Validated local practice details


C4EO theme: Disability

Youth Inspection of the Leaving Care Team, North Cheam, Sutton

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Disability
  • Vulnerable (Looked After) Children
  • Schools and Communities
  • Youth
  • General resources

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

    Basic details

    Organisation submitting example

    Look, Listen, Change, National Children’s Inspectors programme.

    Local authority/local area:

    North Cheam, Sutton (but the programme runs across England).


    The context and rationale

    Background details to your example

    Between 2009 and 2011, the Look Listen Change Consortium (comprising the British Youth Council, KIDS and NCB) piloted a range of training and support materials with 33 organisations across England. The programme was called Youth4U - Young Inspectors.

    This example focuses on one of the pilot areas in North Cheam, Sutton sub-contracted by Look Listen Change to roll out the Youth4U – Young Inspectors programme.

    The idea was to encourage marginalised [i.e. those who were not already participating in other initiatives, and those whose voice does not usually get heard] young people aged 13-19, or up to age 25 in the case of disabled young people, to participate and have a voice in the design and delivery of services which are used either solely by the young people themselves or in conjunction with the rest of society. The programme would provide them with the chance to look at local services and give constructive advice to the people in charge of them and/or who commissioned them. The aim would be to improve the service for themselves, their peers and their community. This was also a great opportunity for the young people to develop new skills and be given the opportunity to complete an accredited qualification.

    What we wanted to do:
    Our premise was that service providers and commissioners want to make provision accessible to young people but often lack the know-how on how to do this. Through this programme, we wanted to work with local professionals, local commissioners and local young people to develop ways of assessing, reviewing and informing local services so they could be the best that they want them to be and make their communities stronger. As well as this, we wanted to see the engagement of all young people in all areas regardless of their life challenges. We wanted to help providers ensure their services reflected the needs of users. We also believed we could help providers to become more cost effective by ensuring the service reflects their users’ needs.

    The reasons we did this were as follows.
    • The legal basis of participation makes clear that children and young people should have their own voice in the design, delivery and evaluation of services.
    • Users who are not satisfied with services often do not use them, and pass negative messages onto others which often leads to under use and higher unit costs. Satisfied users, however, develop a loyalty that can last a lifetime.
    • Young people use some services in isolation of all other age groups e.g. youth centres. Some young people use services where they are alongside a limited wider category of the population e.g. sexual health clinics (where the 20s-40s are the dominant age group alongside teens). Other young people use a service alongside the rest of the population such as public transport. Whatever the service is, as users or potential users, the young people have views that providers can benefit from hearing and acting upon.
    • Some young people, for instance those who are disabled and who may have learning difficulties or challenging behaviour, can lose out in expressing their views, and in accessing some services at all.

    What evidence and knowledge did we draw on:
    There is a growing bank of experience that relates to supporting young people to assess services. In the 1970s and 1980s, the National Association of Young People in Care supported children and young people in care to give feedback on their experiences in children’s homes. John Major’s Citizen’s Charter included specific reference to service user involvement. The creation of Connexions services in 1999 had youth participation as a core value and gave strong support for young people to act as ‘mystery shoppers’ of services. There was a clear expectation that managers would gain feedback from service users on a regular basis. In local government, many local authority scrutiny committees work with Young Inspectors when scrutinising services.

    Through NCB and the experience of other partners, we know (and have published for the sector via Participation Works) the legal basis for the growing participation of young people in services which impact on their lives. Colleagues from NCB have spoken at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) conference, run a programme for local councillors and chaired the National Participation Forum (clerked by Participation Works). This drives the importance of children and young people leading the design, delivery and evaluation of services directly aimed at them.
    NCB and the National Youth Agency (NYA) undertook a commission from Ofsted in 2004 (Fresh Paint) on young people being involved in their inspections of local services which acts as a backdrop to this programme along with the work of all partners since that time.

    Our aims: what were we trying to achieve?
    We wanted to give disadvantaged and marginalised young people greater influence over the services in their areas. To do this, we wanted to:
    • enable young people to become more socially responsible, by supporting them in coming together to improve their communities;
    • increase the numbers and quality of opportunities for marginalised young people and give them the opportunity to improve services and enable change in their communities;
    • help marginalised young people to engage with their peers in influencing local policies and services across a wide range of issues including locality, health, neighbourhood renewal, transport and community service for the benefit of their neighbourhoods; and
    • enable young people to have much greater impact on local services by feeding back both their views and those of their peers to the service providers.


    The practice

    Further details about the practice

    What did we do? Who was involved?
    Six fully trained young inspectors from the Sutton Youth4U – Youth Inspectors team, chose to inspect the Leaving Care Team in North Cheam, Surrey. Four of the six young inspectors from the team were care leavers themselves, and as such were keen to look at a leaving care service to consider the ways in which it could be improved to help other young people in the future.

    All of the team came from marginalised backgrounds, and were young people that the support worker had worked with previously. The youngest team member was sixteen years old, and the oldest was twenty. The young people took the lead in selecting the North Cheam service, and also came up with a list of the services they wanted to inspect in the future, with Sutton Police Station next on their list.

    To set up the inspection the support worker called The Leaving Care Team and spoke to the Assistant Manager to agree a date to visit. The support worker then went to visit the Assistant Manager a few weeks before the agreed inspection to discuss the process for the day itself, as well as the wider programme, and to show some sample questions.

    A few days before, the inspection the team of young inspectors went through the inspection training to ensure their learning and newly acquired skills were still fresh in their minds.

    On the day of the inspection, six young inspectors, the support worker and an assistant arrived at the Leaving Care Team in North Cheam, Surrey, at 10am, as agreed by the service. The young people involved had chosen to attend in the morning to ensure they would be able to meet and interview service users.

    The inspection lasted around four hours, and the young inspectors interviewed a number of staff members, including a social worker. The interviews with the staff were recorded on paper, as well as on a flip camera. The young inspectors also interviewed some young service users who were there on the day. As well as the interviews, the team made observations of the building itself, including the waiting area, and how quickly the front door was answered. One of the team acted as a mystery shopper who came to the service posing as a young homeless person looking for help and advice, to test how friendly and helpful the staff would be.

    The support worker and the young people found that the service was welcoming. The staff made time to talk to the team, and to provide them with rooms for interviews and to wait in. The inspection team appreciated that the service made an effort to treat the young people well, and to give their full cooperation to the inspection process.

    What were the intended measurable outcomes?
    To be able to provide answers to the five national key questions below, to produce a report with recommendations that could be submitted to inform the service. The five key questions are:
    • Is the service accessible?
    • Is the service welcoming?
    • Is it clear what the service does?
    • How satisfied are you/do other young people seem to be with the service?
    • How are young people involved in the development, delivery and evaluation of the service?


    Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

    Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

    Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which were set at the start of the programme including:
    1. successful engagement and training of young people
    2. successful completion of assignments (i.e. inspections and reports)
    3. impact on young people
    4. impact on local authorities
    5. impact on services.

    For further information on the process and tools used to collect data see here.

    The final evaluation report for the whole of the Youth4U Young Inspectors programme showing impact data can be viewed here.


    Sustaining and replicating your practice

    Helping others to replicate your practice

    Detail on the overall costs and benefits of the Young Inspectors Programme can be found in a report for the NCB by Europe Economics here.

    The Leaving Care team and support worker in North Cheam felt that the inspection was a success as the service took the process seriously and listened to the recommendations, making changes where they could. The inspection process helped speed up some of the changes the service already had in mind and acted as a catalyst for other improvements. The young people led the process and had a genuine say.

    The Leaving Care Team in North Cheam is part of a Local Authority that is keen to ensure that the work of Youth4U - Young Inspectors, and the recommendations themselves, do not just stop at the service but go up through the corporate parents forum, and up to the scrutiny committee.

    The changes that the service made make a difference to the young people who use it, and now when they walk in, things look different in a positive way. The service is now more young people friendly, and it is hoped the changes will be sustained and improved upon when the service establishes its young people’s advisory group.

    Learning from this experience
    The inspection of the Leaving Care Team, North Cheam showed that young people pick up on different issues to adults, highlighting how vital they are to the Youth4U - Young Inspectors project. The programme works because it is well thought out and has the mechanisms to give young people the skills and reporting methods they need to make sure the report isn’t ignored.

    Top tips to share:
    1. You may be working with young people who do not speak English as their first language, so consider how you can best communicate with them during the inspection.
    2. Check in advance that young people will be using the service on the day that you plan to inspect.
    3. Feelings can run high after a service receives the report with the team’s recommendations so make sure you feedback on the positives too and offer a constructive viewpoint. Anticipate that members of staff within a service may respond differently to one another.
    4. Funding can be an issue for services. Accept that this may sometimes be the case, but continue to make the recommendations that the young people suggest.
    5. Bear in mind that some services are constrained by the building or premises they are based in.

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