Can youth services be transformed at a time of severe austerity throughout the public sector? With the help and expertise of young people themselves, we think so.

This briefing explores how co-production has helped local authorities in Lambeth and Cornwall to commission services of real value to the young people they support. It also looks at what other authorities can do to adopt the same approach.

Over the past three years, UK youth provision has been cut dramatically. Meanwhile the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has been working with two local authority youth service teams – Cornwall and Lambeth – to explore new approaches to commissioning and delivering support for young people.

Working with these boroughs we have developed a new approach that:

  • focuses on commissioning for social, environmental and economic outcomes
  • promotes co-production, which enables commissioners and providers to work in equal partnership with young people to design, commission and deliver the local youth offer
  • supports well-being, prevention and real value for money.

Our approach redirects resources to where young people most value them. It maximises local government investment by bringing about social, economic and environmental change. And it ensures services are co-produced, so that they benefit from the skills, time, experience and expertise of young people.

NEF’s approach has inspired innovations in commissioning and new insights into how to implement co-production. This briefing brings together the key learnings from the programme.