Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 220-269)

Harry Fowler, Brendan O'Keefe, Garath Symonds and David Wright

9 March 2011

  Q220 Chair: Gentlemen—I see it is all gentlemen—thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us this morning. Some of you heard the evidence in the last session. One thing that we did not touch on was whether we can change the system altogether to one of payment by results and whether that might change the attitude to youth work. If councils had a broad range of outcomes for their young people that they had to deliver, would they then commission youth services in a different fashion and perhaps, because they were closer to the front line, need to spend less time worrying about measuring data but ensure that it was part of what they felt was a coherent overall package to deliver the happy, fully developed and well educated young people that society wants and we want for our children? Brendan, any thoughts on whether the incentive mechanisms for local authorities could help change and improve focus in the delivery of youth work?

  Brendan O'Keefe: I would be very happy with a payment-by-results approach to funding youth services as part of the overall package. There are risks for any organisation going into a payment-by-results domain, depending on the payment schedule. If all your costs are up front and you don't get paid back because you have failed, you have a bankrupt business and you have to pay that money back in some way. As a youth service that regularly achieves and shows good outcomes, we are happy with the concept and are actively seeking that form of funding in future.

  Q221 Chair: So such are the savings to society if you minimise the negative aspects that it is actually possible to fund on the current basis and then provide payment by results on top of that?

  Brendan O'Keefe: That's right.

  Q222Chair: So it is a win-win for society overall and a win for a local authority that pioneers and shows that it can deliver a package of services including youth services. Any thoughts on that, Garath?

  Garath Symonds: We have just let a contract to move young people who are NEET into apprenticeships. We are paying the agency only when it gets the young person into an apprenticeship. That, for me, is the pure sense of payment by results. I think the idea of commissioning, decommissioning and recommissioning based on performance is sound; it is not quite the same thing but very similar. There is an issue around data. If you are basing your decision on whether to pay on data, sometimes they do not tell the whole story and you have to understand and analyse them in order to make an informed decision.

  Q223 Chair: We have spent a number of sessions finding out how difficult it is to capture and measure the outcomes of various youth services. Payment by results does not mean that you necessarily have to apply it to the deliverer of those services. As long as it applies to you and you believe, you commission the service and whether you bother to collect data on it or not, you are looking at the quality of the service as an overall service. Sometimes people think that every little voluntary group will have to justify itself and whether it delivers some data which it has to capture before it gets any money. That is not really what it is about. David, any thoughts on payment by results?

  David Wright: I broadly welcome it in the way that colleagues have already said. The other issue, which resonates back with the previous session, is how you measure those outcomes and how you pay for the positive aspects of the services that are being delivered. It is relatively easy, which is why we have seen stuff around youth PSA, for example, to measure deficit indicators. We talk about NEET and we talk about teenage pregnancy, but it is much more difficult to move on to measuring the positive outcomes there. One of the things that we need to do if we go down the route of payment by results is look at the opportunities to use some of the structures that have not been highlighted—things like recorded outcomes and accreditations that young people receive. That starts to shift the balance away from the deficit model and towards creating an overall positive direction in services. I was struck by what you said about actually having a basket of indicators over five years. That starts to make it possible to identify and measure that work and to evaluate, support and reward what is good. On that basis, you need the infrastructure and the targets, and then you need the local structures to be able to commission efficiently and effectively.

  Q224 Chair: Whenever I think of payment by results, I always think of Birmingham. I have this fantasy vision of the money streams that you have coming in at the moment joining a partnership with a major financial behemoth to bring in extra money, so that you have a plan and a programme of evidence-based interventions to deliver the basket of outcomes, which could then mean additional funding for Birmingham and massive benefit for the nation. That basket would deal with positives and negatives, but it would, for instance, look to drive down convictions of young men aged 20 who have a criminal conviction to a lower percentage. There would be several baskets. If it was delivered like that, if the money could be brought in, and if the existing funding flows were there, is there a way that Birmingham city council could partner with others and deliver a transformation of outcomes for young people—both positive and eliminating the negative?

  Harry Fowler: I'm sure that there is. Do you know the name of that behemoth that you were talking about? We would like to know.

  Q225 Chair: I was going to mention Goldman Sachs. I would like to see whether a financial organisation could go to the markets and bring in £2 billion over a 20-year period to work with you with points along the way. We could then suddenly stop challenging every local voluntary organisation to produce data on itself, because, when you were delivering that picture, it would obvious. I don't ask questions about data when my children go to something that is clearly positive. I would just value it, send it and make it happen. I might hold some people to payments by results, but others I would not. It would be driven by someone close to the front line. Would you be suitable?

  Harry Fowler: Yes. The option that we're exploring in Birmingham at the moment around alternative providers is slightly different from that. We are actually looking at going the other way towards the smaller, locally based community groups, and we are seeing whether we can broker and develop new partnerships with smaller local groups. I suppose that the danger is that you replace one large bureaucracy with another large bureaucracy. We are trying to avoid that. At the moment, we are exploring the possibility of at least 34 of our smaller youth clubs and youth provisions being taken on by local people. The plea, however, would be for time for that to happen. To build the infrastructure and broker those partnerships takes time. We have examples of where we have handed over fairly large facilities to the voluntary sector, and they now run them, but what we have learnt from that is that you can never withdraw fully. You always need to have some sort of investment in the project. As I said, it takes time. Two to three years is the normal period of time.

  Q226 Bill Esterson: Just following up on that, we have talked a lot over the past hour and quarter or so about measurement. The one thing that keeps coming up is the issue of the most vulnerable groups and how to reach them. This picks up on what you were just saying, Graham. This is surely about ensuring that those vulnerable young people are reached rather than worrying too much about the measurement. As Damian said earlier, "Discuss".

  David Wright: One of the key things is being able to identify. That is one of the real values. In the first session, you asked whether things are better or worse now. One of the arguments for saying that things are better is that there is a much closer relationship between youth services and other children's services providers in trying to identify, support and target the young people. That requires data investment and sharing of intelligence. The structures that are there allow that to happen.

  In that process, however, we must avoid bureaucratisation. It almost becomes an add-on. We must try to emphasise the responsibility of—I would suggest—the local authority to be able to identify those young people that it needs to support and target, but to do that with its partners and have the greatest influence over the diminishing resources. I talked to someone from the Association of Chief Police Officers recently and they recognised that the budget reductions in policing mean that if they are going to talk about early intervention, they need to have clear data and information to be able to target and to make the best use of the resources that are available.

  Q227 Bill Esterson: So the right data and information, and not being overly bureaucratic?

  David Wright: Yes. And the other side of the trust issue is that local authorities are getting sophisticated at being able to identify those risk factors, to identify the families and to provide that level of support. Youth work is not aside from that. It has an important contribution to make.

  Brendan O'Keefe: If youth work can't attract and find the right people, what is the job for? That would be my question. In my own service, I can see on a daily basis that we are open to challenge in the most radical circumstances. Just to give an example of how that plays for us, we have several contracts with our own PCT to deliver services to very vulnerable young people, because the PCT openly admits that it finds it very difficult to attract those people to clinic and hospital-based services. So those services are contracted through youth services. So it can be done and to good effect.

  Harry Fowler: I can think of some very good examples of where other professionals can work in youth service settings: midwives; neighbourhood advisers; Connexions PAs; youth offending colleagues, and police officers. They work in youth centres and in a youth work context, so that that universal provision is offered and so that the most vulnerable young people are fed into it. It works within that broader setting.

  It is about building on those examples and perhaps becoming more formalised and moving towards a more case-based approach. That is a culture change for youth workers, but I think that that is part of what they will need to do. They will need to work on a type of case basis within a universal setting. The challenge that we are facing at the moment is how we make that cultural shift.

  Garath Symonds: Listening to the academics earlier, I felt that there was a bit of a rub between this idea of implementing social policy and achieving outcomes, which we want to achieve as a society, and delivering quality youth work. My view is that all young people need youth work, all young people need support for the transition from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood, and all young people need work around their identity and that sort of support that youth work offers universally or generically.

  However, there is a difference between that work and using youth work to achieve social outcomes or policy objectives. In my view, you can do both. With vulnerable young people, we can do both. We can say, "Okay, we want to improve school attendance and one of the ways that we will do that is by managing this cohort of young people who are attending poorly at school and we will use youth work as the intervention." But it is about making a distinction between two things—when is youth work a universal thing that any young person can walk into a youth club and access, and when is it a tool to achieve a policy objective?

  Q228 Bill Esterson: I'm sure that we could explore that in a lot of detail. Can we move on to the new financial settlement? Can we start with what you are providing at the moment, what the age groups are and what proportion of the 13 to 19 population are using those services?

  Harry Fowler: In terms of our youth service budget in Birmingham, the percentage of directorate budget—that is the children, young people and families directorate budget—is about 2%, perhaps a little less. The percentage of the overall local authority budget is less than 0.5%.

  Then there are the numbers of young people who use the service currently. We have stayed with the previous targets—the raised targets—so we have adhered to the previous benchmarks that were set under the resourcing excellent youth service standards, and we still aspire to meet them. This year so far, of the 100,000 or so young people in the 13 to 19 age range, we have reached—echoing Howard's point earlier—nearly 15,000 of them, so about 15%, and nearly 11,000 of those have become registered regular participants.

  Q229 Bill Esterson: What services are you providing?

  Harry Fowler: It's a youth service at the moment—the youth service management information system for 13 to 19-year-olds. We run a range of projects, about 60 different projects across the city, including what I suppose are large, fairly traditional open-access youth centres. We also have four information projects, detached teams and targeted projects aimed at young people who are unemployed, alongside Connexions. We have a C-card scheme that is based around young people's sexual health. We run sports programmes and we work with the police on Friday and Saturday night schemes, on preventing violent extremism schemes and on guns and gangs schemes. So there is quite a range. We did some statistics a couple of years ago—they are a bit out of date now. Of the percentage of youth workers engaged in open-access youth work, it was down to about 50 or 60%. I suspect that if we had done it 10 years earlier it would have been 90%. So many more of our staff now are far more diverse in the range of projects and their delivery. We have four centres on school sites or in schools, as well, where youth workers are based. So quite a diverse range.

  Q230 Bill Esterson: Which will survive, and what will be cut as a result of the cuts?   Harry Fowler: I am between a rock and a hard place at the moment. The current figure that is being talked about in Birmingham is a cut to my services of £3 million, although I am assured—

  Q231 Bill Esterson: Out of a total of how much?  Harry Fowler: £5.8 million. So that will reduce it to £2.8 million. But I am being told by senior cabinet members that that is youth services, and not the youth service, and there is some debate going on in the press at the moment.

  Q232 Bill Esterson: So that is over half your budget, if that figure is right? What is the overall budget cut to Birmingham as a proportion?

  Harry Fowler: I am not sure of that figure, to be honest. In terms of the local authority set-up?

  Bill Esterson: Yes.

  Harry Fowler: I don't know, but it is not that high—I think it is about 13, but I will need to check that. There is some debate about that figure—I am assured by senior cabinet members that it won't be that figure, but at the same time in the budget plans that is the £3 million identified. So I think there are alternative sources of funding being looked at, maybe to bridge that gap and look at a period of time over which that reduction can be better managed.

  Q233 Bill Esterson: So uncertainty, but at the moment somewhere over half?

  Harry Fowler: Yes. Certainly over the next two to three years, yes.

  Bill Esterson: Same sets of questions—who wants to go next?

  Chair: Who's feeling succinct?

  David Wright: I'll attempt to be. I represent an umbrella organisation of English heads of young people's services. Therefore I can't specifically answer the questions in your first part.

  Bill Esterson: You might have a picture, though, a pattern.

  David Wright: We did a survey before Christmas of heads of services, to try to understand the current situation in relation to budget cuts this year—the in-year savings that we needed to make to youth services—and what the expectation was over time. Like all surveys—and it was Christmas—it was partial, but we saw at least four local authorities making savings of over £500,000, and nearly 61% making a significant budget reduction of over £100,000, which means an average cut this year of 14%. That translates into about 10% of the work force being lost this year.

  The difficulty is that people's expectations are that they will now have to begin a process of looking forward in the next two to three years at what savings they might be expected to make. Nearly two thirds of them are expecting savings of at least over £500,000, an equivalent of about 28% cuts in the budget. That is extreme, because we are seeing some services that by that stage will have made over and above the level of savings that Harry has described in Birmingham. Some services are looking at 70% to 80% cuts in their budget as well.

  So there is a significant change in the landscape, and we are at a crossroads. We might see a series of things that we're looking for in youth work, in an environment where some elements of delivering that service effectively may no longer be present in some local authority areas. That will vary very much from area to area.

  Q234 Chair: When you said cuts to some services may be 70% or 80%, I don't know whether you meant some local authorities—

  Bill Esterson: Certainly, that's what my local authority has been doing.

  David Wright: Some local authorities are at the point of cutting not only their grant aid to their direct delivery of youth services, but their grants to the voluntary sector. So the picture is tremendously mixed. It raises a challenge, and there's a redundant discussion about how services are delivered. At this point we need to ensure that services for young people are secured and maintained as part of the local authority offer, or the local area offer for young people, to support them.

  Q235 Bill Esterson: Would you support a move to a per capita spending formula for 13 to 19-year-olds, similar to what goes on in schools? Is that the way to protect this? Otherwise it appears to be an easy target for cuts.

  David Wright: I think you've got to provide, within the local authority setting, an opportunity or context that enables people to take account of the value of services. A per capita setting is one issue, as is ring-fencing that funding—though I know that that is difficult at this stage. Another issue is ensuring that you also have an entitlement for young people's well-being in a local area that allows people to say, "This is what you should secure"—not how you deliver it because that is something you would go on to elsewhere. What you look for now is whether you have something that every young person within that local authority area should expect as part of their growing up and successful transition to adulthood. Coupled with per capita funding, that would be a way forward.

  Q236 Bill Esterson: You were getting support for that comment from the previous panel sitting behind you. Perhaps we can move on to Garath and Brendan and the range of questions about current provision and the impact of the cuts?

  Garath Symonds: I think heads of service are responsible for different things in different local authorities. I am responsible for the commissioning of 16 to 19 education, a small strategic commissioning function, which used to be the Learning and Skills Council, youth justice, youth services and Connexions. The service came together in 2009 and our budget was around £18.5 million. In the next financial year it went down by £0.5 million at the beginning of the year, then when the new Government came in there were about £8 billion of cuts across the country. That impacted directly on my service to the tune of about £2.1 million—£1.6 million was on Connexions directly, and the rest was split between youth services and youth justice. We are going to make a further £1.8 million of savings in this current year, bringing us down to a budget of around £14 million by 1 April 2012.

  We are going through a big process of change and transformation, and in my view, we will not be reducing services, outputs, or the hours of youth work that are delivered on the ground. In many cases, we will be delivering more youth work, and hopefully better outcomes.

  Q237 Bill Esterson: How are you able to deliver more with £4 million less?

  Garath Symonds: By doing some quite unique partnerships with the voluntary sector. We have 32 youth centres, and we are not closing any of them.

  Chair: I am sorry to cut you off, Garath, but that is the next subject when we move on.

  Brendan O'Keefe: On the basis of what's been said, I'm going to visit Surrey very soon. [Laughter.] My service covers a range of young people's services—Connexions, youth services, teenage pregnancy programmes, health programmes, youth sports, arts, drama—lots of different things. Our services are at the age range of 10 to 24, and our core is 13 to 19. We attract around 40% of our local youth population to our services in one way or another during the course of a year.

  The budget is currently around £6.9 million. We are taking a hit for next year, almost all from a reduction in Government grants—or what were formerly Government grants—of round about £700,000, or 13.5% of our operating budget. The council itself is not making significant reductions in youth services for 2011-12. Our services are valued by the council, but I don't anticipate their being able to sustain that position throughout the budget deficit programme, hence our ambition to do something radically different with our youth services, which you may want to go on to later.

  Q238 Bill Esterson: Have you had any indication of what the likely final reductions will be?

  Brendan O'Keefe: By 2015?

  Bill Esterson: Yes.

  Brendan O'Keefe: No, but I can probably work it out fairly carefully myself. Just taking the 28% reduction in local authority spending as a benchmark, that would result in a very, very significant reduction in our ability to run youth services. Because most of our services are discretionary, I anticipate that it will be higher, but there is not yet a council position on that; it is purely my estimate.

  Q239 Bill Esterson: So you think that because a lot of it is discretionary it would be higher than the council average?

  Brendan O'Keefe: That's what I anticipate.

  Q240 Neil Carmichael: To all of you: have the Government given any indication of how many independent providers they would expect to see in this sector? Additionally, what do you think independent providers will bring to improve provision? Brendan, do you want to kick off?

  Brendan O'Keefe: Do you mean the voluntary and community sector, the private sector and so on?  

  Q241 Neil Carmichael: Yes. Basically, what will the landscape look like in terms of commissioning from independent providers?

  Brendan O'Keefe: From the perspective of Kensington and Chelsea, and actually the three boroughs of west London, which, as you are probably aware, are developing the sharing of services and commissioning processes, the direction of travel is for the councils to become predominantly commissioning councils. The landscape will look very different from the current one. There will be a lot less delivery by councils themselves, and much more in terms of commissioning from the voluntary and community sector and the private sector.

  Q242 Neil Carmichael: What improvements do you expect to see in terms of delivery and provision?

  Brendan O'Keefe: For our own service, we are planning to become part of that sector. We are planning to opt out of the local authority in order to run our own business, contracted back with the local authority at less cost. The improvement for us is that we will be able to attract funding from a variety of different sources, which we currently cannot access. The social finance landscape is beginning to open up. The Cabinet Office has recently issued a paper on this, and if I can ask the Committee to make one recommendation to the Government, it is to make good on the potential in that paper for the social finance field to be opened up to organisations to access funds from various different sources. That will change the landscape completely.

  Neil Carmichael: Garath?

  Garath Symonds: I don't think Brendan needs to come to Surrey, because it sounds as though he is doing some similar things. I do not anticipate any improvements from moving to a commissioned or outsourced model, because I do not believe that the voluntary sector provides good services and the statutory sector provides bad services. I think there are other benefits to moving to a more commissioned or outsourced model that we can explore, but the key issue with quality and improvement is around the quality management system and the performance management system that we have in place. If it is a good system, that will work regardless of the provider. As Howard was saying, it is not about the actual provider but the management system that surrounds it.

  Q243 Neil Carmichael: Can you give us a hint of those other benefits that you would like to explore?

  Garath Symonds: I think the voluntary sector can do things at less cost. I was talking earlier about how the amount that we are spending on management is going to be massively reduced, because the voluntary sector can manage services at less cost. It can attract funding from outside, and it can attract community assets in a way that we cannot. It can leave a community capital in a way that we cannot, because it is more local, more embedded and part of the community. Those benefits are the ones that we are trying to capitalise on.

  David Wright: In answer to your question, the indication is that the Government want to see a greater diversification of the sector, which is the ambition. I would agree with the two colleagues so far that there is a need to move to increased commissioning in terms of that. I would put two caveats in place, however.

  First, at the moment, as well as the large reductions in money for the local authority sector for youth work providers, the voluntary and community sector is almost being hit equally hard if not harder from the process, because it is seeing cuts not only in the funding that it receives from central Government and other grant areas, but in the money that it receives from local authorities. It is being hit by a double whammy at the same time as the opportunities are there for it to be able to open up and to compete. Its size is often both its advantage and its disadvantage. We want to see a thriving local community sector that responds to reflect the needs and engagement of the local community. That is the first warning.

  Secondly, and this is where commissioning needs to be looked at slightly in a new way, it requires that level playing field across the piece. That level playing field is both in terms of access for the voluntary and community sector and in terms of standards and outcomes. If we can move towards that position, that would then give us that optimum choice of what the best outcomes for young people are. You would then start to look at the models that might deliver that, and you would not be prescribed by one sector over the other.

  Q244 Neil Carmichael: Who is going to be responsible for making that level playing field?

  David Wright: That should be in the emerging and changing role of the local authority, I would suggest. That is the role of the local authority, which is best placed to provide the local, strategic leadership to support and pull together partners across the piece, and to find the best outcomes for its citizens.

  Q245 Neil Carmichael: Harry, have you anything to add?

  Harry Fowler: A particular issue in Birmingham is the scale—the size of the city and the range of the voluntary sector—and there not being a single voice we can talk to in the voluntary sector. We have started a range of summits, one of which is next week, to begin to engage the sector. As I said, we are going down the line of developing local, smaller voluntary organisations and enabling them to take on their local youth project.

  To dispel perhaps not a myth but the misunderstanding sometimes, the partnership between statutory and voluntary youth services is already extremely close. It is very hard to draw a line between some of them. We have statutory youth workers based in voluntary organisations—secondments and so on—and it is about building on those existing partnerships.

  The line of travel in Birmingham for commissioning will be that commissioning will be around targeted and vulnerable young people. Alternative ways of securing services will be explored for the more universal. Then the issue is how to tie those universal youth services into the more targeted provision aimed at vulnerable young people.

  Q246 Neil Carmichael: David, may we talk about mutualisation, which is something you are pursuing as an organisation? Could you capture, for the benefit of everyone listening, what you mean by that? How do you think it will both save money and improve outcomes?

  David Wright: Last summer, we embarked on a process of looking at how to make sense of the changing landscape. We ran something called Living with Less, on how youth services might start to address the changing landscape. One of the emerging issues was, clearly, a sense that there was a need to focus on what local authorities are actually looking at in terms of core provision, which is the relationship with targeted services, supporting and preventing young people from becoming vulnerable, but also a range of other services.

  One concern was a break-up or fragmentation of the local authority structure and, alongside that, the loss of issues about progression, training, qualifications and standards. One of the models that started to emerge was a recognition that perhaps a way forward for youth services in 2011 was to follow some of the paths of other local authority services in the '90s and early years—needing to be in a different place, or to be externalised, and to be in a position to offer that critical mass. One thing key to that has been the opportunity that mutualisation offers.

  Brendan can talk about some of the specifics of his current experience, but the benefits that we have seen is that it affords that critical mass and buy-in—it almost happens that services feel they are engaged in the delivery and change of the process. Most important, in the model we have been working with, with our colleagues in FPM, is the opportunity of engaging young people in the management, direction and membership of that service, which is an extension of young people's involvement as young citizens in the delivery of service.

  The dilemma we faced is that, in the current climate, people have been salami slicing and trying to balance the books. The opportunity now affords itself, over the next two years, as we start to look at service redesign, for us to see a number of those local authorities starting to go down the mutualisation route. They are exploring that. Because of confidentiality, I cannot say which local authorities they are, but we are looking at around 17 that are interested or taking some steps further down the line. What we will see, I think, is a lot of development and then, at some point, the first, followed by quite a few more, actually to pursue that route. The benefit of mutualisation is the sense of involvement, in terms of the community, staff and young people, primarily for delivery.

  Q247 Neil Carmichael: Brendan, David suggested that I ask you how you are getting on with your project and mutualisation. Have you any comments you would like to make to us? Also, have you been finding any benefits or do you expect any?

  Brendan O'Keefe: Yes, certainly. We are part of the Cabinet Office pathfinder project. For some time now we have been looking at different ways of delivering our services, as what was coming down the track did not look good. We have to look at different ways of organising ourselves and attract additional income. We had some thoughts of developing ourselves into a trust or trading company. We can and will do that but it is not going to do the trick—it will not bring in sufficient income for us to be able to deliver these services at the current level of attainment. So we have decided to do something more radical which is to develop ourselves into a social enterprise, which is opted out of the council, then contract back with the council at less cost and deliver youth services under a contracted basis. The benefits will be that we can bring in funds from other sources that are not currently available to us.

  Chair: Such as? Where will you get this extra?

  Brendan O'Keefe: Social impact bonds, the emerging social enterprise, social finance field, the Big Society bank, trusts and charities. All of these are not currently available to local authorities, or local authorities will not be able to pitch for them. So we will be in a place to take advantage of this emerging field.

  Q248   Neil Carmichael: So you will be more flexible and more manoeuvrable in the market?

    Brendan O'Keefe: Absolutely. I have to be able with my staff to design services that people will pay for. Regarding this issue that the Committee keeps returning to around being able to prove worth, if I cannot prove the worth people will not pay for it. So it is a very important element of our development. We are redesigning the service to show much more the worth of what we do and evidence of that because that is part of our business case. "Trust me, I'm a youth worker" is not a business case; you have got to be able to show that what you do adds value and creates value for the young people, particularly the people who are paying for it.

  Q249 Neil Carmichael: How would payment by results fit in?

    Brendan O'Keefe: I see that as part of the scenario. It could not be the only one as it is too big a business risk. I am sorry to go into the commercial terms already but that is the way I am thinking right now. For any organisation to be simply about payment by results, you are taking an enormous risk with your set up but it has to be part of the scenario.

  Q250 Damian Hinds: I don't want to ask too many open-ended questions as I am conscious that this is a massive field but it always strikes me that the text-book example of social impact bonds is prisoners. It is a fantastic example which is very clean—a confined group of people, limited number, easy circumstance to describe and, if you can measure in two years' time three offending rates less than that, then you have done it. But beyond prisoners and into youth work, and indeed you might say more broadly as well, I would love it if it were possible to make that principle work across a whole range of things but is it really possible and how big is the potential?

  Brendan O'Keefe: It's enormous and one of the things we are doing as part of our service re-design is to have a pilot project around a term you may be familiar with—social return on investment. This is a systematic way in which you can define the outcomes you want to achieve in terms that reflect economic and social value. You can turn that into a business case for funding and we can see a range of our services that we currently offer, including services—

  Q251 Damian Hinds: If I have understood this correctly and I am not saying I have, because it is a complex field, that sounds like payment by results. As I understood it, with social impact bonds there is a saving to society and to the Exchequer if that person does not go back to prison. That is what funds the up-front bit, whereas with youth work in general the average horizon you are talking about before you see a saving is multiple times that. It is a less easy to define population as people come in and out of it and you cannot necessarily say that what you did was what made it that sort of sum.

  Brendan O'Keefe: That is true.

  Damian Hinds: I am being very open and the Chair is going to slap me down.

  Chair: It is always fascinating.

  David Wright: It is the difference between the targets and the open access. You can start to identify some specific activities that you want to be able to achieve with particular groups of young people. We have had the experience of that. The teenage pregnancy work has been an example of that. We know that by reducing teenage conceptions or later pregnancy we can see in the levels of investment that there are savings for the state as a consequence. In those areas you can clearly see that.

  The other issue is that the more general and the more open-access it is, the less clear it becomes because of all the things you have already heard this morning. So it depends on how you pick and choose and I think that is how you construct your local model to enable that and respond to that.

  Garath Symonds: As for savings that are accrued elsewhere in the system, a police inspector wrote to me yesterday saying that she was concerned about the cuts she had read about in the paper. She said that they had done a great job with the youth service in reducing antisocial behaviour in Tandridge, the district that she comes from. I know that there are no antisocial behaviour orders in Tandridge and that antisocial behaviour has reduced in that area. She asked me to make commitments to keep the level of funding.

  I could say to her, "If I have reduced antisocial behaviour, I have saved you money. There is a saving that we could both share." I am not sure that the system is sophisticated enough at local level to say, "I accrued a saving for you, and I want some of your saving." That is a total playful community-based budget-type scenario.

  Q252 Damian Hinds: Many people would claim credit for that saving, not just you, such as "The school has also done a fantastic job. The estate has been very well run", and all that blah, blah, blah.

  Garath Symonds: Absolutely. The original example that you gave of crime is good, because the cost of crime is quite easy to calculate. The London School of Economics recently did some work saying that the whole lifetime cost of a NEET young person to society—UK plc, if you like—in loss of taxes and benefit payment is about £97,000. As our big strategy is about increasing participation in education, training and employment and if a social financier wanted to invest in a social impact bond, we could reduce NEETs and say that every unit is worth 97k to the Government.

  Q253 Damian Hinds: In theory, you could. If that £97,000 turns up tangibly on some profit and loss account—

  Garath Symonds: That's why it is so difficult.

  Chair: We will have to move on, fascinating though it is.

  Q254 Craig Whittaker: Harry, Birmingham was named and shamed. In fact, I will name and shame the person. It was Jason Stacey from the YMCA. He said, "I have to name and shame Birmingham, which seems to be cancelling contracts as it sees fit, already closing departments and taking advantage of the un-ring-fencing of the specific grants to divert money away." Is that a fair assessment?

  Harry Fowler: I'm on thin ice if I am talking about the whole relationship between the city council and the voluntary sector. If I can talk about my director and the youth service relations with the voluntary sector, there is an element of truth in that. We supported 48 voluntary sector youth organisations up to the end of this financial year. We have had to withdraw that funding. They range from large organisations to small scout groups, and we have had to save nearly £700,000 as a result of that. I think that the voluntary sector has had a hit from that, for sure, yes. That is as far as I want to go in talking about the overall council picture.

  Q255 Craig Whittaker: Okay. Let me ask you a question and then open it up to the rest of the panel. In the previous session, Dr Howard Williamson talked about youth services that we should not be doing and the duplication of services. How much of what Birmingham has done is because of that or is it just a knee-jerk reaction to the cuts?

  Harry Fowler: Most of the wheedling out of poor practice has gone on over the last five or 10 years. In answer to the Chair's first question this morning, "Have things improved or not?", yes, they have, in statutory youth services generally. We are far more sophisticated in terms of management information systems. We have measured according to credited outcomes. We are much clearer now about saying what our role is, and how we contribute. That process has wheedled out a lot of bad practice over the years. We are a much leaner, more efficient service now than we were even five years. I do not think that a great deal of poor practice goes on in the local authority youth service now. It is back to that notion of it being a fairly easy-to-pick service to find cuts because of its non-statutory base.

  Q256 Craig Whittaker: So it is a knee-jerk reaction?

  Harry Fowler: Those are your words, not mine, but a political decision is being made to value that service less than other services.

  Q257 Craig Whittaker: What about the other councils? How much have you done around trying to get rid of duplication of services and services that do not deliver outcomes, particularly around youth?

  Garath Symonds: There's poor practice and poor performance in every part of the public sector. It's a constant thing. We are trying to have a single strategy so that our services are going towards one outcome, which is around a participation in education agenda. The commissioning model allows us to decommission and recommission on the basis of young people's needs and of the performance of our providers. Where we say that our providers are performing poorly, we can decommission them and recommission another service, and manage quality in that way. That was tested out when we cut the Connexions service by £1.6 million last summer, when we established a decommissioning policy. [Interruption.]

  Chair: For Hansard's sake we shall wait until the bell stops.

  Garath Symonds: Just to finish what I was saying, the commissioning model allows you to decommission and recommission based on performance and quality in a way that allows you to improve quality over time.

  Q258 Craig Whittaker: In your specific case, the Committee has heard evidence that you are at the other end of the scale. We have heard evidence that you don't salami slice and that you are doing fairly well in that regard. Why are you doing it so differently from other authorities? Why do you seem to be achieving far greater results with far less?

  Garath Symonds: We're not there yet. What I am trying to talk about are projections from 2012 onwards. The services that we have are ones that we have had for 20 years, and I think I am in very much the same place as Brendan and Harry where we are redesigning or—in the terminology that I would use—recommissioning. What we are saying is that from 1 April 2012, I will be able to buy more hours of youth work than I can now with a smaller budget.

  Brendan O'Keefe: Similar to Garath, we have quality and performance indicators by which we assess the success or otherwise of our commissioning processes. Internally within the local authority, we have line management processes that do a similar sort of thing.

  We are protecting the voluntary sector budget for next year, 2011-12. That doesn't mean we will commission the same services, but we will protect the amount and ensure that the voluntary sector is still supported. There is a very strong partnership between the voluntary sector and the local authority. One of my colleagues has said that it is hard to delineate the two. One of the risks of a rigid form of commissioning-only authority is you lose that dynamic, where the local authority can strongly support, enable and empower the voluntary sector. Any commissioning process needs to be able to take that into account, and that dynamic should not disappear.

  Q259 Bill Esterson: Garath was talking about trying to square the circle with less money and to improve services. Concerns have been raised in Surrey about the lack of adequate risk assessment involving front-line staff, and a lack of consultation with those staff and service users. Real concerns were raised by the previous panel about experienced professionals being involved in the reconfigured services. I know that it is difficult to answer that quickly, but they are real concerns that have been raised with me.

  Garath Symonds: In the past 12 months, we have consulted 8,000 young people. In the five years previous to that, we had consulted only 1,000. Consultation is an ongoing process, and I go out to meet young people myself and consult very directly. We have done a significant amount of activity around consultation and working with staff. The youth service specifically, where many of these concerns are probably coming from, put a proposal to me and to management, listing 12 substantive points that say, "This is how we want the model to look in the future", and I have accepted 10 of them; this was only last week. So there is consultation going on, and I am listening to a range of stakeholders—young people, elected members, staff, the voluntary sector and other partners. We are going through a period of change and quite radical transformation. We've got political backing; the leadership of our politicians is with us. You need that very much to make change happen. But change is a difficult thing for people to go through, and people will raise concerns. What I am saying is that I am listening to them, and last week was an example of where we not only listened, but accepted a range of points that came from the staff.

  Q260 Ian Mearns: In terms of identifying the specific needs of young people, have you done any significant mapping exercises to identify, quantify and prioritise the needs of young people in the areas that you come from? Have you done any mapping exercises in terms of the services that are out there, and how they could be better integrated to meet the needs that you've identified?

  Brendan O'Keefe: We do that as a matter of course as part of our commissioning process. We do an annual needs assessment—we're doing one right now, in fact, to support our commissioning process for next year. And yes, mapping is part and parcel of what we do. What we don't do enough of is mapping what goes on next door and slightly beyond; that's something we need to do more of. As our tri-borough mentality starts to develop in west London, we're thinking more about joint commissioning across local authorities as a way of producing better services that cost less and are more efficient in the way that they're run.

  David Wright: I would add that more local authorities are doing mapping. It's one of the key things that they do in terms of service planning, and is part of that broader contribution overall. It is not just about how you then use that for commissioning; it's about ensuring the removal of duplication and about the contribution to the overall delivery of services in the locality.

  Q261 Ian Mearns: Isn't there a dilemma for service leaders, in that there are improvements to be made in terms of what constitutes need, what sort of need there is and what the effect of measures to meet those needs should be?

  Garath Symonds: We did an assessment, which we completed last year, called "One in ten." One in 10 of our 1 million population are aged 13 to 19—teenagers. The assessment looked at a range of needs of young people across the county, by borough and district—you might know that we are a two-tier authority.

  Along with that needs assessment, we looked at what services are out there for young people, and we worked out that there are about 1,000 youth organisations across the county—about 100 per borough and district—and that there are more things to do and more places to go for young people in the county than the average young person would have the free time for. Part of our commissioning strategy is to market those activities that we don't deliver but are delivered elsewhere. That is a key thing about need and local need. A big part of our strategy is to ensure that resources are made available locally, so that local people can assign resource to need at a local level. We are now looking at presenting a localised picture of need for our local committees to make decisions about commissioning NEET services for young people.

  Q262 Ian Mearns: Do you involve young people in the commissioning process? With the route that you've identified and are going down, isn't there a danger that a greater range of services will be available to the articulate, who can access them and are socially mobile, than to people who particularly need specific inputs in order to become re-engaged in civil society?

  David Wright: One of the real benefits, looking back a little, of things such as the youth opportunity fund, the youth capital fund experiences and some of the processes that operated before was that you saw a tremendous range of young people engaged in decision making. About 900,000 people were engaged in that process, in terms of decision making. If you add in the local mayors and the local cabinets and so forth, you see a range of young people engaging more than ever in that contribution, in terms of civil society, which is a really positive thing that we need to recognise.

  One of the dilemmas is that it is often asked, "When are you reaching the hardest to reach?" I think that everyone around here would give you anecdotal evidence and examples of where you're seeing disadvantaged young people, from looked-after children committees or boards through to young offenders, being engaged in those processes, and a fundamental part of that has been the role that the youth worker plays in securing those young people and supporting them to be able to make their own judgments—not those of the youth worker, or the adult.

  Harry Fowler: There is an added issue. Our experience is that it has not been that difficult to engage those young people in all sorts of parliaments and forums and so on, but the tension arises when what they perceive to be a need differs very greatly from what the commissioning body perceives as such. Young people tell us repeatedly that they want more activities—places to go and things to do. They want health projects, help with education, and things to combat violence. They want to feel safe on buses. Interestingly, they want improved parks—they like the parks. There are all sorts of things that young people tell us, and the challenge is for adult institutions to trust that judgment and invest in it.

  Q263 Pat Glass: We've heard from Harry that in Birmingham you are looking at summits and the range of voluntary and private sectors. Garath and Brendan, can you tell us how you are involving the voluntary and private sectors in your commissioning decisions?

    Brendan O'Keefe: We have a strong relationship with our voluntary sectors, which is based around treating them as partners, rather than simply as contractors. We involve them in helping to set priorities and the sorts of outcomes that we want to see—for the whole community, not just from the local authority's perspective. We do not involve our voluntary sector partners directly in the commissioning decisions because there would be a clear conflict of interest. There has to be a separation of those functions. Our voluntary sector partners are very much part of the whole commissioning panoply, but they are not part of the actual decision making.

  Garath Symonds: We have an organisation called Surrey Youth Focus, which represents 80 voluntary sector organisations in the county. We also have Surrey Youth Consortium, which is a group of about 10 or 12 voluntary sector organisations that are not-for-profit companies, rather than the voluntary branch sector, which is based on volunteering. I work closely with them. As Brendan has said, it is about strategic partnership, and those organisations are not involved in commissioning decisions, which are based on need and priority, rather than what the voluntary sector thinks. We talk to those organisations, but they are not involved in the decision making.

  Q264 Pat Glass: Brendan, in your submission, you told us that your model with the voluntary sector "has proved highly successful." What is your evidence for that?

  Brendan O'Keefe: We have a set of outcomes to achieve on behalf of the council, and we involve the whole voluntary sector in helping us to do that. The commissioning process is based on everybody reducing duplication and inefficiencies, and pulling together in the same direction to achieve those outcomes.

  We have regular, monthly meetings with our voluntary sector organisations—I am going to one this afternoon—to engage them in the process and to ensure that they feel valued and informed about what the council is doing and its direction of travel. We second staff to the voluntary sector to help them with quality issues. We provide advice and guidance to them that often makes the difference between their folding and remaining alive, so it can get down to that sort of level. The key for us is to treat our voluntary sector organisations as partners in a process, rather than simply having a commissioning and contracting relationship.

  Q265 Chair: Will you write to us, Brendan, with the outcomes?

  Brendan O'Keefe: Yes.

  Q266 Pat Glass: The Committee has heard evidence that voluntary sector organisations feel they are being unfairly targeted in the cuts. How are you going to prevent that feeling of unfairness if you do not involve them, at least through representations, in your commissioning decisions?

  Brendan O'Keefe: They are certainly involved in representations. To repeat something that I said a moment ago, next year we are ring-fencing our voluntary sector budget, so the same sum will be included. We won't necessarily commission the same organisations, but the sum of money will be the same. One of the things that we are doing in our pathfinder mutuals projects is involving our voluntary sector organisations in the planning process because, not unnaturally, they are a little concerned about this, as we are moving on to their turf. They see us as a very big threat in future. We are talking to them about how we develop collaborative ways of working and jointly bidding for funds. In fact, we are already doing that. Two current examples are funds from the PCT and from the neighbouring local authority that we are bidding for in collaboration with the voluntary sector. I think that will help to reassure the voluntary sector that in future it will continue to be part of the local authority's drive to help young people.

  Q267 Pat Glass: Finally, what are you doing to encourage the smaller providers to come together in consortiums to bid for contracts?

  Harry Fowler: As I said, we are holding the second of a number of summits next week to try to gather together as many voluntary sector colleagues as we can. I echo Brendan's point. We have estimated that there are somewhere in the region of 1,000 voluntary organisations in Birmingham, but it is difficult to count them. We would welcome consortiums.   The problem at the moment is a capacity issue, in terms of doing a lot of work with those voluntary organisations to assess their capacity—what ability have they got to take on some of these responsibilities, and how do we withdraw while supporting them in picking up?

  Q268 Pat Glass: Are you giving them encouragement? I'm particularly thinking about the smaller ones. What are you doing to ensure that those smaller organisations can have that capacity?

  Harry Fowler: It is a new road for us at the moment. Other than the support that has already been described, we have local youth officers and workers who work with voluntary organisations. The ground has shifted. We are no longer funding those organisations. We are working in a different way, and we will be asking them to develop capacity. Our officers and workers will work alongside them to do that. But we are really at the start of that road. At the moment, we are beginning.

  Chair: Thank you, Harry. One last question from Nic.

  Q269 Nic Dakin: In his study on inequalities, Professor Marmot talked about actions needing to be universal, but of a scale and intensity proportionate to the level of disadvantage. On this idea of proportional universalisation, how do you manage the relationship between universal and targeted provision?

  Brendan O'Keefe: I think I'll write that down. One of the things that we have been able to do through the provision of universal services is ensure that young people whom you might call targeted—let's use that shorthand—do attend, and they do. It gives us an opportunity to then work with those young people in a very structured way. I can give you an example. We've had an issue with gang problems in Chelsea and North Kensington recently, which has spilled over into Westminster. A bit of a turf war is developing. The majority of the young people involved are attending our services, which gives us an opportunity to work with them very intensively around this issue. I guess that may be a demonstration of the professor's theory. Could you give me that again?

  Nic Dakin: Proportional universalisation.

  Brendan O'Keefe: I shall say that at the next scrutiny meeting and see if anybody understands what I'm talking about.

  Chair: It should really be said with an American accent. Garath?

  Garath Symonds: I'm not sure we can afford to provide a universal service. If there are hundreds of thousands of teenagers in Surrey, and I've got £14 million, I can't deliver a truly universal service. Our youth centres and youth clubs will be universal in that they won't turn young people away. In fact, they will try to attract them, whether they are vulnerable or not. The universal offer that we are going to make is around information, and we are going to provide information on a range of things—services, things to do, places to go, education, training and employment, and health services and so on. Our universal offer will be a digital one in the future.

  David Wright: I would just add that that no one should pretend that youth services are a universal service in that sense. Young people choose to get themselves involved in this process, or choose not to. They may choose to go down a variety of different routes. There are those young people who benefit from a youth-work intervention, want that youth-work intervention, and choose it in their own way. It is supporting that variety of opportunity at a local level, and making sure that once you've got that universal youth work offer, it is identified, focused and targeted on the areas of most need. That's where you bring that back into the needs assessment of a local community, and how you focus those energies. That's always been the case, and that is how it will inform the future as well.

  Chair: Excellent. Sorry, Harry, I'm going to have to cut you off. Thank you very much. It has been a very useful morning all round, and your contributions have been valued.

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