Transforming Youth Services from Direct Delivery to a Commissioned Service

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Youth
  • General resources

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

  • Delivering better outcomes for young people by increasing the impact of targeted youth support and development

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Hammersmith & Fulham Council

Local authority/local area:

Hammersmith & Fulham Council

The context and rationale

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham has redesigned the way youth provision is delivered for its young people by moving from a direct delivery model to a commissioned service. The Council now has a small youth commissioning team that manages contracts with a range of third and private sector organisations who deliver the local youth offer. This has led to significant financial savings. 

Strategic Approach

Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s vision is to create a borough of opportunity, where communities can help themselves. This includes helping young people to become active citizens within the communities in which they live. In order to achieve this, Hammersmith & Fulham wants community and voluntary organisations to deliver services within their own communities, giving young people a hand when needed to enable them to pursue purposeful lives and to achieve economic well-being. 

Previous Operating Model

Until April 2011, the Council operated a direct delivery model, where youth workers were employed to deliver services from Council-owned youth projects, a range of back office staff were employed to support frontline workers and a number of Council- owned facilities were run. In addition, a small number of third sector organisations received grant funding in order to support the direct delivery provided by the council. In 2010, the council operated, or grant aided, 11 youth projects across the borough for 38 weeks a year. Hammersmith & Fulham has 9,800 13-19-year-olds and 12,800 11-19-year-olds. The current NEET (not in education, employment, or training) rate is the lowest ever in the borough at 4.6 per cent. This model engaged 2,940 young people in 2010/11.

Putting Strategy into Practice

Following a consultation with over 1000 young people on their desires regarding youth provision, the local authority embarked on a service redesign, from a direct delivery model to a commissioned service.

The new operating model is one that commissions the local youth offer, rather than the Council directly delivering it. The Council now has a small youth commissioning team that manages contracts with a range of third and private sector organisations who deliver the local youth offer. This model allows service delivery to be altered where needed, such as during the London riots of 2011, where delivery was maintained through the disturbances, and an enhanced offer by providers was provided quickly, which contributed to there being very little action in the borough by rioters.

Hammersmith & Fulham has developed a community led approach to the delivery of youth provision, through the commissioning of local community organisations to deliver services. This approach is based on the principles of improving quality, increasing engagement and producing efficiencies. 

Being a Leader

The programme of change around the local youth offer was not about replicating services or delivery approaches by other local authorities. Hammersmith & Fulham wanted to deliver services that were based on the needs of residents, through listening to their views and developing a service model that was able to contribute to the outcomes wanted for young people. An Education and Social Learning Flow has been created for young people who attend school for formal education, then go onto social learning in youth projects on school sites and who are then able to continue this personal and social learning through community based youth provision, creating a learning flow from 8.30am - 9.30pm daily.

The practice

Resident Involvement

In 2009, the Council undertook a consultation with over 1000 (10 per cent) young people via a questionnaire distributed to all schools, youth clubs, leisure centres and libraries. Focus groups with 80 young people were also carried out. 

The profile of respondents was as follows: 
• 60% of respondents were male and 40% female
• 70% of respondents were aged 12-16
• over 87% of respondents gave their ethnicity, with 33% being White and 24% Black or Black British. 

In this survey, young people voiced the following preferences for youth provision: 
• Young people wanted to take part in activities in a variety of locations: schools, parks, leisure centres and youth projects were the most popular. 
• Young people were willing to take one bus or tube ride to attend activities.
• During school holidays and weekends, young people wanted to take part in activities in the afternoon and late morning.
• Young people wanted to hear about opportunities through a variety of mediums, including websites, posters and leaflets, and through schools.
• Young people identified activities/projects that they would like to engage in against the following five sections in the questionnaire:

- Being creative: street and urban dance; photography; painting; drama; IT.
- Being healthy and active: football; swimming/watersports; basketball; dancing; ice skating; gym; tennis; trampolining
- Volunteering and opportunities to make a difference: work with children; sports coaching; media; work experience
- Getting involved: putting on youth events; young people’s magazines; youth forum; deciding how funding should be spent
- Getting advice: careers; homework; health.

To summarise, the survey demonstrated that young people wanted:
• a mixed economy of opportunities, 
• structured activities,
• pathways and progression,
• to be able to contribute to community life,
• information, advice and guidance.

In addition, wider stakeholders were engaged by holding a series of events on the proposed model. 

Engagement with Organisations

In May 2009, the Youth Service held three consultations across the borough with the third sector and community organisations, as part of a larger consultation around youth services that included young people and council officers. Over 100 organisations delivering services to young people were invited to take part. These organisations were invited from amongst members of the local voluntary sector support organisation and those registered with the Council’s Community Investment Team. The events were held across the borough at different times to allow as much of the third sector as possible to engage in the consultation.
The consultation looked at the proposed Youth Service delivery model, what was currently working well for young people across the borough and areas that needed to improve. The consultations also looked at improving collaboration to improve outcomes for young people. A summary of the key findings are below:

• Geographical spread: activities should be delivered in a variety of different premises, locations and times across the borough (non-Council buildings).

• Early intervention: ensure opportunities for young people are marketed and target support at those most in need.

• Workforce development: there needs to be an avenue for practitioners and providers to share good practice and work jointly to develop staff.

• Partnerships: improve partnership working between schools, the Council and between third Sector organisations to maximise resources.

• Participation: increase the number of opportunities for young people to be involved in service design, delivery and evaluation.

• Progression: increase the offer for young people to receive accreditation, leading to new pathways.

• Resources: offer resources that are not one off, for example two- or four-year funding.

• Communication: have good quality information on services and keep the third sector informed of developments.

The current service offering is based on this consultation.

Market Development

In 2009, it was recognised that the potential local market to deliver youth provision was not fully developed. The Council initiated a capacity building programme within the community and voluntary sector to enable it to be ready to compete for contracts under the new commissioning arrangements. In order to do this, an approved list was established that assessed organisations’ suitability to deliver youth provision. 

The Council advertised for organisations who were able to deliver services to young people under the following six categories:
• sports/fitness/well-being 
• arts/fashion
• digital media/film/photography 
• music/performing arts 
• business/study/careers
• other 

Organisations completed a range of pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ) in order for the Council to assess the quality of their provision. This also included carrying out reference checks. 

The list was advertised at the same time as the Third Sector Investment Fund Process, which allowed organisations to also indicate on this application that they wanted to be an approved provider. The form was then pre-populated with this information and issued to organisations for them to complete any additional questions.

As part of the Third Sector Investment Fund Process and the advertisement of the approved list, a range of application workshops were offered by the local voluntary support organisation.

Throughout 2010, a number of small-scale specifications were issued to the list, which enabled organisations to practice making bids against a specification. This gave them experience throughout the year of work valued between £3,000 and £10,000. This also allowed organisations to think creatively about collaborating for big contracts.

A total of 50 organisations were on the list. All youth provision in Hammersmith & Fulham is now delivered by organisations that were on the approved list.

Since 2010, Hammersmith & Fulham has delivered its youth provision by commissioning the voluntary and community sector. In 2010, the Council used this method of providing holiday programmes for young people aged 11-19, which led to an increase in participation of 50 per cent in the first six months of the year. 

In 2011, the Council completed its commissioning of youth provision, with community youth projects, commissioned to the local voluntary and community sectors. Contract arrangements have also been entered into with community schools, for new school-based youth projects across the borough. As part of the needs assessment for service redesign, the make-up of community schools was explored, looking at those pupils that live in 0-10 per cent Deprivation Band and are eligible for Free School Meals. Over 50 per cent of borough residents that attended these schools fell within this category. In early 2010, the Council started a dialogue with these schools, exploring the options for on-site youth projects. All schools agreed and have developed their own model for delivery, which includes, in some schools, lunchtime youth provision. Schools have a contract with the local authority, which sets the service requirements, the curriculum framework and outcomes to be achieved. Schools directly employ their youth workers and decide on the programme content against the curriculum framework. 

Each provision gives a different learning offer based on the needs of the young people in the local community within which they work. However, this is based on the Council’s overarching youth curriculum framework, which is divided into eight areas:

• citizenship and participation
• health and well-being
• recreation and leisure
• information and advice work
• environmental education
• equality and diversity
• creative and expressive arts
• education, employment and training

An example of this is that during school holidays the programme is not only delivered from youth projects, but also from a range of locations across the borough, such as parks, leisure centres, schools.

Ensure Youth Engagement in the Service Offer

In 2010, to ensure that providers were delivering what the local community wanted, a group of young people, with the assistance of Council Officers, set up the Youth Commissioners’ project as an exit strategy for the Youth Opportunity Fund Panel. The group has been trained in the commissioning process, enabling it to be involved in making decisions on what activities and services are funded for children and young people within the borough. The young people undertake the following:
• drafting of service specifications and evaluation criteria
• assessment of applications
• giving feedback on project plans against service specifications
• monitoring visits to the provision and providing written and verbal feedback.

Achievements so far

Value for money benefits
• approx. 300 extra youth project sessions per annum (1685 per annum now)
• 10 extra weeks of evening youth projects (from 38 to 48 per annum)
• 2 extra youth projects available for young people (from 11 to 13)
• youth projects now available 6 days per week, rather than 5 (Saturdays added) 
• provision now delivered on school sites as well as in community buildings
• approx. 20% increase in take-up from 2010 to 2011
• disposal of council-owned facilities in order to support corporate priority of debt reduction.


The savings have been £1.1m over three years; this included in-house reductions during the process of commissioning out services.

The Council has been able to make these substantial savings and improve the service offer by:
• reducing back office staff managing a directly delivered service, to a small team of commissioners
• disposal of Council-owned youth facilities and the use of community facilities
• third sector organisations being able to use their commissions in order to bring additional revenue into the borough to supplement commissioned activity
• schools opening up their buildings to contracted providers.

The Council still offers the same types of provision, but in a different way, and in fact, offers more than previously, as demonstrated above.

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.)

Hammersmith & Fulham Council identified the following behaviours as key to the transformation of their service:

Openness to possibilities – listening to what our young people say and translating this into services they want to access, and that we had never thought of, such as school-based youth projects.

The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system – gaining commitment from the sector that this is the right direct of travel and ensuring it is part of the service redesign. 

A focus on results – Focusing on service improvement and value for money were key for us in implementing this redesign which has proved successful, with increased engagement at a reduced cost.

The ability to learn continuously – taking the learning from this first stage of commissioning youth provision to the next level, as we embark on retendering exercises.

C4EO golden threads:

• Know your communities
• From good to great
• Unite to succeed.

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