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Interview with Aimee Gedge, Supporting Excellence Officer from Momentum (Norfolk)

June 2017

Can you tell us about your approach and the clubs and projects you are working with?

"Momentum is a membership organisation supporting people in Norfolk who work with young people aged 11-19. We have over 150 members across Norfolk, from small village youth clubs to county-wide young people’s charities, including universal services as well as organisations offering targeted support such as groups for young carers or young people with disabilities.

"We view Ambition Quality as a key part of our offer to members and we have promoted Ambition Quality at networking events and through partnership work with Norfolk County Council and our local ‘youth advisory boards’ made up of young people and relevant professionals.

"We hold half-termly “Good Practice” meetings in each of the seven districts in our county, with the aim of bringing groups together to share examples of good practice and hear from a guest speaker on topics such as funding, safeguarding and dealing with challenging behaviour. Ambition Quality is a standing item on the agenda, and we have encouraged groups bring their portfolios along to showcase the good things they are doing and to get support on areas they are struggling with."

Why do you think it is important to support organisations to achieve a quality standard?

"Part of our vision is to lead quality services which are safe, accessible and inclusive for young people. We believe youth organisations should be held to a high standard when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of young people, and Ambition Quality gives groups an opportunity to prove that they meet this standard.

"In order to lead by example, we are hoping to achieve Ambition Quality+ this year and we have started putting together our portfolio of evidence. Norfolk County Council has welcomed the initiative to have a nationally recognised quality mark promoted in Norfolk and have included in their recent specification for Norfolk’s Youth Advisory Boards to encourage youth groups in their area to achieve Ambition First Steps."

Why First Steps?

"First Steps is a great introduction to quality assurance and it is ideal for smaller volunteer-led organisations such as local youth clubs. The process is rigorous enough for the quality mark to be valuable and worthwhile, yet not so demanding that it is unachievable. For larger organisations, it is a good stepping-stone before they commit themselves to working toward the Bronze quality mark.

"So far, twenty-four of our members have signed up to First Steps and five have achieved this quality mark. Of these five, three are small local youth clubs and the other two are larger organisations who plan to progress to Ambition Quality Bronze."

How have you found the experience?

"We were pleasantly surprised by how quickly our members took up the offer of Ambition Quality. Supporting groups to put their portfolios together has also helped us become more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our members and where we can do more to support them.

"We have seen benefits for our organisation too: one group who had allowed their membership of Momentum to lapse have recently re-joined so that they can work towards the quality standard, and another group became members for the first time after hearing about Ambition Quality at a networking event."

How have the smaller groups found the experience?

"Some of them were daunted by the process at first but once they had a chance to look through the evidence required they realised they had a lot of it in place already. We were then able to help them fill the gaps, for example by proving template policies or helping them to book training courses. One youth club took less than a month to put their portfolio together; another took longer but involved their Young Committee members in the process.

"The five groups who have achieved First Steps so far were very excited to learn that they had passed, and said it was a worthwhile experience. One organisation wanted to achieve the quality mark before submitting a funding application as they hoped it would make them stand out from other applicants, and they were very pleased to be able to use the quality mark logo on their documents."


Manchester County Council and Voluntary Youth Manchester partner up to deliver Ambition Quality

September 2016

One of our members Voluntary Youth Manchester (VYM) is working with their local authority Manchester City Council (MCC) to deliver Ambition Quality. MCC changed from being a direct deliverer of Youth Services in 2011, to a commissioner of voluntary sector youth and play provision across the city following the impact of austerity upon the local authority. We interviewed both organisations to understand how the partnership came about:

Can you tell us about your approach and the clubs and projects you are working with?

VYM: The approach we have adopted for this programme is one of mutual support (groups), either geographical or thematic. There are existing partnerships based in different parts of the city that are taking this forward with their members, and other sub-groupings. This works on the basis that everyone brings something, some strength, and while some organisations are greatly advanced in this work, most are just starting out – Ross Grant, Development Manager.

MCC: There are approximately 40 organisations covered by this programme within the broad remit of MCC's Youth & Play commissioning process. Among these we have a wide range of themes and professional approaches, including LGBT, specific BME communities, mental health, music, open access, detached & outreach, water-based outdoor ed, etc., approached via youth work, play work and sport driven methodologies – Patrick Barber, Youth Strategy Team.

 

Why do you think it is important to support organisations to achieve a quality standard?

MMC: MCC recognises the great impact these services have upon shaping young people’s lives and so it remains imperative that young people receive the highest quality of service standards from organisations that are commissioned by the local authority that represents best value for money – Patrick Barber, Youth Strategy Team.

VYM: For VYM demonstrating the quality of your systems, policies and procedures is crucial to organisations in setting them apart from those that can't. This improves the relationship between organisations and their users and with funders. This has become even more important for the latter where funding has dwindled so much that they need easy indicators of quality, which having a recognised externally verified QS can bring. - Ross Grant, Development Manager.

 

What do you hope to achieve with a quality standard?

MCC: The aim of working with our commissioned youth and play providers to achieve a quality standard is essentially to raise the bar, focusing on and ensuring greater positive outcomes for young people by organisations that will have effective governance, organisational and management mechanisms in place. This will also create an environment for those organisations to develop the necessary key partnerships and consortia to become increasingly more effective in being commissioning-ready and the drawing down of funding to continue to deliver services to young people within a very challenging political climate. – Patrick Barber, Youth Strategy Team.

 

Why Ambition Quality?

MCC: Ambition Quality is a clear, concise and user-friendly youth focused quality standard for organisations such as youth clubs to utilise and demonstrate their commitment to quality service delivery.” - Patrick Barber, Youth Strategy Team.

VYM: We researched multiple quality standards, but found none that met all 3 main criteria - youth focused; straightforward; and economical. Then we found AQ, which is definitely 1. and 3. and is as straightforward as any other we have found. There were other criteria that were factored in too, such as externally verified and understood VCS, and again we felt this scored highly. - Ross Grant, Development Manager.

 

How have you found the experience?

VYM: Ambition will allow our voluntary sector to remain competitive in a market where resources are finite. The guidance and principles of the standard are indeed impressive; this will allow organisations to have a firm base upon which to deliver quality services for young people that is recognisable across the sector in Manchester. The cost of the quality standard in relation to the associated outcomes also reflects a very good value for money approach. - Ross Grant, Development Manager.