAs who were receiving fewer referrals than anticipated were frustrated that they were not able to make the most of their facilities. This frustration was due not simply to a lack of referrals but more importantly to a feeling of not being in control of the New Deal delivery process, which in some areas was being dominated by a few large providers.

Unsuccessful local partnerships mean that the right referral is not always made

  Some YMCAs felt that the Employment Service retained far too much local control, especially in terms of Gateway provision. Others complained that in areas where local colleges or TECs were the power base the latter had too great an influence on New Deal referrals, effectively "rationing" them to the detriment of some providers, including the YMCA. In one area, whereas the local FE college had been sent 176 New Dealers out of a total number of 245 referrals for the education and training option, the local YMCA had received just one.

  In Watford all Voluntary Sector Option referrals are automatically channelled to the college that also offers this option. Their service is very different to that of the YMCA's, and they often find that New Dealers who drop out of the college are then directed to the YMCA option half way through for which the YMCA get paid less. They feel that they are being deliberately used as a last resort, and young people would benefit if they were placed in the option best for them to start with. Giving the young person a better chance of success, and allowing the YMCA to plan and fund their programme properly.

  Due to the diversity both of local delivery arrangements and YMCA participation in the New Deal, relationships between YMCAs and the Employment Service vary from good to indifferent. Many YMCAs have suggested they are constantly undertaking PR with their local Employment Service to remind them they are there and able to take referrals.

  Ipswich YMCA are a training provider for the Employment Services Voluntary Sector Option. However, this part of the option is often forgotten about and the YMCA is tasked with rushing young people through the training in the last few weeks of the option. They feel this is neither good for them as a provider or for the New Deal recipient.

  Bristol YMCA are a contractor and they feel that they are often rationed. They were named at the contracting stage as a partner but do not feel like one or had the referrals they expected. Many YMCA's feel they are only used once the main contractor has filled its places rather than as an option based on the needs and interests of a New Deal recipient.

Low referrals have meant that services do not reflect the need of a locality that could determine a successful job outcome

  As a consequence many YMCAs were concerned that young people were not receiving the most appropriate help available in their locality. This concern appeared to be shared by other specialist voluntary sector providers as well. As a result certain forms of specialist provision were often missing from the New Deal, such as certain work options that reflect local demand and vacancies.

  Forest YMCA is part of a consortium which has been asked by the ES to revert back to providing a workshops programme for clients rather than their successful one to one job search support. The change has implications for staffing, as fees for workshops are much lower. Despite this they are continuing the one to one service as they feel it was so effective they wish to extend it to their other clients.

  Herrington Burn YMCA has a large number of referrals, about 15-20 per week, but have capacity for more. They have started new work options such as catering in response to demand from their New Deal applicants, but in the 12 months it has been running they have had no referrals.


  Criticism by YMCAs of New Deal contracting and delivery mechanisms is associated with underlying concerns about funding. In some cases funding problems have arisen as a result of YMCAs receiving fewer than expected New Deal referrals, or receiving them only sporadically. In addition, YMCAs often have to subsidise the New Deal in order to make it work for the young people with whom they are working.

  YMCAs who submitted New Deal bids on the assumption of a certain level of referrals, and set up provision accordingly, have had to cut or adapt planned provision in order to keep within budget. One YMCA stated that what it was delivering bore little resemblance to its New Deal contract.

Realistic payments would help sustainability and improvement

  It is clear that most YMCAs adapt and enhance New Deal provision by offering a range of additional services in order to ensure that young people get the most out of the programme. This is particularly true for those New Dealers experiencing multiple problems, for example, drug addiction of homelessness in addition to unemployment. The "extras" needed to add value to new Dealers in this way require resources over and above the basic funding obtained for the programme; YMCAs are thus subsidising some of their New Deal work.

  As a consequence of this cross-subsidy, many YMCAs find it hard to identify with any precision what it costs them to deliver the New Deal. Several YMCAs nonetheless estimate that what they are providing to the New Deal, in terms of extra services, could cost as much as double the amount that they were actually being funded for.

  Ipswich YMCA is concerned about the levels of payment for training within the voluntary sector option. Providing 26 days training for £750 is very hard and not commercially viable. They have also given extra support to young people under the FTET scheme that counts for more hours than finances cover. Other YMCAs have paid travel for those on work placements as well as providing extra support.

Contract and subcontracts cream off funding that would make the difference

  The form in which they are contracted to the New Deal also affects each YMCA's situation. For example, where YMCAs are sub-contracted within a New Deal consortium, the lead partner will take off some of the available funding in return for providing administration services. Whilst this is a burden that some YMCAs are happy to relinquish, it does reduce the amount of funding they actually receive for each New Dealer. Significantly, none of the YMCAs consulted for the 1999 report were making any surplus from the New Deal.

  When asked in 1999 if they were funded sufficiently, 14 said that they were, but 25—two thirds of those participating in the New Deal—said that they were not (three did not respond). This is a somewhat disconcerting finding, especially since the New Deal is widely recognised as being the best funded programme of its kind ever to be introduced in Britain. It might of course be argued that the value added to the New Deal by participating YMCAs exceeds what is required to ensure quality outcomes for New Dealers. This was not, however, the impression gained from the YMCAs consulted for this report who felt that they needed to inject extra resources in order to meet the multiple needs of unemployed young people, particularly the most disadvantaged.

YMCA England

November 2000

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