Exhibition and Events Tender for Government Departments
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Funding Central Business Information Web Portal Service Contract
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RM2619 Cabinet Office Recruitment Services
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The Centre for Social Action – Rehabilitation Social Action Fund
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Government Procurement Service Recruitment Framework for Healthcare Professionals
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A roundup of expert advice from our recent live discussion on youth services that are being spun out of the public sector
Brendan O’Keefe – head of young people’s services, RBKC
Mutuals give youth services a “fighting chance”: If youth services stay in the local authority we risk a slow and painful demise. Opting out and forming an independent mutual gives us a fighting chance. It presents us with many more options for funding, trading new contracts and social finance. It’s risky and, I don’t mind saying, daunting. But we have done our homework and we have a sound business model. We also have 100% backing from the local authority.
Staff need to be behind the decision to adopt a mutual model: The biggest challenge is convincing staff it’s the right thing to do. You can present as many graphs of doom as you like but you have also to present a compelling vision of an alternative future outside the LA. Having a strong mandate from staff is critical to taking a concept like this forward.
Put youth at the heart of decision-making: We have two places reserved on our board of directors for young people. That places young people in governance and not simply in a consultative role.
Pitfall to avoid: Don’t begin with survival as your sole aim. You must have a credible service offer that someone will want to buy. Without that, you are just putting off your day of reckoning.
Clare Oakley – general manager for public service mutuals, The Co-operative Group
Mutuals are about people: Writing the business plan or selecting the governance structure are elements which are important, but the critical factor is how individuals are involved in the process in such a way that they have ownership of the end products, understand their future business and understand their role in it. This takes time and effort.
Kevin Ford – chief executive of FPM
“Spinning out” youth services is a necessity: I think the driver is a mix of necessity/Hobson’s choice – local government cannot afford to fund youth services (discretionary spend) in the face of demands for spending on statutory duties. Local authorities need to find new ways to provide – driven by cost savings.
Funding is key to youth mutual spin-outs: The future of any youth mutual spin-out will be ultimately tied up with funding. Offloading responsibility for provision to a mutual does not solve the funding problem – services still cost money. It may lead to new sources of funding and new ways to provide services but we must assume that local authorities will continue to provide a significant proportion of funding in this area.
Qualities needed for a successful youth mutual: Vision, enthusiasm and persistence. Plus willingness to take risks. All things that many young people have in abundance.
Kevin Jaquiss – social enterprise legal specialist
Cost saving will now be the main driver for youth service spin-outs: In crude terms, a better way of delivering services with some trading freedoms (which council departments do not have) is the only way of retaining the service. The alternative in many cases will be death by a thousand cuts or something even faster. This seems to me to be wrong but it is what is happening and we have to work with it. The good news is that the pathfinders in this area are finding it possible to develop viable business plans.
Sarah Warman – co-operative lead, Young Lambeth
New approaches are required to maximise resources: At these difficult financial times we need to look at new ways of working and ensuring that the resources we do have are used most effectively. In Lambeth, our approach is defined by placing service users (young people) central to the approach.
Give youth the opportunity for decision-making: In the Youth Lambeth Co-operative (YLC), young people (aged 11-19) can become members and will be represented on the steering group and board. We are also building apprenticeships into the staffing structure, and are aiming to have four in place within two years. Young people will therefore be involved in all aspects of the YLC’s work and decision-making.
Abraham Lawal – young person working on Young Lambeth Co-operative
Greater participation allows young people greater ownership: Involving young people in shaping and deciding services should lead to better services and better use of money. With more ownership, young people will not only have a better understanding of the ins and outs of commissioning and service provision, but they will also value their services more. Young people and the community haven’t been involved as they should in discussions and decisions which affect them – and it’s therefore not surprising that they may feel unfairly targeted.
Tim Decamp – head of mutuals, Cabinet Office
Mutuals provide staff with more control and direction of an organisation: From what we’ve seen from our live mutuals, staff say it feels really different, that they feel more engaged in the direction and purpose of the organisation and feel more able to contribute to its direction as well as innovating more readily and successfully.
More information on mutuals: There are plenty of case studies on the MIS website – from a variety of perspectives.
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You ran a story that jobcentres were requiring jobseekers to conduct a strengths test as a condition of receiving benefits, and described the test as “bogus” (Report, 1 May). Neither of these claims is correct. The test is not a requirement and jobseekers cannot lose their benefits as a result of not doing it. Furthermore the test is not “bogus” as claimed in your story. It was only described as such because one blogger found they could game the test when putting in certain unusual sequences of answers. Like any test of this kind, meaningless responses to the questions will lead to meaningless results. The test is supported by a strong academic literature including widely cited refereed journals. We too often define people by what they cannot do, rather than what they can. Exercises such as this test help rebuild self-confidence and identify character strengths, such as being good with people. It would be a shame if that confidence, and help, is knocked by a cheap exercise in showing it is possible to game a test.
David Halpern Cabinet Office behavioural insights team, Professor Martin Seligman University of Pennsylvania