Cabinet Member – Councillor Cemlyn Williams
To consider a report on the above.
*10-30am – 11.30am
To accept the report, noting the observations made - particularly in respect of the suitability of the arrangements of the Framework, the need to offer full support for young people who are at risk / disengaged from the field of education, training or employment, ensuring that these elements are addressed when reviewing our provisions in the future. Consideration should be given to scrutinising this field further, discussing the timetable for that at this committee's Annual Workshop in May.
The Cabinet Member for Education and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, along with officials from the Education Department and the Children and Supporting Families Department were welcomed to the meeting.
Presented - the report of the Cabinet Member for Education inviting the scrutiny committee to consider whether the Council's arrangements and provisions are sufficient to support young people who are at risk of disengaging from education or who have disengaged from education, training or employment.
The two Cabinet Members set out the context noting that:
· The Youth Engagement and Development Framework, introduced by the Welsh Government in 2013, was a cross-departmental responsibility.
· The views of the scrutinisers be sought on the arrangements for meeting the requirements of the Framework following the cessation of European Social Fund (ESF) funding for TRAC and ADTRAC projects.
· Everyone needed to constantly remind themselves during the discussion that this was a framework report, i.e. the framework for how the Council supports children and young people not in employment, education or training (NEET).
Members were given an opportunity to ask questions and make observations. During the discussion, the following observations were noted:
· Going forward, it was important to understand the successes and failures of the current provision.
· It was felt that the committee was scrutinising this issue too soon, or too late. The Framework itself was eight years old. Although the framework arrangements had been in place since then, some of the provisions attached to it had changed. Some of the provisions were under review. To date, the Wavehill review of TRAC and ADTRAC had identified the need for this type of support for young people, and their success was evident in the review up to a certain point, but things had changed since then, especially as a result of the pandemic context. There was also a desire to continue with these provisions, but their funding was ceasing. ADTRAC funding ended next month, and TRAC funding ended in a year. Discussions on sources of funding beyond the current European Funds were being led by the Westminster Government, but how could it proceed, unless there was a very significant change of mind on the part of the powers who fund these things?
· Collaboration was particularly important in the current difficult situation as a result of the loss of ESF funding, and multi-agency collaboration in Dyffryn Nantlle was cited as a good example of thinking outside the box.
· One of the biggest influences on young people is their peers, and it was assumed that there were young people, who were once difficult and vulnerable, but who had now turned a corner and moved on to further education, training or employment, and who were willing to talk openly to disaffected young people.
· It should be asked whether there is evidence that the decision to charge for transport to Coleg Meirion Dwyfor had been a barrier to young people attending further education.
In response to the observations and questions from members:
· Details were provided of the collaboration between the CAMHS mental health service within ADTRAC, and between the TRAC project and the ALN and Inclusion Service and the School Counselling Service.
· In terms of measuring how many young people were in employment by the age of 25, it was explained that the Service measured the outputs, or the journey of young people who engage with the programmes and provisions. In terms of ADTRAC, an infographic was provided outlining how many young people were receiving support, and had moved into education, training or employment. Of the number of young people receiving the support, 77% progressed to a successful outcome. The Service also captured the soft, more positive outcomes that the young people received.
· With regard to the lessons learnt in terms of which interventions were successful or not, it was explained that the final evaluation of ADTRAC and TRAC would outline the most successful interventions, so that they could be incorporated into core services in the future, once European funds had ceased.
· It was explained that Covid had not affected the tracking systems for young people, as the multi-agency collaboration had been brought closer together as a result of Covid. However, it had impacted on the ability to successfully engage with young people who were NEET, because face-to-face work had to end during the lockdown periods.
· In terms of establishing a mechanism for scrutinising the success of past provision, it was noted that the Engagement Framework Management Group, driving the local agenda under the Framework, would receive and discuss the outcomes of the evaluations.
· It was explained that engagement with a third of referrals to ADTRAC had not been successful, and that the reasons for this were complex, including the reluctance of some young people to engage with the provision, a lack of time within project boundaries to nurture the relationship and the engagement, and the developmental age of some of the young people. However, it was often seen that young people who left school at the age of 16, without progressing into education, training or employment, were ready to engage in employment provision within a year or eighteen months.
· It was noted that TRAC and ADTRAC coordinated transition meetings on an annual basis, thereby identifying individuals who were at risk of not progressing to training or employment, and keeping track of them to some extent. As with ADTRAC, referrals to TRAC were complex cases, with some of those children reluctant to engage with the support. On a monthly basis, up to 1000 pupils could become eligible for TRAC support. Obviously, not all of them could receive a service. TRAC undertook mapping work to identify those most in need. Tracking pupils at College was undertaken by the College and Careers Wales.
· In terms of numbers, it was explained that over the last three years, 160 out of the 470 referrals to ADTRAC had not proceeded to register with the project. Data was available for comparison with other authorities, and this could be reported in writing to the scrutinisers.
· With regard to preventing Year 11 pupils from leaving school without transitioning into further education, training or employment, it was explained that Careers Wales was a full partner with Education, and that employers, etc., could be approached so that the young people could experience and see the options available to them.
· In terms of ensuring the future continuity of the service in the absence of European funding, it was noted that an evaluation of TRAC was being undertaken regionally, together with an evaluation of the impact of Covid. It was also intended to start a local evaluation so that any gaps left by TRAC could be identified. Work was also underway to map TRAC's legacy, but it would not be possible for any new model to be the same as the current model. TRAC drew in £3m of European funding over the six years (2016-2022). Models were looked at so that the Education Department adopted elements of TRAC within existing services, utilising services such as early intervention, communication and interaction, which mainly worked in the primary sector. The inclusion services could also inherit some TRAC principles. For it to work properly, the model would have to differ to what was already provided, and be creative and flexible with regard to the needs of these individuals. It was acknowledged that there was work to be done, and this would guide the TRAC Manager's work programme over the next 18 months, so that a model could be submitted to the Education Department, whether the Council received funding for that or not. With regard to ADTRAC, the Children Department had already remodelled its provision in the Youth Service to ensure follow-up arrangements to address some aspects of that project beyond the European funding period.
· In terms of continuity of support, it was noted that the evaluation looked at how TRAC blended in with the provision of some of the Council's other services, such as the schools, the Youth Service and the ALN and Inclusion Service, taking into account where the gaps were, where they could be filled, and where the gaps would obviously remain.
· It was noted that TRAC/ADTRAC worked with other Council departments to offer opportunities for individuals on schemes such as Kickstart to gain work experience with the Council.
· It was explained, as noted in Appendix 6 to the report, that the Framework was dependent on TRAC and ADTRAC in terms of the ability to identify young people who were likely to drop out of education, or who had dropped out of education, training or employment. The uncertainty as to when was the best time to review the Framework was a cause for concern. The Council was driven by ESF funding to review the provision and arrangements, but the whole Framework was dependent on funding that ended at different times. Parts of the post-16 provision had been reviewed, with the 11-16 element still to be reviewed. The scrutinisers were asked if they were comfortable that by being forced to review in the way we currently do, we were going to address the needs of the Framework as a whole, or whether they thought something was being missed by operating in this way, while accepting, at the same time, that it was impossible to do all the reviewing in one step. Although TRAC and ADTRAC were two comparatively key projects for the Framework, these were not the only resources to help the Council achieve its goal, and it was not clear at this stage whether all the provision was now understood. There was also a need to understand the relationship of the Framework to other economic and employability programmes, such as Communities for Work and Gwaith Gwynedd. The purpose of the Framework was to ensure that all young people were engaged in education, training, or employment, but Covid, and experience of TRAC and ADTRAC as projects, had shown that work or education interventions, in the sense of the education or learning curriculum, were not what some young people needed. There were challenges around the personal development and social circumstances of young people, and there may be room to question whether the Framework itself was now fit for purpose, as it sought to produce economic outputs and outcomes for all young people, although mental health, well-being and personal development were seen to have been more of a barrier to young people getting back into education, training or employment over the last 12 months.
· In terms of targeting disaffected young people, drawing them into the Framework and supporting them, it was explained that TRAC worked with young people mainly through the schools. As the service sat within the Education Department, but was not a statutory service, it would be possible to be creative and flexible in what could be offered to these individuals. As well as working on the employability element, TRAC also worked on these young people's self-image and self-confidence, working with individuals who had behavioural problems too. Obviously, it was not possible to work with every individual, and they had to be on the TRAC radar, but the service worked with the most vulnerable young people.
A member noted that the funding question was far too complex for the scrutinisers to answer at present, and it was suggested that the committee should scrutinise the field further, and discuss the timetable for this at this committee's Annual Workshop in May. In response, it was noted that the officers would be very happy to attend the workshop, and the following were mentioned as matters requiring further attention:
· The impact of further evaluation on TRAC, and input into planning succession to TRAC.
· How would whatever happened after TRAC or ADTRAC fit into the wider provision if no funding was available.
· How to respond to changes in provision that occurred at different times, while continuing with transition and tracking arrangements, and also understanding the real impact of the changes on the young people, and their needs.
· The impact of Covid on the outcomes and experiences of pupils leaving the school system in July, not only academically, but also in terms of wider support.
It was noted that officers had been open and transparent in answering the scrutinisers' questions, and they were thanked for their work with a very vulnerable group of young people, who had significant challenges.
RESOLVED to accept the report, noting the observations made - particularly in respect of the suitability of the Framework's arrangements, the need to offer full support for young people who are at risk of disengaging/are disengaged from the field of education, training or employment, ensuring that these elements are addressed when reviewing our provisions in the future. Consideration should be given to scrutinising this field further, discussing the timetable for that at this committee's Annual Workshop in May.