Shared ownership of local growth is our collective goal

November 13, 2014, by Tom Stannard. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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Column originally published in the Local Government Chronicle on 5 November 2014.

This year’s Solace summit in Liverpool gave us plenty to think about.

The big challenges facing local government over the next parliament include increased demand in statutory services, heightened risk in child protection, place-making for districts, counties and metropolitan councils alike, and of course, the core issue of growth.

Growth for growth’s sake is meaningless. What we need is sustainable, equitable growth, shared across a place, with equal access to the benefits and proceeds for affluent and deprived communities, whether the authority is highly prosperous with a strong economic base, or highly deprived, facing substantial structural economic weaknesses.

Chief executives get this agenda, and are working hard to support elected members to deliver it. We heard on the one hand impatience from Mark Rogers, the Solace president, about the pace and shared accountability for improvement.

On the other hand, we have Sir Derek Myers, past chair of Solace, and his upcoming report, which will redefine the transformation challenge for councils, with substantial changes in demand management and ‘irreversible’ service change likely to feature highly.

Growth cannot come second to debates on managing austerity and statutory services and if the mood of Solace members is anything to go by, it is unlikely to do so. For district, county and metropolitan chiefs, growth is just as important.

Increasingly muscular English local enterprise partnerships, and the advent of combined authorities, make this a great opportunity for local government, as shared ownership of growth becomes the norm.

Only this week the RSA’s city growth commission demonstrated in a major new study that devolution to cities would deliver a 5% productivity boost to the economy, equivalent to boosting economic growth by £79bn a year by 2030. After the Scottish referendum, devo-max, or the newly coined ‘devo-met’, are increasingly powerful arguments for growth, with councillors and Solace members championing this cause to government.

At NIACE I’m pleased we are playing a transformational national role with local government in this area. Our new prospectus for English LEPs and combined authority areas launches this autumn and will showcase the large-scale applied regeneration and development programmes we have already completed across the UK to tackle the adult skills crisis that could hamstring the recovery, and will show how we are rolling these out across the country.

We’re supporting local government do what it does best: to articulate local needs and drive a collaborative strategy to tackle these. After one of the best Solace summits in many years, it’s great to see a renewed energy and confidence about this across a local government going into the next parliament.

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Could a new localism lead to the creativity and innovation needed in our sector?

November 6, 2014, by David Hughes. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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For a while I thought that the devolution debate, which flared up around the time of the referendum in Scotland, would sneak into the background. And then the Chancellor announced that Greater Manchester was set for significant new responsibilities and budgets, including some more control over skills spending. Whatever the rights and wrongs, and politics, of the requirement for Greater Manchester to have an elected Mayor, this was an important signal about the landscape in the next few years.

It is very clear that a new localism, as we called for in our general election manifesto in June, will be high up on the agenda for the next Government, whatever the make-up. In part this is because of a genuine shift in thinking about how best to run the country. I am sure though that it is also about how to drive change when there is no new money to spend. For NIACE and those interested in lifelong learning there are many opportunities, as well as the obvious worries.

Our position set out in our new 2015 Localism Prospectus is simple – we want local areas to develop the social partnerships between employers, public bodies, people and communities which can set out long term plans for employment and skills, leading to sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This will, if done well, lead to stronger and more vibrant and tolerant communities, as well as more people able to learn throughout their lives.

In our work with Local Enterprise Partnerships, local and combined authorities and all of the main political parties we are advocating simple, practical and effective ways of working at the local level. We want to see more action on literacy, numeracy and digital skills; a new approach to ESOL; vibrant Community Learning Trusts; integrated employment and skills; a focus on progression for people from low pay into better jobs; more support for people in work to understand their options and access new skills, traineeships and apprenticeships, which help people carve out genuine careers; and a concerted effort to develop an effective and accessible ladder of learning opportunities from level 2 through levels 3, 4, 5 up to postgraduate study. A new localism can help make this happen alongside our priority actions we set out in our manifesto.

Maybe the new localism will provide the space for creativity and innovation we need to overcome the pessimism which continual funding cuts have inculcated in our sector?

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How Winchester University supports care leavers to succeed

October 31, 2014, by Guest Blogger. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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There are many care leavers who, with the right support and guidance from learning providers and social services staff, gain a degree. The latest in our series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week is an account of how a care leaver has been supported to learn at Winchester University.

When I was applying to universities some of them asked for additional references to support my application. I am a member of the Surrey County Council Care Council, and the lead staff member quickly provided me with a reference which helped me to secure my place. Additionally, my personal advisor helped me to plan for the university move by telling me about what I was entitled to financially. This included a weekly allowance to pay for my accommodation and another to pay for my living costs. She helped me to contact the university finance team and arrange for a weekly standing order of my accommodation allowance to be set up and paid directly from my account to the university. Accommodation fees are normally paid in three termly instalments but the university was very helpful and supportive in setting this up. My personal advisor also told me that I would receive a bursary through three instalments during the year. She told me the dates that I would receive this money so I could include them in my budgeting plan and so keep on top of my finances.

My first week of university

When I picked up my keys to move in to university halls I was given an unexpected one-off credit to a catering card for use in all of the university cafes and restaurants. This relieved a bit of the pressure of cooking my own meals while I settled in. During the first week of freshers, a member of student services who worked specially with care leavers invited me to meet up for a chat. When I met her, she explained the support the university offered and also told me that I could contact her with any problems I might have or whenever I fancied a chat. This made me feel more secure and confident that I would be supported. The student services advisor also told me about the King Alfred scholarship which the university offers to care leavers and she gave me the amounts and dates of when each instalment would be paid into my bank. She also passed on my contact details to a member of the Widening Participation Department who was keen to employ care leavers, to work with children in care and care leavers in the surrounding areas of Winchester, at events that promoted higher education.

During my first year of university

I was employed by the Widening Participation Team. This helped me to earn some useful money as well as gain experience to add to my CV and the course I am studying. The advisor from student services continued to email me every so often to check that I was okay and to let me know of any events involving fellow care leavers at the university which I may be interested in. An intern working for the Widening Participation Team also set up a support group for care leavers to attend and meet each other. Lastly, my personal advisor from my local authority kept in touch and was always available to discuss my finances with me.

My first year experience of university has been an extremely positive one. I have been able to settle in to university halls, live independently, make many new friends and achieve academically. The pastoral and financial support that I received from my local authority Personal Advisor and staff at the University of Winchester before starting at university, on my first week and throughout my first year, has definitely helped me to succeed.

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Peterborough Regional College offers vital support for care leaver students

October 30, 2014, by Marie Koupparis. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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Next in our series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week, Nikki Pledger, Welfare Adviser at Peterborough Regional College, outlines the ways in which the college works to support its care leaver students.

Peterborough Regional College’s mission is to ‘raise aspiration, realise potential and inspire success through high quality education and training’. This mission underpins the Looked After Children and Care Leavers (LAC/CL) strategy to continue to raise learner success rates, raise learner outcomes and progression rates into FE, HE and employment and to widen participation through providing high quality student support mechanisms.

We are currently supporting 86 LAC/CL/Unaccompanied Minors. Success rates of LAC/CL learners improved by 3% in 2012/13. The target for 2013/14 is 86% and is currently at 92%.

We have developed strong collaboration with local authorities and other organisations supporting learners pre and post 16 with protocols/data sharing agreements. This has included the ongoing identification of learners from looked-after backgrounds pre-application, entry and on-programme.

We monitor the attendance of our LAC/CL and this has helped improve the attendance rates by 10%. A weekly attendance report goes to the local authorities/social workers/PAs who will make contact with the young person if attendance is low and arrange a meeting to discuss this and action support if required.

We arrange termly meetings with local authorities allowing us to work closely with the corporate parents. These have enabled us to develop and implement smarter strategies and ways of working including the setting up of the weekly attendance monitoring. The need for additional support has been recognised in these meetings and has led to enrichment activities being designed specifically for the needs of these students, for example, at the request of an LA, we set up a basic cookery course for unaccompanied minors to support independent living.

A ‘Welcome to Peterborough Regional College’ event came from these meetings as it was recognised that there needed to be something put in place to ensure the right support was given from the outset. This event is for local authorities, foster parents, carers and the young people to provide information and raise aspirations. It incorporates application, IAG/study/career progression information, transition and on-programme support, services available, key college contacts and complete applications for bursary. Our calendar of enrichment activities and parent evening letters are sent to LAs to ensure that they are made aware of these events.

We regularly review and update literature to ensure all are aware of contacts and support available including funds learners are entitled to and referral points.

We continually look for ways to remove barriers so we provide ‘in kind support’ such as luncheon vouchers and local transport vouchers. Another positive impact is the payments made for the vulnerable bursary. We have tailored these payments to meet the needs of the students. For example, we now make weekly payments throughout the academic year (44 weeks rather than 36 weeks) this prevents financial barriers when returning to study after the half term breaks.

We provide a range of flexible programmes which were described recently by an Ofsted inspector as probably the best provision he has seen. In achieving the Customer Service Excellence Standard in December, one of our key strengths was working with hard to reach groups. In February the British Council described our pastoral support as exemplary. All applicants to the college are guaranteed an interview and the guarantee that a suitable course will be found for them.

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Hampshire County Council’s route to progression for young adult care leavers

October 28, 2014, by Guest Blogger. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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Continuing our series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week, Jude Robinson, Service Manager for Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council, outlines what is being done to ensure that young people leaving the care of the local authority have the best possible chance of progressing positively into further learning or employment.

Our Internship Plus (Traineeship) Programme provides children in care/care leavers with paid work experience and bespoke training, usually at level 1 or level 2, to support their progression to a full apprenticeship, or other employment. The Government’s Traineeship framework is funding the scheme and it forms part of the wider Hampshire Youth Investment Programme which gives young people apprenticeship opportunities within the County Council. This will provide 1,000 employment opportunities by 2018, and of these 150, will be for care leavers through our Internship Plus (Traineeship) programme.

Our programme is already having a positive impact on the life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people – 53 have started the Internship scheme, and of those completing, 50% have gone on to an apprenticeship, employment or further learning.

One intern on the scheme struggled to achieve in education due to time spent in care, changes in accommodation and health issues. She found it difficult to find work, particularly the kind of employment or work experience which could lead to the opportunities and professional training she aspired to. She had a series of casual jobs and became homeless.

Through our Programme, she is now working in a role that offers valuable experience. She is studying for an NVQ qualification in Business Administration and is hoping to gain an apprenticeship within Hampshire County Council. She now has a settled home life and is working towards a career in accountancy.

Another intern had a similar background, missing out on education while in foster care. He had never worked and found it hard to engage with those who wanted to support him. Our Programme has provided him with a job with in an outdoor-based role that he really enjoys. He has undertaken training and is currently studying for qualifications in maths and English functional skills. He hopes to gain an apprenticeship with the Council, when his internship finishes.

Finally, in her own words, one young person described her experiences on the Internship Plus (Traineeship) Programme:

“The main reason I decided to take part in the programme was to help improve my confidence. I had been in college since I left school and I had never worked before. I felt the programme was a great opportunity to see what working life was like and what would be expected of me.

“I enjoyed everything about the programme. I really enjoyed working as part of a team, meeting different people and telling them about the service.

“I’m now working at the County Council, full time, as a Technical Officer with Trading Standards. The programme helped me gain the knowledge that I needed for my current role. Getting the job has also been a real boost to my confidence. It is great to be working and to be earning my own money. I would definitely encourage other young people in care to get involved with the Internship Plus (Traineeship) Programme.”

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