Connecting Young Hackney

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Youth
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Young Hackney

Local authority/local area:

London Borough of Hackney

The context and rationale

Young Hackney brings together Youth Service (YS), Youth Offending Team (YOT) and Youth Support Team (YST). Together, they build a dynamic, responsive and flexible service that works to ensure the widest range of opportunities for all young people and support for those who need it. Moving to this model of working is much wider than just improving partnership relationships and a better integration of services. It is a fundamental shift in culture, principles and the way we work. Young Hackney enables Hackney’s young people to enjoy their youth and support their transition to independent and successful adulthood.

Over the past several years, the individual services (YOT, YST and YS) have achieved much, but it was felt there was still much more to do. A review of the services found that a number of young people receiving services from the YOT, YST and Children’s Social Care and there was duplication of work. The Young Hackney model of working puts the focus on the skills and competencies needed to deliver services for young people, rather than on organisational structures that have led to a proliferation of specialised roles which resulted in moving a young person from one group of workers to another. 

Lead members, voluntary and community sector organisations, young people and senior managers within the council and the wider partnership across both the Children’s and youth crime reduction partnership structures, were actively involved in the review and design of the new service. In particular, the Director of Children’s Services, the Lead Member for children and young people and the Assistant Director for Young Hackney, worked together to develop the ideas for a new service that gave the very best life opportunities for all children and young people in Hackney.

The challenge for Young Hackney is to provide opportunities for all to thrive, while giving appropriate support to those young people who need it, when they need it. In all cases, young people have the opportunity to influence, shape and improve the services on offer to them.

Service design

The service has been developed around the principle of a CORE Unit which allows a group of people to work together to share knowledge and experience for the benefit of young people. Each unit is a self-directed, multi-skilled work team where expertise is shared.

The emphasis within the Unit is on creative and effective solutions. Members of the Unit take responsibility for work outcomes, continuously monitor their own performance, seek corrective action when necessary, and take the initiative to help others improve their performance. A CORE Unit comprises a Young Hackney Core Unit Leader, a Worker, a Practitioner and a Support Officer plus an additional Worker, Practitioner or Clinician.

This model moves away from the hierarchical structures that push decision making up the chain of command and limit the creativity and initiative of front line workers. Structures are designed to flex around the unique qualities of the young person rather than forcing the young person to fit into the artificial compartments defined by service silos, e.g. offender, Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).

Young Hackney is committed to evidence informed practice. This means that all decisions regarding interventions are made using a clear rationale based upon a combination of the strengths, needs, previous history and preferences of the young person and their family, an analysis of the situation using the worker’s previous experience and expertise, consideration of available resources, and analysis of the best evidence of what is likely to work in this situation drawn from research.

An awareness of and the ability to deliver interventions that are proven to work is a key capability of Young Hackney staff. Such interventions may include group work, motivational interviewing, systemic family therapy, solution focused brief therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Partnership Triage Unit and Children & Young People’s Partnership Panel
An important part of Young Hackney is Hackney’s Partnership Triage Unit. Accessing nine databases from across partner agencies (including Children’s Social Care, Education and the NHS) the team determines which agencies (if any) are already involved with the child, young person and/or their family and gathers any additional relevant information. This process provides proportionate and accurate information to enable practitioners to deliver effective and focused interventions. As the Partnership Triage Unit has been operational since 2009, the concept and lessons learnt in Hackney has been instrumental in supporting the development of Pan-London Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH).

Since April 2010, the Partnership Triage Unit has been linked to the Children and Young People’s Panel (C&YPP) a weekly forum for senior management to offer insight for cases that require more comprehensive and creative solutions.

The practice

Young people come into contact with Young Hackney in several ways:

• Walk in – providing an open and accessible service. 
• Direct partner referrals (from schools, the voluntary and community sector, health, children’s social care and out-of-borough YOTs) and referrals from Partnership Triage Unit. 
• Proactive identification – to proactively identify young people and match them to the support that can be provided.
• The police and courts – making contact with young people through liaison with police and the statutory requirements of the youth justice system.

Service redesign

This has taken place over 5 phases:

• Phase 1: Business strategy and service design (June 2010).
• Phase 2: Service design agreed and signed off by Council members.
• Phase 3: Consultation with staff, partners and service users; and operational details and phased implementation of Young Hackney.
• Phase 4: Service restructure and recruitment to vacant posts.
• Phase 5: Full service delivery in place (October 2011).

Achievements so far

Former National Indicators
There are a number of statutory functions Young Hackney is required to report upon. These include the rate of proven re-offending by young offenders and first time entrants to the Youth Justice System aged 10-17 for the Youth Justice Board. In addition, data is submitted to the Department for Education regarding young people’s participation in positive activities and the percentage of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training. Young Hackney strives to use these national standards as a minimum level of intervention rather than as a target.

In addition to these headline measures, Young Hackney feeds into wider corporate plans. These include the Children and Young People’s service directorate priorities, as well as corporate delivery plan and importantly, the community plan for Hackney as a whole.

Young Hackney
A regular and defined reporting process reflects progress against the above measures. In addition, as new staff adjust to data inputting processes, weekly ‘gap reports’ are produced to spot and amend inaccuracies in data. 

A robust performance and evaluation framework is in development. It will be underpinned by Units’ self assessment to ensure that all outcomes, intended and unintended are evidenced. Young Hackney has taken note from Project Oracle (in London) to ensure that the performance and evaluation framework can be monitored using a common language, is comparable to other projects across London and reflects the positive impact made to the lives of local young people. 

Distinct evaluation projects within Young Hackney

Partnership Triage
The Partnership Triage Unit’s remit has changed since it was first launched in June 2009 and it now accepts referrals from sources other than Police, if the family has consented to it. The work of the Unit and the work of the Children & Young People Partnership Panel will be evaluated. The evaluation will run for one year from April 2012 to March 2013. 

Young Hackney Units in Primary Schools
Three Young Hackney Units are based in primary schools, working with schools to support students in years five and six (age nine-eleven years ) and their families with a wide range of needs within school and more commonly home settings. Their progress will be monitored and evaluated as a pilot project until the end of the current academic year.

Service user feedback
Young Hackney is committed to ensuring young people are involved in the design and delivery of service and has retained its youth parliament and youth fora during a time of transition, and in addition young people are encouraged to participate further through the Olympics 2012 initiatives and consultation on Myplace building projects. Going forward, measuring achievement through consultation with young people will evolve, to ensure all views are voiced. This will take place through a hub and spoke model, with young people contributing to youth fora within their own neighbourhood.

Evidence collected so far:

HM Inspectorate of Probation 
The Core Case Inspection of youth offending work in Hackney took place as part of the Inspection of Youth Offending programme in October 2011. The inspection involved examination of a representative sample of 38 youth offending cases from the area. Six of the cases looked at, have been managed in the new Young Hackney model from the start of the order. These results are significantly better than those which started in the old model, with performance on the Young Hackney model scoring 73% on safeguarding (compared with 47%), 65% on risk of harm (compared with 43%) and 73% on likelihood of re-offending (compared with 58%).

Partnership Triage
Partnership Triage acts as a cornerstone for Young Hackney. Its role is to provide proportionate and accurate information to enable practitioners to deliver effective and focused interventions. 

During the first full year of operation it has been possible to measure outputs with the Unit processing 5,467 police referrals. Each of these referrals has a full audit trail showing exactly what information was received, when it was received, what information each agency shared, the manager’s decision and when and to whom it was ‘handed off’. 

The increase in year 2 as the Young Hackney model was rolled out is just over 10% (6054 police referrals were processed). This can be attributed to the Unit’s increasing responsibility to run checks for multi agency meetings and pre-sentence reports.

Early reports for year 3 of Partnership Triage again show a consistent increase in referrals. In addition, an increase in ‘hand offs’ to Young Hackney is emerging as cases are increasingly able to ‘step down’ from Children’s Social Care responsibility. 

Cultural change
Young Hackney staff have brought specialist skills to their roles, learnt through occupational training, education or experiential learning. These skills are essential and valued within a culture of shared professional expertise within Units.

Development opportunities
Young Hackney is at the start of a journey towards excellence. The next task is to ensure that staff are equipped with essential skills and knowledge to support effective practice with young people and their families. 

There are a range of development opportunities for Young Hackney support officers, Practitioners, Workers and Core Leaders, for example, the introductory year in Systemic Practice with Families. Training such as this is on offer to ensure that all of our activities are based upon seeing young people as set firmly within the context of their family, community and wider environmental domains. Working in this way means that we view the young person in the context of his or her whole system, rather than reacting to a specific part, action or event. 

Programmes on offer are delivered by community partners with skills and expertise in a range of practice areas and by professionals who are still in direct practice in the fields of mental health, substance misuse, disability and participation. By partnering with local agencies, we continue to build important professional relationships that enhance the service we can offer to young people. There are also a range of evidence-informed interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, multi-systemic therapy and motivational interviewing and workshops on understanding messages from research.

The aim is to stretch Young Hackney staff to develop and embed new skills and in doing so, improve outcomes for young people.

Evidence of cultural and organisational shifts 

The following quotes are from members of staff that worked for Hackney council before the transition and are now part of Young Hackney. Staff were asked about their views on how Young Hackney brings services together and what they see as main benefits (for their role) in the new way of working. 

• “There are better responses to young people’s enquiries through Young Hackney. A young person may be on an order and as the Worker has readily available information on youth provision and activities, creative and varied solutions can be found quickly.”
• “The Unit system creates more opportunities for programmes and creative youth work as each unit takes collective responsibility to feed into a neighbourhood programme.”
• “The Unit offers a clear support system, including on the job training from team member to team member, whether it is to do with new systems or with procedures to help to deliver programmes.”


Potential savings
Significant savings have been made from bringing together Hackney’s Targeted Youth Support, Youth Work and the Youth Offending Teams. A combined spend of £16 million has been reduced to £12 million though the Young Hackney model. In addition, future contributions from partners could see further reductions in total costs with Young Hackney Units based in secondary and primary schools, supporting young people in their place of education as well as in their local neighbourhood. 

The key priority for Young Hackney during the transition from three services to one was to maintain a consistent service for young people on statutory orders and retain a core offer of activities for open access service users. This has been particularly important as Hackney enters an Olympic year. Careful planning took place to ensure that experienced members of staff retained distinct roles during the transition process to mitigate risks of a dip in outputs. For example, a Core Leader has retained a 2012 youth participation role during the run up to the games.

In addition to young people, the well-being of staff was another consideration to manage, acting as a large logistical challenge. Supporting staff to exit the organisation whilst simultaneously recruiting and welcoming new starters was aided by the comprehensive seven day induction programme for all new starters. To date, four cohorts of Young Hackney induction training have taken place, ensuring that the same key messages and expectations of practice are relayed to all new staff. Once staff were in post, the configuration of Young Hackney Units was a fluid process, taking into account individuals’ skills, a unit’s specialism and the needs of the neighbourhood in which each Unit sits. 

Technology has acted as another multi-faceted challenge. The three services recorded information on different databases; these have been retained by Young Hackney.

These databases have various levels of access and functionality:

• IYSS (Integrated Youth Support Strategy), a pan-London database where users from across the region can view casework information, offering a thorough group work recording facility.
• UMIS (Universal Monitoring & Information System), a more secure host with in-depth assessment tools. 
• YOIS (Youth Offending Institutions), the most secure system where statutory offences and progress of orders can be monitored for Youth Justice Board reporting.

Young Hackney staff need to be able to move between these databases seamlessly, ensuring that all relevant information is recorded in a timely fashion on the correct database. In addition, copies of assessments, letters and other paper records are filed under the Hackney Council Document Management System. There are still challenges to overcome with regard to reporting and quality checks, with potential to bend and flex systems to fit the needs of Young Hackney. In the meantime however, the security of young people’s information remains the immediate priority for Young Hackney; therefore staff are solution-focused in their methods of office based practice.

Learning from experience
Early Young Hackney case work has flagged potential difficulties with the merger of different roles, notably when a young person is working with Young Hackney on a statutory order. Potential difficulties for staff maintaining rapport with young people in a youth work setting when holding the responsibility to uphold a statutory order has been recognised as a shift in ‘power balance’ and much discussion by staff and senior management has taken place to mitigate risks.

Subsequently, a clear ‘breach’ reporting process has been designed, allowing a worker to exhaust all methods of contact and engagement with a young person before referring to the in-house panel for a two strikes system, thus alleviating the worker of the final decision to summon a young person to court and reinforcing their role to support a young person to progress and successfully complete their order. 

Internal feedback loops and the design of a performance and evaluation framework will ensure that Young Hackney shares good practice and models successful delivery; however other organisations are also learning from Young Hackney. Expressions of interest from other London local authorities reflect Young Hackney’s bold reorganisation of services for young people. 

As highlighted in feedback from the recent HMIP Inspection, cases managed under the Young Hackney model show improved outcomes and reduction in risk for young people. We are confident that our emerging practice indicates that the Young Hackney model is effective in meeting the needs of all local young people.

Case study, a Young Hackney Worker’s view
“I’m currently working with a young person on a court order. When I met him he refused to get up in the morning and wasn’t involved in anything constructive. I’ve tried to develop his enthusiasm for cycling as well as asking him to think about how he can make a positive contribution to the community. He’s now doing a sponsored bike ride in India with Raleigh International. When he’s abroad, he hopes to work within a team to assist local communities to rebuild their homes. He is now motivated to go to college and is enjoying his own achievements.”

The Worker accompanied the young person on a 30 mile bike ride to help him to raise funds for the trip a few weeks ago: “I think that despite his troubles, he’s going to be a real success story. I think the support we’ve given him has played a part in that. Previously, he could well have been working with one youth worker on a cycle project, and a different worker on the supervision and reparation work, but now the team is responsible for all elements of his programme.”

Key leadership behaviour characteristics
The following core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL see ). 

London Borough of Hackney identified the following behaviours as key to the transformation of their service:

Openness to possibilities
YOT’s, Youth Service’s and Youth Support Team’s are nationally recognised within local authorities as three distinct services. Therefore in the case of Young Hackney, the ‘willingness to see things differently and work in alternative ways’ was crucial when introducing the radical service design to members, staff and consulation groups of service users. 

Demonstrating a belief in team and people
The CORE Unit model utilised in Young Hackney allows members of a Unit to take responsibility for work outcomes, continuously monitor their own performance, seek corrective action when necessary, and take the initiative to help others improve their performance. This reflects upon the characteristic, recognising that ‘working through others is crucial’.

The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
The vision of Young Hackney was to focus on the skills and competencies needed to deliver services for young people, rather than organisational structures that have led to a proliferation of specialised roles. This principle clearly aims to ‘keep the end user at the heart of the work’ with Young Hackney ‘having a strong set of values based on improving outcomes for children’.

The ability to learn continuously
Young Hackney has a real commitment to continuous learning, as highlighted throughout the report. The ability to ‘challenge its conceptions of itself and…learning from the experience of leadership and resource deployment’ is key to ensuring that potential difficulties for staff, including shifts in ‘power balances’ between statutory and voluntary cases are carefully considered, with best practice shared across the service.

The ability to simplify
As defined by the study, the ability to ‘develop a strategic vision is …a key element of the ability to simplify’ therefore in the case of Young Hackney, this leadership characteristic was highly influential. This dovetails other characteristics highlighted, however it is important to note that all eight are interlinked and utilised to continue to support the development of Young Hackney.

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