The role of the end-user in planning Children's Services
As from April 2006 all LAs were required to prepare and publish a Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP) that will be reviewed annually. The plan is intended to be a strategic document, planning the coordination and development of services to deliver and improve outcomes for children. It is expected that in order to meet this aim children and young people themselves will be consulted about decisions affecting them and have a role in planning the development of Children’s Services. In addition, JAR (Joint Area Review) inspections are expected to examine how data generated from young people’s input has been used in service planning and delivery (Office of the Children’s Commissioner, 2006).
The issue of consulting with and seeking the voice of young people in planning Children’s Services stems from a backdrop of general discourse about young people’s right to be listened to, as well as the value of their greater involvement (for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in England, Every Child Matters, the National Youth Agency’s Hear By Right standards, the appointment of national children’s commissioners, and numerous tools and partnerships for involving young people). In the recent analysis of the CYPPs conducted by the NFER, authorities were found to adopt different approaches to consultation to inform the planning process. For instance, most LAs held specific consultation exercises, while a smaller proportion used evidence collected previously for other purposes. The most common type of consultation activity was found to be surveys, followed by small group events, large events, focus groups and interviews (Lord et al., 2006).
This study built on current understandings of the processes of consulting and its relationship to planning, drawing on a larger sample size and giving focus to parental consultation, as well as young people as service end-users. Ultimately, the project explored how far LAs have moved on from the picture of consultation in 2006.
The overarching aim of this study was to investigate the role of the end-user in planning the development and improvement of services. In meeting this aim the study explored the following research questions.
- What consultation happeneded in the first phase of CYPP planning in 2006?
- How were end-users being consulted in 2007? (Who is consulted, which key groups, how are they accessed and what is the focus of consultation?)
- How far have LAs moved in their consultation with young people and parents? (Was the role of the end-user in service development and planning any more participatory, ongoing, built into/impacting planning? Were more young people and parents and key groups being consulted?)
- Did authorities give feedback to end-users about the outcomes and consequences of consultation?
- In which areas of the authority did most consultations take place and how much was this intelligence being used to inform other services?
- What were the outcomes of consultations with end-users and could LAs provide evidence of consultation affecting planning and practice?
- Are there any examples of good practice in effective consultation that can be shared with LAs?
The study also highlighted any aspects of good practice in consultation, to what extent the consultation activities in place were effective in the eyes of end-users and whether all stakeholders were being consulted.
Research design and methods
Phase one: email pro forma
In order to obtain a national picture of consultation practices, the first phase of the research surveyed all local authorities. Key personnel within the authorities were sent a short email pro forma to provide an outline of their consultation practices since 2006.
Phase two: telephone interviews
The second phase of data collection involved interviews with a sub-sample of officers from 35 authorities to explore their consultation practices in more detail. The telephone interviews provided detailed insights into LA consultation processes as well as identifying areas of good practice in consulting with end-users.
Phase three: the case studies
In-depth case studies were undertaken in eight local authorities. Case studies were selected based on nominations of good practice identified in Phase 2 and earlier analysis of the CYPPs, as well as reflecting a range of LA types and models of consultation with end users. Additional LA officers with involvement in consulting with end-users were interviewed along with parents and young people to gather their views on the consultation process. This data enabled the triangulation of perspectives, providing a more complete picture of the role of the end-user in planning the delivery of services, including the views of end-users themselves.
Time scale: May 2007 - October 2007
NFER Project Code: RYP
Lord, P., Wilkin, A., Kinder, K., Murfield, J., Jones, M., Chamberlain, T., Easton, C., Martin, K., Gulliver, C., Paterson, C., Ries, J., Moor, H., Stott, A., Wilkin, C. and Stoney, S. (2006).Analysis of Children and Young People’s Plans 2006. Slough: NFER.
Office of the Children’s Commissioner (2006). Children and Young People’s Plans: a Review of the First Year [online]. Available:http://www.childrenscommissioner.org/adult/consultationresponses.cfm?id=1920 [7 June, 2007].