Reduction of NEETs in North East Lincolnshire

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Youth
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Young People’s Support Services (YPSS) and NEETs Strategy Partnership

Local authority/local area:

North East Lincolnshire Council


The context and rationale

North East Lincolnshire Council has built on its successful work with local partners and agencies, to integrate relevant services in order to reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training, in its locality.

Over the past four years North East Lincolnshire has achieved a significant and sustained reduction in young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs). This has been against a backdrop of a stark economic climate, a global recession and a shrinking cohort. In 2009, North East Lincolnshire was commended by Ofsted for good practice in work concerning NEETs and achieved a green flag in the comprehensive area assessment. North East Lincolnshire has experienced a year on year reduction in NEET young people and is currently outperforming its 10 statistical neighbours in relation to NEET young people.

This piece of work has been a demanding and challenging undertaking, involving Careers Advisers who begin the work at the start of Year 11 and Personal Advisers and Youth and Community Workers from May onwards. The successful results would not be achieved without the partnership approach with the two Further Education colleges and the network of apprenticeship providers, who all play their part. NE Lincolnshire is convinced that this achievement signifies that it is in touch with 100% of this cohort, including those that are educated out of the borough. Achievement of the September Guarantee results in intensive careers guidance for those who need more time and support to make decisions about their next steps post- Year 11. July and August result in more intensive work in relation to outreach and home visits to those harder to reach young people to ensure 100% reach.

The integration of the former Connexions service in 2009 into the Local Authority’s Young People’s Support Service (YPSS), coupled with the transfer of the North East Substance Team into the existing Youth Service, brought together a range of services under the umbrella of YPSS. This presented a number of challenges for NEET work, not least the need for continued reduction of NEETs, effective deployment of resources according to need and efficient service provision. Monthly analysis of data helps to identify gaps in provision, cohort make up, and qualification levels. Identification of locality needs supports the deployment of resources. The move towards an integrated Management Information System (MIS) further supports performance data and ensures robust analysis and tracking. 

The changing financial landscape also acted as a catalyst for change and has accelerated thinking in terms of creativity, ‘low cost/no cost’ ideas and the ability to deliver evidence-based outcomes and demonstrable impact. Partnership and collaborative working, robust data and evidence based practice have always been integral to the effectiveness and success of the reduction in NEETs, and it is these success factors that are driving the NEET agenda forward in three main areas:

• The NEET strategy group has been an important element of the success with NEET work. It was recognised that in order to achieve further reductions in NEETs, the NEET strategy group need to be reframed and reviewed and achieve more connectivity with our partners in the private, public and voluntary sectors. A series of workshops and consultation events have been held with our partners and key stakeholders to ensure strategic cohesiveness and connectivity;

• Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA): a series of workshops have been held with staff, key partners and stakeholders to provide an overview of OBA principles and evidence-based outcomes and impact. YPSS has adopted the OBA framework in relation to the service plans and to link into the council’s priorities; 

• Integrated system: the merger of four Management Information Systems within YPSS into one system. This will be in four phases from June 2011 to March 2013. It will enable a more cohesive approach to the work that is undertaken across the whole service in reducing the number of NEETs and also in the tracking of young people and will contribute to the reduction in currency lapses.

The range of opportunities for young people to access support or engage in a range of courses or training across the borough that are tailored to meet individual needs has been revised and reviewed. The local authority provides 1:1 support in information, advice and guidance (IAG) for young people in a range of settings, including schools, colleges, training providers, young people’s centres and community based venues. The Young People’s Support Services (YPSS) also offers a ‘drop-in’ duty system from a central and satellite locations and targeted support for teen parents is provided through a multi agency forum. Further targeted approaches for vulnerable groups are in place, in order to enable them to overcome any particular barriers to learning and to prepare them for post-16 transition.

NEET work is to be further enhanced by the provision of duty on the YPSS mobile provision and, in addition, regular appointments from community-based access points across the borough are being developed. 

NEET work is enhanced and supported by the provision of IAG both in post-16 provision and at the point of transition, including a GCSE and A-level results service. Other approaches such as the provision of an annual interactive Careers Fairs enables young people and post-16 providers and employers the opportunity to interact and discuss ideas about next steps and future direction.

Online application, guidance and prospects are also offered via the Lincs2 website and centres of youth provision have attained the IAG Gold Standard quality mark.

The practice

Previous success with the NEET strategy and the need for change has propelled thinking in term of six key challenges:

• Who we are 
• What we do 
• How do we contribute?
• How much do we do?
• How well do we do it?
• What difference/impact has it made?

This has become the vision for the Young People’s Support Service and all evidence of impact is based on these six key principles.

The removal of the National Indicator set provided the platform for a different way of thinking and to this end the service has embraced the principles of Outcomes Based Accountability. The strategy is being embedded across all areas of the YPSS. Three key drivers have been identified, one of which is the reduction in NEETs, a direct and key priority and outcome of the corporate council plan. These drivers form the basis of the YPSS service delivery plan.

In addition, a decision was taken to involve partners and key stakeholders in the NEET strategy forum with a more strategic remit and to give the group more connectivity to other strategies and groups across North East Lincolnshire. Central to this is the inclusion of key stakeholders from the community and private sector and senior members of the local authority ‘change board’ that includes representatives from small to medium sized businesses within North East Lincolnshire, of which there are a significant number. Connectivity with other strategic partners promotes a shared responsibility for the NEET agenda and this has been driven through various consultation events, OBA workshops, an interactive Careers Fair, the development of work experience provision, and a commitment to and proactive promotion of increasing apprenticeship placements. 

Central to the success with NEETs has been the effective deployment of Personal Advisers according to need. Personal Advisers are community-based according to the levels of NEETs in the area and caseloads are allocated and based on a simple formula. Caseloads have a maximum of 40 young people for a full time worker (pro rata for part time staff) and comprise those young people who are both available and not available to the labour market across the 16-18 age range. All NEET young people have a named adviser who has contact with the young person every two weeks. This ensures that we have regular and sustained contact with the young people and are able to intervene and broker support at an early stage. All young people have an assessment of need once they have been NEET for 6-8 weeks and an action plan in place by the 12th week. 

In addition, partnership agreements are in place with all post-16 training providers, Job Centre Plus, housing associations such as YMCA, the Foyer Federation, colleges and sixth forms and there is a regular flow of information in relation to those that are in employment, education or training (EET) or about to become NEET. This ensures that data in relation to NEETs and EETS remains valid and robust. Personal Advisers are able to respond early to any issues, thereby improving retention levels and preventing young people becoming NEET. 

Currency lapse work is another essential element in ensuring that the data held is accurate. This work takes place every month and includes face to face interviews, telephone contact, outreach work in the community, provision of IAG etc. In September of this year, contact was made with 2,300 young people who were known to be EET to ensure that their situations remained valid and up to date. This meant youth work staff and PA teams working evenings and weekends to reach young people at home, in their communities, youth projects, etc. in order to ensure that as many young people as possible received the right information and support. All destinations whether EET or NEET have an expiry date relating to the validity of their current destination. The length of this currency varies according to the type of destination, e.g. a full-time college course will have a one year currency and NEET has 3 months. All must be contacted prior to this expiry date. This is mainly undertaken through outreach visits in the community to last known addresses, obtaining occupancy lists from the education and training providers and by telephone contact. If currency expires then destinations become ‘Not Known’ and this inflates the ‘Not Known’ figures. Low levels of ‘Not Known’ ensure that data is robust and ensures that small numbers of young people fall into the ‘Not Known’ category. The process for categorising young people as ‘Not Known’ is subject to quality checking and has a robust system that ensures that all possible avenues for tracking have been undertaken. 

NEET data is collected and analysed on a monthly basis and this is disseminated to key partners and stakeholders. This detailed analysis informs how provision is commissioned. Consultation with NEET young people has also helped to shape provision. A consultation exercise identified a number of accredited training routes that young people wished to access and, in collaboration with the voluntary and private sector, the identification of a small funding pot helped to provide bespoke training. Examples were forklift training, safety passport, security licences and motor vehicle courses. The impact and outcomes were evidenced through case studies and the successful progression of young people into work and learning within three months of completing the training. The courses funded also met the needs of the local employers.

The following quantitative and qualitative data are evidence of success:

North East Lincolnshire has experienced a year on year reduction in NEETs to 6.6% in October 2011, against a target of 7.5%. NE Lincolnshire is currently outperforming its 10 statistical neighbours in relation to NEETs.

A low percentage of 'Not Knowns' signifies that NE Lincolnshire is supporting the highest percentage of young people and the data is accurate and robust. In North East Lincolnshire only 2.5% of young people aged 16-18 in October 2011 fall into this ‘Not Known’ category, against a target of 8.7%. 

In relation to the September Guarantee, provisional data indicates that 98.3% of young people in Year 11 were made an offer of learning or training, from a cohort of just under 2,000 students. For Year 12 it stands at 94.6%. This is another improvement on 2010 achievements.

In addition, there is/are for example:

• Sustained reduction in NEETs month on month – verified data from DFE, also monthly centre reports;
• Annual Activity Survey;
• Comparative data with statistical neighbours is available from NCCIS website;
• Case studies to monthly reports and written statements;
• Written testimonies – anecdotal evidence;
• The aim of driving change and creating opportunities for work and learning – NEET strategy group;
• Proposals for pilot projects in relation to the creation of pre-Apprenticeship schemes – Change Board;
• The aim to drive for increased apprenticeships within North East Lincolnshire – Change Board ; 
• Organisational change and cultural shift within the organisation. Commitment from partners to effect change for young people. Membership reviewed and reframed resulting in increased attendance at the NEET Strategy Group;
• Successful implementation of phase one of an integrated MIS – project plan and lessons learned;
• Development of regular stakeholder workshops – OBA workshops with NEET strategy board, members of change board and the adoption of OBA by the local authority;
• Reframing performance so that this work is not seen in isolation. This is supported by the utilisation of OBA as a performance management framework for YPSS. The introduction of Performance Clinics and evidence based practice on a monthly basis.

Replication

Barriers/ Challenges 
Organisational change: the service is still undergoing a restructure and continuing to operate against a backdrop of financial constraints. The change in culture will take time to permeate through the organisation. 

Communication and transparency are key success factors. It is an essential component of what we do to enable key stakeholders to understand and appreciate the impact this work has upon broader outcomes and communities within the borough.

Advent of an all age guidance service and the transfer of the responsibility for guidance to schools is likely to impact on the NEET agenda in future years.

Closer collaboration with partners and contribution to the 19-24 cohort. 

External factors and short time constraints for the introduction of a new MIS.

New policy documents will drive and shape the direction of travel, e.g. Building Engagement, Building Futures, Positive for Youth. 

Costs: 

There is an investment in retaining some Personal Advisers and youth workers. However, efficiencies can be demonstrated by integrating key teams and individuals (based upon identified need). Emphasis on and investment partnership is crucial. 
North East Lincolnshire has a combined role in the Youth Support Manager who manages teams across a number of functions and this may include youth work, drug and substance misuse, youth crime prevention, NEETs or the careers service, for example. 

The Youth Support Manager post is at level NJC 37, which costs £39,740 including on costs, and a Personal Adviser is at level NJC 29, which costs £31, 643 including on costs.

YPSS has retained 50% of the Careers Advisers to deliver a service to targeted and vulnerable groups and placed 50% of the service, which is the universal careers guidance offer, as traded service. This equates to approx 32 full time equivalents across both careers and NEET themes. Personal Advisers (PAs) working as NEET specialists have been retained. 

NE Lincolnshire is currently in the process of developing a combined guidance offer for young people within the borough. This includes partners such as North East Lincolnshire Council, Job Centre Plus, Colleges, Serco, Business Education and Enterpise Partnership to create a further enhanced offer and ‘Earning and Learning’ Centres across the borough, offering combined training for staff and duty systems for the 16-24 cohort.

Initial costs in purchasing a new management Information system are £100,000.

Potential savings: In addition to delivering more concise information across service areas, savings will be made over the next three years as the four different MISs are integrated into one; both on capital and resources. This will offer an estimated saving of £320,000 over a five year period.

Learning from experience: Lessons have been learned from the completion of the first phase and the integration of the Connexions database. In addition ensure:

• Regular data analysis of the NEET cohort to inform planning and provision.
• Dissemination of information to key stakeholders and partners.
• Regularly revisit the allocation formula for caseloads based on need.
• Review processes and systems (inputs) to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

Connectivity: Ensure that relevant and appropriate relationships are fostered with key stakeholders and that there are shared vision and values. Open communication and buy-in from key partners and stakeholders.


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 http://www.c4eo.org.uk/themes/files/resourceful_leadership_dcs.pdf). 

North East Lincolnshire identified the following behaviours as key to the transformation of their service:

Openness to possibilities
North East Lincolnshire has focused on performance improvement and refocused on real impact and improved outcomes based on identified need for young people in North East Lincolnshire. Consultation with young people was central in the identification of needs and key issues encountered by NEET young people. This approach allowed bespoke training to be commissioned to improve outcomes for NEET young people.

The ability to collaborate
Collaboration and partnership working has been pivotal in working to implement change. A key element of this standard has been assessing and widening the resources and capacity to deliver focused work. This included utilising all resources available, including buildings, skills and knowledge from the local community and third sector. 

Demonstrating a belief in team and people
The model is based on team work and NEETS are allocated according to need in a locality area. Caseload capacity for a full time Personal Adviser is pre-determined, and by using a simple formula, NEETS are allocated based on a minimum of two weekly contacts. Reductions in NEETS have been achieved through partnership working using a collaborative and integrated approach.

Personal resilience and tenacity
Resilience and tenacity are characteristics of those who work within ever changing landscapes. Within North East Lincolnshire it was important for the workforce to embrace the principles and rationale for caseloads and allocations. This required a high level of resolve, belief and determination to lead the changes through and to validate the rationale and the potential for improved outcomes.

The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
The ability to foster commitment from the workforce to the new approach and to obtain buy in from key stakeholders to focus on solutions, guide and steer the direction of travel through monthly strategy meetings. There was a belief that resources were being allocated according to need and this was underpinned by clear intelligence and monthly analysis of data. Decisions were based on a clear rationale and logic and fostered enthusiasm and commitment across the partnership.

Focusing on results
The adoption of Outcomes Based Accountability as a framework for performance improvement. This new approach will demonstrate impact and improved outcomes for young people. A structure of monthly and quarterly performance measures and clinics have been introduced and are designed to improve, monitor and review performance to keep delivery on track.

The ability to simplify
A complex structure for the delivery of services for young people has been simplified to focus on local evidence-based need. There are clear measures of success based around partnership working and integrated delivery. 

The ability to learn continuously
By using an integrated, locally focused approach that is monitored and measured centrally, North East Lincolnshire Young People’s Support Services will be able to facilitate the sharing of good practice with real case studies and examples of how needs are being addressed, coupled with the ability to demonstrate real impact and improved outcomes. The model recognises the pressure on public services and public spending and has incorporated flexibility into the approach. 

Golden threads:
• You can do it
• Know your communities
• Culture not structure
• Prove it

 

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