In 2013, East Ayrshire Council launched their Vibrant Communities Service. The idea behind this ongoing work is to ultimately transform the way the council works with the communities it supports, making them stronger, happier, and healthier. As part of this, the council looked to reform the way it was procuring its youth work services.
At this time, the area’s youth work services were procured in the traditional fashion, but Kevin Wells, Head of the Youth Work Team, saw the need to work in a more strategic fashion. He took a look across what contemporary organisations were doing, what level of funding they were being given and in what areas. He remodelled the region into five hubs, covering the whole of the council area, and – in conversation with those organisations running their youth work services at the time – arranged for three of the five hubs to be delivered by the voluntary sector.
These hubs now work effectively, with the council having only minimum requirements on the organisations as to what has to be delivered for the money. The council also supplies each hub organisation with approximately £10,000 unrestricted income per year to ensure core operating costs are covered. Furthermore, a network has been set up which gives cash to smaller groups; this network is headed by the voluntary sector.
Kevin emphasises that the idea behind this approach is all about investing in communities, trusting voluntary organisations to get on with the job and deliver for those communities. Monitoring is a simple two-page report, and Kevin enjoys the excellent relationship the council now has with the providers. He’s saved lots of time in terms of monitoring and compliance, and is now able to have a real partnership with delivery organisations. More importantly, young people in the area now all have equal access to youth services, no matter where in the region they live.
These mature relationships have come into their own at a time of austerity. When the need for cuts in council funding became apparent in 2017, the organisations came up with the best way to do this, and Kevin agreed. Equally, when there are extra pots of money for, for example, holiday hunger, Kevin feeds those directly through these partnership organisations.
The end result has been improved outcomes for the beneficiaries, with a range of youth work now being undertaken right across the council area.