Social enterprise focus for Devon Youth Service future

Posted on: 21 June 2016

Social enterprises and organisations pursuing a public service mission are being invited to put forward their plan for the future running of Devon’s youth services.

Devon County Council approved proposals to divest the service to an independent organisation, such as an employee-led public service mutual or other social enterprise in October last year, and is now welcoming bids from those who want to deliver the service on their behalf from 1 February 2017.

Cllr Barry ParsonsCllr Barry Parsons, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the youth service says the move is designed to protect the service from further budget reductions, while aiming to keep youth workers to continue running the service for young people and their communities.

He said:  “We have seen youth services disappear in some parts of the country and we want to avoid that happening in Devon.

“Young people have told us how much they value youth services, as do we, and that’s why we want to safeguard their future, working together to achieve a vibrant service that meets their needs.

“However, Government funding will continue to fall, and while the service remains part of the council and subject to financial constraints, its future viability is in question.

“Having worked hard over the last few years to focus our resources on supporting vulnerable young people, we now want the service to have a firmer footing.

“The Council will retain responsibility for the service, commissioning the new organisation to deliver it on the council’s behalf.

“We are confident that this is the best way to protect the service’s future for young people, while trying to ensure that the staff, who are already known within their communities, continue to provide the service.”

As there is a limited market for the provision of youth services, Councillors also agreed plans to create an independent employee-led social enterprise that could spin out from the Council, and bid alongside others for the contract to run the youth service.

Cllr Parsons continued:

“We believe that there is potential for the service to develop and expand if released from Council control, just as youth services elsewhere in the country have done. Creating an independent social enterprise from the existing service will provide the greatest potential to manage costs while providing consistency, continuity and sustainability for young people and maintain the service’s strong local links with community groups.”

The new provider will be expected to continue the broad range of early help and support services for children and young people, and their families, currently offered by the Council’s in house youth service.

This includes an open access youth service at the eight youth centres across Devon, targeted work for vulnerable young people and advice, guidance and support to voluntary and community groups that work with young people.

They will also be required to provide alternative provision for secondary schools to purchase for pupils with additional needs as well as offer Duke of Edinburgh programmes to young people via youth centres and a number of specialist centres, groups and organisations aimed at enabling and supporting those with special educational needs, at risk of exclusion or not in education, employment or training.

Those interested in bidding for the contract, which will be awarded for an initial three year term, need to register online. 

The tender closes at 12 noon on Monday 25 July 2016.

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