In practice: Employment, education and training support for young people across England

Co-payment funds bring diverse branches of Government and enable a more holistic approach to support

Some young people face particular difficulties making the transition to adulthood – notably young offenders, those with poor attendance and achievement at school, and those who have been ‘looked after’ in the care system. These young people, while primarily the concern of local councils, often require support across multiple departments, including criminal justice, employment, education, health and social care – which a centralised, siloed system is not really designed to accommodate.

Ricky, Ellie and Curtis are three young people from different parts of the country. Each was seeking to move into a stable job and accommodation.

Each had challenges to overcome. Ricky lacked confidence in interviews and faced unemployment. Curtis was a bit lost after leaving care. Ellie required support generally – getting a job, housing and managing life.

In each case, these young people got help because of innovative co-payment funds, which enabled different parts of central and local government, and the NHS, to collaborate more effectively.

“I had a problem looking people in the eye when I spoke to them,” explains Ricky, from Merseyside. “Nerves got to me. So I went to interviews and never got in.” Career Connect, a local charity, worked with Ricky to build his confidence and mental resilience – then helped him to get a job as an apprentice greenkeeper at a golf club.

Curtis, from Gloucestershire, had just left care. “I was a bit scared about what I was going to do with my life,” he recalls. Adam, a coach with the charity 1625 Independent People, worked extensively with Curtis: “His confidence has grown. He is a lot more positive about the future. He is making lots of friends and he can see a lot more opportunities.”

“Innovative co-payment funds enabled different parts of central and local government, and the NHS, to collaborate more effectively”

In Bristol, Ellie, another care leaver, was supported by her coach Helly to get her first job: a council apprenticeship. But Helly’s support for Ellie goes beyond job advice. As she explains: “I will be her coach over a period of four years. So whether it is linked to the job, life in general, or housing, I will always be on hand to support Ellie and work through things with her.”

The value of co-payment

The same co-payment funds that enabled all this support backed a number of innovative, successful projects around the country, working with a range of young people: from teenagers with very severe mental health problems; to children with severe special educational needs; to care leavers and young offenders; to children who were doing OK at school, but were going through a difficult time for other reasons. But while the projects differed in focus, they shared some key characteristics. They took a holistic, long-term approach. They brought together diverse branches of government and local agencies that had previously never worked together, with a focus on innovation. And they had a clearly-articulated shared vision of what they wanted to achieve, with quantifiable success metrics. All of this was facilitated by the co-payment model.

“Having to frame future spending in terms of outcome delivery plans means that departments must work across the public sector”

This approach is gradually being introduced in other policy areas. The Refugee Transitions Outcomes Fund (RTOF) is another innovative attempt to overcome institutional silos. This initiative aims to improve outcomes for refugees by supporting their access to employment, housing, digital skills and enhanced wellbeing. It is running initial contracts in key regions across the country, including the Refugee Better Outcomes Partnership in Newcastle and Plymouth, one of the first programmes to focus on supporting refugees holistically. Again, RTOF relies on inter-departmental cooperation: it is an unprecedented active collaboration between HM Treasury, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.

According to Big Society Capital’s recent report ‘Outcomes for All’, these three ‘co-commissioning’ government funds have between them created over £1bn of value to the public purse already, at a total cost of only around £100m. The funds themselves have only paid about a third of this cost – with the remainder catalysed from other payers, including local authorities, devolved NHS entities, schools, philanthropists and private businesses. The outcomes achieved by these projects will continue to grow, as their longer-term impact is monitored and validated over the coming years.

Moving to outcomes models

The success of these projects illustrates the value of taking a more joined-up approach, with longer-term horizons and a focus on cross-department collaboration and innovation – which co-payment funds make possible. And Government has now announced its intention to move more permanently towards a focus on outcomes for all budget planning. In 2020, for the first time, central departments were asked to produce ‘outcomes delivery plans’ instead of the historic ‘departmental spending plans’. This new planning and performance framework should over time shift focus away from counting what is spent, towards investing into what can be achieved for citizens.

According to Kieron Boyle, former Head of Social Investment and Finance at the Cabinet Office, it makes the case for a more outcomes-focused approach to budget planning. He says: “Having to frame future spending in terms of outcome delivery plans means that departments must work across the public sector, with, for example, crime commissioners, mayors and councils, to achieve those outcomes. The success of catalyst pilot funds, then shared funds, and now asking departments to change the way they plan for the future, all show the way forward for more effective public services.”