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Is there a youth offer?

In this week’s blog, Matthew Walsham from Partnership for Young London explores the issues around cohesive impact measurement for the sector and addresses the need for further support for young people transitioning into adulthood.

London’s local authorities (LAs) are facing a wide range of changes, and challenges. Budgets, priorities, and politics are just a few of the variables when delivering a youth offer. In our latest report we interviewed 22 different local authorities, creating a snapshot of commissioning in the capital. Yet with a wide range of provision across London’s boroughs, how do we compare and share the emerging evidence and good practice between them?

We found no consistent youth offer across London, with varying approaches, priorities, and levels of funding. While some LAs commission out their entire youth service to a charity, staff mutual, or a football club, others are delivering more services in-house than ever before. New models are also emerging, with a view of increasing efficiency via increase collaboration and new practice. The picture is constantly changing, and very flexible – but there has been a drive for efficiency and getting the best outcomes for young people with the reduced budget.

Evidencing outcomes have become key in both LAs and the voluntary sector when delivering services. An effective way to measure the impact of services, we found most boroughs to have some form of outcome framework. However often it would be bespoke, designed in-house, rather than an established framework like Outcome Star or the Young Foundation’s. The variation in outcome methodology, services delivered, and local contexts make compiling and comparing this data difficult. As a result, sharing good practice is limited in quantitative reach, as practice can be siloed.

Yet there has been a strong focus on collaboration in LAs, with co-production with young people, multi-agency work, traded services, partnership working, and merged services. There is also a fair amount of overlap in priorities (like obesity and NEET reduction) and commissioning practice (peer to peer approaches and youth work) so there should be scope to share outcomes from the different approaches where a LA’s approach to a specific need or statutory duty is effective.

There is some great practice taking place out there with leaders across the sectors finding innovative ways to address the gaps and the needs but it’s a very tough climate, the need to support young people into adulthood and have a youth offer is critical and it’s urgent. The stark report today in the Guardian highlighted the challenges faced by Generation Y.

“A combination of debt, joblessness, globalisation, demographics and rising house prices is depressing the incomes and prospects of millions of young people across the developed world, resulting in unprecedented inequality between generations” (Guardian 07.03.206)

We all have to be concerned about what this mean for the future of our society and how we provide support for the next generation and invest properly in them. There is a strong will and commitment in many places to do this but it’s a systemic issue and, as resources diminish further, a strong policy focus on young people and securing effective resources and services for young people is vital. It requires a strong leadership and commitment from all partners, including central government. There really is no time to delay. As Angel Gurria (Secretary General of the OECD) says “The situation is tough for young people… this is a problem we must address now urgently. Kicking it down the road will hurt our children and society as a whole.”

Matthew Walsham, Policy Officer, Partnership for Young London

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