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The Transformation of Services for Young People in Surrey County Council

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Change management

SYP embarked on a three-year change journey in 2009 to transform itself from a deliverer of services to a commissioner of outcomes by April 2012.  This demanded a wholesale decommissioning of its four historical services (Connexions, Youth Justice, Youth Development and 14-19 Commissioning) and the commissioning of a new system focussed on key outcomes for young people.   A dedicated team was established to deliver the change programme required to achieve this transformation.

The journey began with the most comprehensive needs assessment of young people ever undertaken in Surrey, drawing together data and intelligence from a wide range of sources and partners as well as the views and perceptions of young people.  It highlighted that while the majority of the 100,000 13-19 year olds in Surrey make a successful transition to adulthood, around 10,000 (or ‘One in Ten’, the title of the published needs assessment report) faced additional, often multiple, barriers to making this transition.  Designing a system that better targeted this group, who were more at risk of poorer outcomes than their peers, quickly emerged as a focus of the transformation.

Building on this needs assessment, the project team undertook an extensive consultation with young people, partners and stakeholders to co-design a young people’s outcomes framework.  The framework that emerged had a clear focus around developing young people’s economic wellbeing, the key performance measure being young people’s participation in education, training and employment (PETE) from the ages of 16 to 19.

The next stage involved options appraisal of potential delivery vehicles for the County Council’s priority outcomes and developing a business case for change.  This process explored a wide range of possibilities, in consultation with young people, staff and partners, as well as extensive exploration of how service overheads might be reduced.  It also introduced a new logic model to local government commissioning – the logical framework – which has been developed over the last 30 years in the field of international development. Following this approach enabled the design of a system where the logical links between commissioned activity and the social change that Surrey CC wanted to achieve (increased PETE) had been tested, whilst providing clarity from the outset on how impact would be measured.

Alongside this, a great deal of thought and energy went into the developing the market for young people’s services in Surrey.  The transformation towards outcomes meant a significant shift in mindset for potential providers as well as SCC staff and Members.  Particular focus was given to developing the market’s understanding of co-production, outcomes based commissioning and logical frameworks, which were to be at the heart of SYP’s approach.

The SYP business case was approved by the Council’s Cabinet in December 2010 and started a formal restructure of SYP and a procurement exercise to identify the best providers of the newly-designed operating models during 2011.  Whilst successful in achieving its intended results, the complexity of the procurement was a shock to the system for some third sector providers.  Despite this, there were examples of really innovative practice, including involving young people as co-commissioners of local services through youth task groups - decision-making panels comprising young people, elected Members and partners.  The procurement exercise won an award for ‘Best Public Procurement’ in 2012 from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, particularly acknowledging the success in reshaping the market to get better value, rather than simply squeezing the supply chain in response to budget pressures.

A final crucial dimension of the transformation was change management.  The major budget cuts faced and the time frame in which to implement the changes meant strong leadership was essential to get the process started quickly, to maintain the Council’s ambition throughout, and to overcome constraints.  Whilst the vision for change was not, at first, universally supported, the focus on outcomes and clarity of goal were key factors in its eventual success.  Alongside this, considerable effort was put into engaging staff throughout the process and protecting or even increasing front-line delivery wherever possible.

Since April 2012, the SYP model has continued to evolve in response to changing needs of young people.  During 2013 SYP re-commissioned its Local Prevention Framework, in response to an initial service evaluation, through a streamlined procurement process.  Since its inception in January 2012, the integrated Youth Support Service (YSS) has proved particularly resilient in the face of ongoing change, being identified as the best delivery vehicle for new work around homelessness, Children in Need, and mental health, whilst also establishing a re-engagement offer for young people who would otherwise be NEET.  This demonstrates the power of an integrated, holistic delivery model that places service-users at the centre, rather than services that are narrowly defined by the specific function they provide.

The change management process was also supported through continuous learning. In 2013 a comprehensive internal review was carried out by Richard Stockley and Chris Tisdall (the author of this case study) and in 2014 Birmingham University and Governance International were commissioned to undertake an external evaluation.


The SYP operating model

Youth Support Service (YSS): An in-house, specialist, integrated casework service, providing holistic, one-to-one support to the most vulnerable young people in Surrey, in particular those who are NEET, who have offended, and are at risk of homelessness.

Pathways SEND: An in-house specialist service supporting young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) during their transition from compulsory to post-compulsory learning or employment.

Year 11/12 Transition:  An externally commissioned service providing mentoring and targeted information, advice and guidance to young people who are identified in partnership with secondary schools as at risk of becoming NEET.

Local Prevention Framework:  A range of locally bespoke, externally commissioned services, co-designed by and operating in local communities.  All services are focussed on the outcomes of removing barriers to participation for young people who at risk of becoming NEET and of increasing their resilience.

Centre Based Youth Work:  Open-access youth work offered from 41 youth centres across Surrey, targeted by geographic area and by locally identified needs.  Provision is currently managed by third sector providers, with practice quality assured through the Surrey Quality Mark, developed in partnership with the National Youth Agency. 

Individual Prevention Grants (IPGs):  Currently delivered by the YSS, IPGs provide flexible, immediate funding for young people who are NEET, or at risk of becoming NEET, to help them overcome barriers to participation in education, training and employment.

Youth Small Grants:  Flexible, locally devolved funding for grants to small voluntary sector organisations to enable: more quality youth work to be delivered locally; more young people to participate in education, training and employment; and more young people to be kept safe from crime or anti-social behaviour.

Skills Centres: A daytime, co-designed foundation learning offer, based in local youth centres, to engage young people who would otherwise be NEET and to support their progression.

Leader’s Ready for Work Programme:  A mid-term adjustment to the SYP operating model that developed three learning pathways for young people: re-engagement; pre-employment; and apprenticeships.  ‘Re-engagement’ provides locally tailored one-to-one and group work support to young people who would otherwise be NEET, based on an employability curriculum and focussed on progression.  ‘Pre-employment’ develops work experience, work trial and employment opportunities for young people.  ‘Apprenticeships’ has provided grants to local employers who recruit young people as apprentices.

Surrey Outdoor Learning and Development (SOLD):  An in-house outdoor learning service that is largely self-funding through external trading.

Free meals for Year 12:  This programme removes cost of food as a barrier to PETE for economically disadvantaged young people who progress to colleges or training providers – here SCC led the way for a recent national policy change.

Gypsy Skills:  An alternative education provision developed in partnership with Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities in Surrey to engage young people from those communities in education, training and employment.

Alternative Learning Programme (ALP):  Alternative learning for young people in Year 11 who have been permanently excluded or have excluded themselves from mainstream education.

Statutory responsibilities for post-16 education and training: SYP also fulfils the council’s statutory duties in relation to education and training provision for young people aged 16 to 19 or to 25 for those with special educational needs and/or disabilities, working in partnership with local schools, colleges and training providers.

About this case study
Main Contact

Chris Tisdall

Performance and Analysis Manager
Surrey Services for Young People


Chris Tisdall wrote this case study in August 2014.

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