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Partnerships and networks in work with young people
Partnerships and networks in work with young people

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2.4 Partnership and policy drivers since 2010

Policy and practice in relation to partnership working and work with young people have taken a different direction since the election of the Coalition Government in 2010 and are increasingly different in different parts of the UK.

In England, as a result of changes in government policy and the global economic downturn, Alison Gilchrist observes:

… it appears that formal partnerships are losing significance in terms of strategic planning and resource allocation. The Localism Act 2012 downplays their role, scarcely mentioning the word ‘partnership’, and in many areas local strategic partnerships (LSPs) are being dismantled or becoming platforms for sharing data and airing views between different local government departments, other statutory services and the private sector. In the future, they are likely to have an increasing focus on enterprise and commissioning.

(Gilchrist, 2013, p. 124)

Cuts in funding for public services have also had a particular impact on youth services, with the BBC reporting that spending on youth services in England had fallen by 36 per cent between 2012 and 2014 (BBC News, 2014).

In other parts of the UK, policy has taken a somewhat different direction. In Wales, for example, the National Youth Work Strategy for Wales 2014–2018 highlights the role that youth work has to play in supporting young people to achieve their full potential, and the importance of partnership and collaboration between different organisations providing services for young people:

… statutory and voluntary providers need to take their collaborative working to new levels, maximising the impact of limited resources and presenting a high-quality and coherent offer to young people.

(Welsh Government, 2014, p. 2)

The Strategy also states that the Welsh Government wants to see a strengthening of the strategic relationship between youth work organisations and formal education, identifying that ‘Youth work interventions have been shown to have a positive effect on formal education outcomes, behaviour, attendance and progression through key points of transition’ (Welsh Government, 2014, p. 3).

In Scotland, policy continues to highlight the importance of effective partnership working in the delivery of services for children, young people and families and also sees youth work as having an important role to play in supporting young people’s learning and achievement. ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ (GIRFEC) (2012) is a key policy initiative which is shaping and influencing policy, practice and legislation affecting children, young people and families at the time of writing. It emphasises the need for practitioners to work together, including ‘across organisational boundaries and putting children and their families at the heart of decision making’, in order to give children and young people ‘the best possible start in life’ (The Scottish Government, 2012, p. 4).

The Scottish National Youth Work Strategy 2014–2019, which has been informed by the GIRFEC approach, recognises the importance of youth work in improving outcomes for young people, including educational outcomes, and of partnership working as essential to achieving improved outcomes:

All young people, in every part of Scotland, should have access to high quality and effective youth work practice. This is what we believe and this is what we aspire to. We can only achieve this by working together with young people, Community Planning Partnerships, relevant organisations and other partners. We know we already have a great foundation to build upon. Changing the way public services are delivered is key to ensuring that young people continue to achieve the best possible outcomes.

(The Scottish Government, 2014, p. 8)

We have taken you through a whistle-stop tour of some of the main policy developments that have influenced, and are influencing, partnership working in work with young people. You may well be familiar with a whole raft of other policy measures calling for partnership working based on your own experiences of practice.

Social policy is constantly changing; it is work in progress and subject to change as government changes. As we have seen, policy is also different across different areas of the United Kingdom, a trend which is likely to increase. Rather than provide you with a comprehensive guide to social policy, therefore, we indicate the need for you to be sufficiently informed about it to be able to take a critical stance.

The next activity asks you to think about your experience of partnership working and your knowledge of current policy drivers for partnership working in your own work context.

Activity 4: Your experience of partnership working

Timing: Allow approximately 40 minutes

Make some notes describing your own experience of partnership working covering the points listed below:

  1. To what extent are you involved in partnership working in your current role?
  2. What organisations and agencies do you work with, and why?
  3. Thinking back to Himmelman’s model of levels of partnership working (networking, coordination, cooperation and collaboration), at what level would you place your own practice at this point?
  4. What are the key drivers in terms of policy that are encouraging or requiring you to engage in partnership working in your role?
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We hope this has been a useful exercise, and one which has encouraged you to consider and share your own experience and to learn from the experiences of practice of others.

We are aware that, given the speed at which policy changes, some of the information that we have provided might already be out of date by the time you come to study this material.

One resource that you might find useful in helping you to keep up to date with changes in policy in relation to practice with children and young people across the different nations of the UK is the electronic briefing produced by the 4 Nations Child Policy Network. This provides a monthly round-up of significant child policy news, consultations, documents and legislation from all four nations of the UK. To subscribe to the UK e-briefing, send a blank email to and then reply to the confirmation email you will receive (4 Nations Child Policy Network, undated).