Local AuthorityWhat have we been doing with Local Authorities?
Over the past year we have been working closely with our Champion Local Authorities, Doncaster, Leeds, Lewisham, Staffordshire, Somerset and Wolverhampton to develop a meaningful engagement strategy which goes further than simply asking LAs to publicise and support Care Leavers into offers that we procure.
As the people that know your Care Leavers best, we feel its important that we work together to secure meaningful offers of employment and support which meet local need. We believe the only way we can achieve this is through a whole council approach which allows all departments to look at not only what they are able to offer internally but also how they can facilitate and enable support externally from local business.
What is the strategy?
01. Awareness raising of the Covenant
Personal advisers have a role in providing support for care leavers until they are 25. Many local authorities have realised that it is important to be proactive in reaching out to care leavers to make sure that they are fully aware of the local offer. Local authority staff and others working with care leavers are urged to make them aware of the website and especially the Covenant App.
In order to take advantage of the Covenant offers, can download our App and register with Connects. The App lists opportunities across the country in six categories, but the vast majority focus on education, training and employment. This strategy presupposes that personal advisers have regular meetings with care leavers in their area at which Covenant opportunities could be discussed.
Connects will keep care leavers up to date with relevant work, education, and recreational opportunities as well as information about support they may be able to access. In addition to this by being signed up care leavers will be automatically entered into the give-aways each month.
02. Council Tax exemption
A very direct way in which many councils (over 50 per cent) have sought to help care leavers to live independently is to recognise their vulnerability by offering council tax exemptions up to the age of 25. Given the financial constraints on councils this may be difficult for all councils to offer.
Nevertheless, it remains a powerful means of supporting care leavers in gaining the financial stability which underpins successful independent living.
All local authorities, as good corporate parents, are encouraged to follow the lead of many in offering council tax exemptions to all care leavers up to the age of 25.
Wolverhampton City Council, like a growing number of Councils, has taken the bold step to exempt all care leavers from Council Tax up to aged 25.
03. Ring fenced training and employment opportunities
The national picture is that only 52% of care leavers are in education, employment or training (EET). Local authorities remain major employers in their area. They also work with SMEs to provide services, not least in maintaining the housing stock. Local authorities could be ambitious and aspire to helping 70-80% of care leavers to participate in EET.
One simple way that local authorities can improve their care leavers’ EET rate is to provide ring-fenced and supported opportunities in the Council. For example, a dimension to Warwickshire County Council’s Local Offer has been to ring-fence apprenticeships for care leavers within the Council. They currently have eight of their young people either working or about to start work within the Leaving Care Team, Participation Service and transformation team, including one young person who was an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child.
The purpose of the Covenant is to promote new opportunities for care leavers
including the opportunity to gain work experience through internships. Internships vary greatly in duration, remuneration and progression opportunities. The Covenant is
promoting internships for care leavers which would meet the following minimum criteria:
- Duration – they should last for a minimum of 12 weeks;
- Paid – they should ideally match, or exceed, the ‘living wage’ for the area;
- Support – they should involve some additional support measures, in particular, a mentor or workplace coach;
- Certified – they should have certification attached to the skills acquired;
- Progression – they should have the opportunity for progression into a real job opportunity, such as a guaranteed interview.
“One simple way that local authorities can improve their care leavers’ EET rate is to provide ring-fenced and supported opportunities in the Council. For example, a dimension to Warwickshire County Council’s Local Offer has been to ring-fence apprenticeships for care leavers within the Council.
They currently have eight of their young people either working or about to start work within the Leaving Care Team, Participation Service and transformation team, including one young person who was an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child.”
04. Social value policy
Under section 106 of the 1990 Town & Country Planning Act, agreements can be struck between developers and local authorities which are attached to planning permission. Public procurement can thus be used to secure social value. Under the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 (SVA) local authorities can consider social value as a criterion when judging tenders for services. In principle, local authorities could write in the requirement to offer internships to care leavers when making public sector contracts over £100,000.
In the National Social Value Themes Outcomes & Measures (TOMS) Framework 2018, a principal theme is promoting skills and meaningful employment. Proxy values are attached to social value benefits such as new posts, weeks of apprenticeships and work placements. Spectra has supported two champion local authorities in reviewing and redrafting their social-value procurement rules to provide a new focus on care leavers. Spectra is also working with ENGIE, a major national provider of services to local authorities, to develop a coordinated strategy for internships to form part of procurement.
Local authorities could revise their Social Value Policy to ensure that meaningful offers of work, apprenticeship, internships and work experience for care leavers are a standard part of procurement practices. To support this element of the strategy we have worked with Trowers and Hamlins Solicitors, leaders in the local government procurement space to develop a toolkit which Local Authorities can use to help them achieve this. Click here to access the toolkit.
05. Economic development
Many local authorities have established significant relationships with SMEs in order to enhance economic growth. For example, the City of Wolverhampton has relationships with 300 SMEs. Cheshire has promoted their relationship with 65 SMEs willing to provide meaningful offers to the care-leaver population. Leeds City Council has an annual week focused on employer engagement, coupled with a comprehensive strategy. There appears to be a willingness in local companies to support care-experienced and other disadvantaged groups in their local community. Care leaving teams can work closely with regeneration and community development colleagues in the local authority to bring their local businesses into the ‘corporate family’.
Local authorities could work with SMEs, local employer groups and other partners to set and meet ambitious targets to increase the number, range and take up of EET opportunities for care leavers. Local authorities could host annual, social-value events for local businesses aimed (in part) at connecting them to the mission of the Care Leaver Covenant and creating an increased number of ‘offers’ to care leavers.
Cut across all the above is the need for a ‘whole council approach’
It is clear from the first annual report of the National Implementation Adviser that the local authorities that have made most headway in improving outcomes for care leavers have adopted a ‘whole-LA approach’. This means accepting that responsibility for being a corporate parent does not solely reside with those people and departments that have ‘care leaver’ in their job descriptions. We would argue that cabinet members, senior leaders from the executive, including economic development should form a self-organising group to take the agenda set out in this paper forward.
Local authorities could form a cross-department, working group to address the recommendations made in this guide.
“Manchester City Council has developed and driven through the social value measures using a whole Council approach involving Executive Members, Members, Chief Executive, Strategic Director of children and Education Services, Senior Management Team, Heads of service and all employees involved in procurement and commissioning activities.
They have done this using three key groups these include a; Social Value Governance Board, Social Value strategy Board and The Ethical Procurement and contract management subcommittee.”
The strategy is supported by SOLACE and was launched at their annual conference in October 2019. Following the launch of the strategy in October the Covenant wrote out to existing champions and those who had expressed an interest in becoming one of the trailblazers for the strategy and to trial the social value tool kit.
Seventeen Chief Executives put their authority forwarded and subsequently sent a representative to the toolkit launch which took place at Trowers and Hamlins in March. We are now looking to work with these authorities moving forward to implement all areas of the strategy with particular focus on point 4 relating to social value policy and ascertaining what meaningful offers can be secured via contractual arrangements.
“Staffordshire County Council have developed a foundation to employment project which provides work experience for young people; this scheme has links to over 60 local employers and achieves a number of permanent offers of jobs. This is backed up by a multi-agency working group that looks at all issues relating to employment, education and training.”
Who are our strategic partners?
As our strategy involves a whole council approach, we are pleased that SOLACE is a key partner, engaging councils at Chief Executive level is key to drawing in all elements of the council and ensuring accountability.
We continue to work with the LGA to engage Local Authorities at members level and appear in their updated guide for Lead members responsible for Care leavers outlining the main points of the strategy and how Lead members can ensure accountability.
As well as Covenant board members, Trowers and Hamlins are our legal procurement specialist partners and as leaders in the field of public procurement are authors of the social value toolkit for Local Authorities.
To further our ambitions around social value procurement we have successfully lobbied and worked with the Social Value Portal to ensure that Care Leavers are recognised as a separate beneficiary category within in their Themes, Outcomes and Measures (TOMs). This will enable Local Authorities to expressly request support for this category via their procurement process and potential ‘weight’ social value in this space. It will also allow organisations and businesses to report activity for this group.
Who are the Trailblazers?
How can other Local Authorities get involved and how can the Covenant help?
We would encourage all Local Authorities to adopt as many elements of the strategy as possible to support their care leavers in the best way possible.
We remain committed to securing meaningful offers for Care Leavers across the country based on our five outcomes. As a minimum therefore we would ask that all LAs implement point one of the strategy which involves raising awareness of the Covenant with all staff who work with Care Leavers and with Care Leavers themselves. For this purpose, at the very least they should be aware of the website where offers are posted and where possible download the app. Where possible we would be happy to attend a briefing for staff or provide materials for you to do so.