In our social finance work we often talk about promoting innovation and delivering public benefit through partnerships, for example between public sector suppliers, commissioners, investors and communities – but what do we mean by all of this?
The best way to illustrate what we mean is through an actual case study.
In March 2018, Wirral Council looked at adopting a new approach to support Children in Care and those who have previously been in Care of the Local Authority, known as Care Leavers. The Local Authority has a statutory duty to support these young people with housing, health, education, employment and training until they are 21 and in some cases up to the age of 25. They explored the opportunity of collaborating with some of their existing service providers (a waste service provider and a landscaping firm) to see if these organisations could support their care leavers by entering into an employment and training programme.
These discussions led to the waste company offering full-time employment and training and development programmes to a number of care leavers, thereby providing them with stability and a regular income. As part of the programme Wirral’s Children’s Services Department worked with the employer, to support the individuals with any other requirements, such as travel to work and driving licenses. The landscaping firm also adopted this programme, which in turn helped to alleviate the firm’s recruitment challenges.
To put this into context, the Wirral has more than double the national average of children in their care (at 120 per 10,000 children) and, in line with national statistics, when these individuals leave care they are three times more likely to be Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) than their peers and 40% more likely to be homeless at some point. Moreover, the cost to the council of providing for an individual care leaver who is NEET is estimated at between £20,000 and £25,000 per annum.
So the key factors here are that by approaching their service providers, with whom they already had a relationship, and setting up a training and employment programme for their care leavers, Wirral Council were able provide real support, income and the prospect of brighter futures and independence for their care leavers. In addition, the local authority is saving a considerable sum of money. The collaborating firms have the opportunity to ‘give back’ to their community and nurture their new, young employees.
This was a new approach and an innovative model set up by Wirral Council and a win-win scenario for all parties. For this reason, the Council has already extended the project to involve other service partners. In September this project also won Wirral Council the award for Best Innovation or Demand Management Initiative at the 2019 Association for Public Service Excellence Awards.
This case study shows that the best solutions to public sector challenges can often be right in front of them. It also demonstrates in practice, the benefit of genuinely considering how to achieve social value through service contracts.
Wirral Council’s former CEO, Eric Robinson, under whose tenure this programme was initiated, is an original member of the E3M Bold Commissioners Club, of which Stone King is a proud partner. Together, we work to promote innovation, encourage social value and facilitate its implementation.