2.1 Context and background to partnership working
The concept of different agencies working together for a common good isn’t something new. Work with young people and with communities has always involved some degree of collaboration with others, and there has been a recognition for some time that different professionals need to be able to work together effectively in order to meet young people’s needs. Before the advent of the welfare state, for example, local authorities worked alongside voluntary organisations to deliver welfare. Developments in the 1960s and 1970s, including education priority areas and the community development projects, combined a number of features of more recent partnership initiatives, including inter-agency working and community participation, and were targeted at areas seen to be most in need (Balloch and Taylor, 2001). The Thompson Report, which reported on youth work in England back in the early 1980s, also recommended that:
The Youth Service and other services dealing with young people should develop the means of working together. It is the responsibility of management to foster collaborative arrangements with other services, whilst respecting the independence and proper role of each. This will encourage the most effective use of funds, staff and facilities.
What is different now is the emphasis that recent governments have placed on the development of partnership working, particularly in relation to the delivery of public services.
Policy during the years of the Labour Government of 1997–2010 had a strong focus on joint working between agencies and on partnership across a wide range of public policy, including in education, health, regeneration, and crime and disorder. Partnership working became ‘the new language of public governance’ (Sullivan and Skelcher, 2002, p. 1). Partnership was a central theme in government approaches to work with young people, and work with children, young people and families more broadly, both at the level of policy coming from Westminster and within policy emanating from devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which increasingly had (and continue to have) legislative power in areas relating to work with young people.
Key policy drivers in partnership working in the field of work with young people in these years included work done by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU).