Brent Council's Youth Offer
The paper provides information on the Youth Offer in Brent, including details on the delivery of services such as Connexions, Brent Youth Parliament, services delivered from the Roundwood Youth Centre and the newly established Brent Youth Zone website.
Councillor Mili Patel (Lead Member for Children's Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care) introduced the report which provided an overview of the youth offer in Brent and included detailed information about the Connexions service, Brent Youth Parliament (BYP), services delivered from the Roundwood Youth Centre and the newly established Brent Youth Zone website. She pointed out that the Council had not fully recovered from the cuts it was forced to make in 2015 so the majority of services for young people were targeted at specific groups. Nigel Chapman (Operational Director – Integration and Improved Outcomes, Brent Council) provided more detail on specific services and future proposals. He noted that the outcomes for young people from the Connexions service had been positive, with performance being in the top 25% nationally. The contract for this service was due for recommissioning in April 2019 and officers had been looking into ways of combining the in-house provision with the commissioned contract as per the recommendations of recent Outcome Based Reviews focused on Gangs and Children on the Edge of Care.
Mr Chapman informed Members that although the scope of the youth offer in the Borough would be reduced, arrangements were expected to be enhanced by delivering services differently. For example, the online youth offer (Brent Youth Zone) had been launched on 23 November 2018 (the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover day). It had been developed in collaboration with young people across the Borough including BYP and users of Roundwood Youth Centre. It provided information on work and learning; help, safety and advice; things to do; and ways of getting involved. Future plans were being developed to create a Youth App to further the use of Brent Youth Zone and expand its reach.
Sandra White (Sector Development Director, Young Brent Foundation (YBF) delivered a presentation on the charity’s history, current activity and future plans to work with Brent Council. Members heard that YBF had been set up in 2016 with the aim to support voluntary sector organisations, working with children and young people in Brent, at a time of severe challenges and funding cuts. She directed the Committee’s attention to the findings of the Young Brent Survey which had identified the key needs, challenges and opportunities for voluntary organisations supporting young people in Brent. There had been 120 groups and organisations, primarily focused on education, community development, arts and sports, working in the Borough supporting approximately 5,000 young people a month. One of the main challenges identified had been the lack of affordable space to be used by young people. The demand for it had been highlighted by the successful Midnight University initiative organised by The Hyde Group – Hyde Housing when the Yellow Pavilion in Wembley had stayed open until midnight. A further issue related to lack of signposting and coherence between the work of various groups and organisations as a number of them were operating in silos. Ms White said that YBF acknowledged the need to invest resources in building the capacity of organisations and enable them to become contract ready.
In relation to the rising violence and youth offending in the Borough, Members heard that YBF had been one of the 18 organisations appointed by the National Citizens Service Trust to deliver a new £2 million pilot programme to reach more young people. In addition, eight local community organisations, members of the Foundation, had joined together to offer free places to families with inactive 5 to 10-year-olds on the Fun Fit Families programme funded by Sport England and the National Lottery. The Foundation would also participate in consortium development as 15 organisations had been vetted to bid for a large amounts of money and it would support the Young Londoners Group to ensure that they delivered the bid they had won. Ms White said that YBF realised the importance of children having safe spaces and she would be working with Housing Associations and the Local Authority to identify hubs in the Borough which could be accessed by children from across Brent.
The Committee enquired about the stakeholders’ assessment of the youth offer in Brent. Ms White commented that from the perspective of YBF, the offer required improvement as closer collaboration between organisations supporting young people and the Local Authority was needed. However, she noted that the situation in Brent was similar to the arrangements in other boroughs as funding for children services had been reduced across the country. Mr Chapman acknowledged that there was work to be done to improve provision. He highlighted that the Council’s perspective on the youth offer was related to coordinating activities and providing information on what was available locally rather than delivering services directly. He said that the Local Authority was looking forward to working closely with YBF – in fact, Gail Tolley (Strategic Director of Children and Young People, Brent Council) would be meeting representatives of John Lyon's Charity (one of YBF’s funders) to look at ways the existing relationship between the Council and YFB could be developed.
Brent Youth Parliament observers referred to the options to redesign services from the Roundwood Youth Centre and questioned whether the revised model would meet the need of residents. Councillor Mili Patel explained that as the Centre was currently underused, the intention was to change its use to an Alternative Education Provision for young people aged 11-16 during the school day and use it as a hub for youth and community activities outside these times. The collaboration with YBF was expected to improve provision by maximising the number of organisations delivering services from the site. As provision for secondary school children not in mainstream education had to be sought outside of Brent, providing alternative education from Roundwood Youth Centre would facilitate access and save travel time.
A specific concern raised related to the fact whether existing users had been consulted. Mr Chapman said that a consultation on alternative use of the site had been part of the tender procedure for the delivery of Youth services that had been conducted in 2015/2016. However, no specific consultation on the current proposal had been carried out as it was subject to approval by Cabinet. Councillor Mili Patel added that one of the reasons why the Roundwood Youth Centre was currently underused might be the fact that some young people did not feel safe moving around the Borough so satellite hubs might address their needs better. Once a decision had been made, the Local Authority would work closely with YBF to identify potential sites. Ms White added that the John Lyon’s Charity had looked at a number a spaces and had proposed to develop a venue bank which would allow organisations to book spaces. She noted that once the link to it became operational, it could be circulated to the Committee.
Members commented that it had been three years since cuts to the provision of youth services had been made and asked whether assessment of the impact of the changes on the youth offer had been carried out. Gail Tolley emphasised that the paper described the youth provision at the present time, adding that the Children and Young People Department had not received a request neither had the resources necessary to assess the impact of the closures over time. She explained that Elected Members had made a decision to close youth centres in 2015/2016 and impact assessments had been made according to the guidance provided at the time. Furthermore, YBF had been created to provide a lead on community led youth services and Brent Council had been working closely with YBF which engaged young people and supported them to design services that met their needs. Gail Tolley assured Members that she had been involved in regular discussions on youth provision through BYP and the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover day.
Members referred to academic literature suggesting a connection between the reduction of children services and the increase in youth offending. Mr Chapman explained that there had not been sufficient empirical evidence to suggest such a correlation although the Council’s did not deny its existence.
It was noted that even if Cabinet approved to change the use of Roundwood Youth Centre to an Alternative Education Provision site, the Department for Education had to agree that such a use would be sustainable in the long term. Therefore, the transformation of the site would not be finalised prior to the autumn of 2019. This led to a discussion of potential interim measures that could be put in place to increase the number of activities taking place at the site. Members enquired whether it could be possible to receive a copy of the current calendar of bookings, along with an action plan to increase the usage of the building in the short term. Mr Chapman responded that it was possible to share the current timetable which reflected the fact that most children were at school during the day and the majority of services had been concentrated in school holidays. He reminded the Committee that there had been discussions with YBF aimed at increasing the number of services delivered from the Roundwood Youth Centre.
A member of the public addressed the Committee in her capacity of a volunteer at Roundwood Youth Centre youth club sessions. She stated that these had been very well attended by hard to reach young people and asked whether the Local Authority could guarantee that existing service users would be supported by continuing the club sessions during the transition period and under the new arrangements. Mr Chapman responded that the Local Authority’s intention was not to end the provision of any existing services, but to enhance the offer delivered from the site. Therefore, the youth club sessions were expected to continue operating under the new service delivery model as the Council wanted to do its best to support young people.
(i) The contents of the Brent Council’s Youth Offer report, be noted;
(ii) The following recommendations were made to the Council’s Cabinet:
· Collaboration between Young Brent Foundation and Brent Council be encouraged with the aim to improve services available to young people;
· Brent Council be encouraged to support Young Brent Foundation in developing satellite hubs for youth provision in the Borough;
· An impact assessment in relation to the future changes outlined in the paper be carried out;
· An update on future plans for the Roundwood Youth Centre be provided in six months time;
· An update report on changes to Brent’s youth offer be provided; and
· An update report on the way Young Brent Foundation utilised funds to deliver services be provided
Gail Tolley re-joined the meeting at 7:35 pm.
Helen Askwith, Councillor Wilhelmina Mitchell-Murray (in attendance) and Councillor McLennan (in attendance) left the meeting at 8:00 pm.
The meeting was adjourned between 8:00 pm and 8:09 pm for a comfort break.
 The Connexions service met the legislative duties of the Local Authority under the Education and Skills Act 2008 and the Education Act 2011.