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Commissioning coproduction in youth services - a blog from the front line

Coproduction at the heart of reshaping youth services in Cornwall

Like many Local Authorities across England, Cornwall is not alone in grappling with the tightening public purse. The challenge is on to continue providing youth services which make a real impact on young people’s lives, and reduce the need for complex and specialist services. For the past year we have been working with nef on a specific approach to transforming youth services, focussing our commissioning on outcomes and embedding co-production in the design and delivery of all youth services.

Coproduction and Outcomes Based Commissioning are big concepts, which, through a range of activities, we are beginning to apply in practice to deliver positive change for young people.  One of our first steps was to coproduce with young people, and key local partners, the priority outcomes that are viewed as most important to young people in Cornwall. These will become the basis of the support we commission.  We are also working with young people as peer researchers and are holding workshops to identify better ways to communicate in the future. Young people are gaining new skills through this work, and we’re able to use their insight and experience to improve the services we commission.

We are working with young people leaving care and local providers to design a programme of engagement that will maximise their opportunities for progression into education, training or employment and which will be co-delivered with the young people themselves.

We are also investing in developing local networks that can support co-production to thrive across Cornwall. We are piloting Learning to Lead projects in a range of settings, from primary schools to secondary schools and community groups.  The Learning to Lead model puts young people at the heart of coproducing solutions to local issues and equips them with the skills and support to take action on issues of interest to them.  We hope to pilot six learning to lead initiatives across the county in the next 12 months. We also hope that these networks may form the basis of a future approach to Young Commissioners in Cornwall whereby groups could have control over devolved commissioning budgets to allocate against their local priorities.

We are also exploring the development of a Young Person’s time bank which could reward young people with time credits for their time, efforts and ideas in shaping, delivering and evaluating services.  They can then redeem these credits for within the time bank network. So for example, a young person might earn a credit by mentoring a younger student, and be able to redeem the credit for an hour of someone in the network fixing their bike.  We’re working with young people to identify what rewards they would value in return for their contributions to help us shape the nature, content and functionality of the future Young Person’s Exchange in Cornwall (and no doubt they will come up with a far better title for it than we have!).

We are still on a journey in Cornwall. There is still more to do and it has posed some interesting challenges, but we are committed to this way of working and are learning more all the time.  

 Penni Barker is a Strategic Commissioning Manager in Cornwall County Council's Youth Services Team. 

This is the third of a series of blogs written by different people involved in the Transforming Youth Services project.  You can find out more about the project here, e-mail, or follow us on twitter (@nefsocialpolicy) #transformingYPS to stay in touch with the project as it progresses. 

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