Shropshire Council juggles with youth service changes (updated 17 August)

Shropshire Council has published its invitation to tender for youth service support (see below).

Shropshire Council is determined to become a “commissioning council” and divest itself of as many operational and financial responsibilities as possible. That includes youth services throughout the county.

Its initial plan was to create youth boards of young people across the county to assess local needs and commission local youth activities. But pilots and consultations made it clear that this option is deeply unpopular with young people. They just don’t want to participate in bureaucracy.

The council now plans to “test new methods of local commissioning of youth activities, involving local joint committees and young people.”

Local joint committees (LJCs) were seen as central to Shropshire Council’s operation when they were launched with the formation of the unitary council in 2009. In the intervening years, as Shropshire Council become centralised, LJCs have been marginalised. This year, their grants for community projects were stripped away. Now all LJCs are looking to redefine their roles in the community and in relation to Shropshire Council.

It would have been helpful if the proposed trials had been discussed at the Young People’s Scrutiny committee before being launched. The decision on the trials, as is usual these days with Shropshire Council, was made in secret by the portfolio holder.

I am not against the proposal, though it will need radical changes to the way LJCs work before young people will wish to engage. We will need to look carefully at how the pilots work, especially whether they generate genuine involvement by young people.

Here in Ludlow we have an active Youth Partnership, which draws together Shropshire Council, councillors, the town council, housing associations, volunteers and many others to share information and organise events. (Look out for the Youth Festival at Wheeler Road on 17 July). We are expecting the Youth Partnership to merge with the Ludlow Community Alcohol Partnership. It perhaps makes sense that the merged group becomes part of the LJC.

But I have a nagging concern that we will end up talking and reporting at the expense of taking actions if the LJC becomes an overarching monitoring body.


Decision

The decisions made by Gwilym Butler, the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Libraries and Culture on 2 July were:

That the Council continues to operate the maximum number of youth work sessions possible, in areas of highest social need, until 31st March 2015 reflecting the outcomes of the consultation on the interim model 2014/15.

(b) That the Council undertakes further work to test new methods of local commissioning of youth activities, involving local joint committees and young people, ahead of the new model being implemented in April 2015, reflecting the outcomes of the consultation on the future commissioning model. This second phase of testing will be evaluated. Findings may lead to further refinement and a final model, to be agreed by the Director of Commissioning in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Libraries and Culture.

(c) That the Council seeks to procure a youth activities partner to provide infrastructure and commissioning support for local joint committees and organisation providing youth activities to ensure that the Council’s statutory responsibilities are fulfilled. The final decision of choice of provider will be made by the Director of Commissioning in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Libraries and Culture.


Update 17 August 2014

Shropshire Council has issued an invitation to tender for youth support services. This reveals that the pilots agreed by Gwilym Butler on 2 July are not trials of whether LJCs and youth services go together, but are about finding the right LJC & youth model. The annual funding for the new arrangement is £130K. The future of Shropshire Youth Association remains uncertain (unless it wins the contract).

From the European Journal:

The service will provide two distinct and related functions:
1. Infrastructure support for community based organisations which provide activities for young people (10-19, up to 24 with learning disability)
2. Commissioning practice support to Local Joint Committees (LJCs) who are responsible for commissioning youth activities in their area.
The service will provide information, advice and guidance to community based youth activity providers.
It will also provide information, advice and guidance to Shropshire based local governance boards who are responsible for involving young people in the planning and delivery of youth activities, based on needs.
The contract will start with a LJC development phase on 5th January 2015.
Full implementation is expected to begin on 1st April 2015 for a period of two years.
The maximum funding available for the development period is £15,000.
The maximum funding available for the full implementation period is £130,000 per year.
The contract will be for an initial period of 26 months with an option exerciseable on behalf of the council to extend for a maximum further period of 2 years.