YPF Trust asked a group of independent consultants from the INTEN partnership, to look at the work of the Foundations both before and during COVID-19, and also to consider what the future might hold for their model of working with children and young people.
Read the full report here

Blog from the INTEN partnership.......

Five years ago, John Lyon’s Charity observed with dismay the decline of youth services in the London boroughs.

Years of austerity had taken their toll, and many local authorities had reduced or even withdrawn their support. Small local charities and community groups, at the forefront of work with children and young people, were in a desperate strait, with far too many going under. John Lyon’s Charity concluded that this just had to be addressed.

But how? The answer, it was believed, was to build afresh a local system of support. One that could encourage a positive spirit of collaboration among front-line organisations, and engage the local authority and businesses, and anyone else who could help. At the same time a method was needed to raise funds locally, and from further afield, and direct money where it could make the biggest difference to children and young people.

And so in 2015 the first Young People’s Foundations were established, in Brent, Barnet and Harrow. Others followed in Camden, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Outside London, Young Manchester was set up in 2017.

What have they achieved? YPF Trust asked us, a group of independent consultants, to look at the work of the Foundations both before and during COVID-19, and also to consider what the future might hold for their model of working with children and young people.

We were impressed by what we found. Each Young People’s Foundation is small (typically with three to five core staff) but together they have raised a total of £19.3 million for local work with children and young people. Of this over half (£9.8 million) is sourced from outside the specific local authority area.

In a few cases, notably in Westminster, some substantial resources have been raised from the private sector. However, elsewhere such efforts, while still worthwhile, have been less productive. A reflection of the woeful state of corporate social responsibility in this country, perhaps?

The Foundations’ good local knowledge has enabled the distribution of funds deep into the local community, reaching parts which have previously been overlooked, and where very frequently the need is greatest. They have often deployed funding in ways which have drawn on the resourcefulness of young people and their families, and involved young people directly in the funding decisions in creative and thoughtful ways.

Most importantly, the Young People’s Foundations have been able to win trust locally. Sometimes this did not happen straightaway. Initial suspicion of anything new is, after all, not uncommon. But, quite quickly, they built successful relationships at every level. In our view this was hugely helped by their founding principles that they do not compete with local front-line organisations and that they do not deliver direct services themselves.

Overall, the nine Young People’s Foundations have already brought together a total of over 1,200 organisations into collaborative local partnerships, driven by the perception that they can achieve more together than by acting alone. Around 500 of these are small local charities and community groups, working at the front line with children and young people, and including for example supplementary schools, which have been largely neglected by ‘mainstream’ organisations.

During COVID-19, the pool of existing relationships established by each Foundation triggered fast and effective actions, helping local agencies across sectors come together in the interests of children and young people and their families. For example, the Young Barnet Foundation, partnering with Inclusion Barnet and Volunteering Barnet as ‘Barnet Together’, was highly instrumental in setting up a local COVID Response Taskforce. Working closely with Barnet Council, Barnet Together co-ordinated food banks, meals delivery, and shopping collection services, to help isolated people, families and children at risk across the borough.

We were struck by the commitment of all the Foundations to understand and respond to local needs. For example in 2018, Young Harrow Foundation carried out an assessment of the needs of local young people aged 10-21. This was a coordinated effort involving 51 charities, Harrow Council, Harrow Youth Parliament, 24 trained youth peer leaders, 8 schools and colleges, and 30 community volunteers. This exercise alone collected the views of 4,358 young people, a figure any market research company would be proud of!

In all of this, we noted the cultural diversity within the Foundations, and their deliberate efforts to reflect the communities in which they operate. For example, across the nine organisations, 39% of trustees and 47% of staff are from BAME backgrounds.

In many ways all this represents a flying start for this model of local collaboration. Certainly, credit is due to some enlightened funders, notably John Lyon’s Charity and the City Bridge Trust, who have provided core funding, and also the local authorities that have embraced the opportunity.

If the network expands to other places around the country there will of course be some challenges, for example to sustain the integrity of the model, to attract the modest levels of core funding which make this way of working so much easier, and to build on – and not displace - valuable existing activity.

At a time when young people’s health, well-being, and future prospects are under pressure as never before, and when we are also seeing renewed (and long overdue) appreciation of the benefits of social infrastructure, replication and roll-out of the Young People’s Foundation model is well worth considering.