Issue details

21/00086 - Commissioned Open Access Provision for Youth Services and Children’s Centres

Proposed Decision

To directly award contracts to all existing commissioned Open Access provision (Youth Services, seven providers, for 16 months and Children’s Centres, two providers, for 12 months) on the same terms and conditions and values as the current contracts. Taking both ‘lots’ to April 2023.



·         This proposal is to seek authorisation for contracts to be awarded directly to the existing commissioned Open Access providers (Youth Services and Children’s Centres). Current contracts for the youth provision, expire on 30 November 2021 and for the two commissioned Children’s Centres on 31 March 2022.

·         The Direct Award is required for reasons of extreme urgency (reg. 32(2)(c)).

·         The Direct Award will be for a period of 16 months for the Youth provision and 12 months for the Children’s Centre contracts to bring them both in line to the end of the 2022/2023 financial year.

·         Following the Council’s approach of the response and recovery to Covid-19, the Strategic Reset Programme identified workstreams that will look at how the Council can reset its priorities resiliently. The impact of this has provided delays in the development of a procurement process to align with the ending of these contracts.



1.    Do Nothing: Allow the contracts to lapse. KCC funded Open Access Offer, particularly in rural localities, will be greatly reduced and in the case of the two commissioned Children’s Centre’s (Millmead, Thanet and Seashells, Swale) fully removed.


2.    Allow contracts to lapse and if applicable TUPE across staff from incumbent providers whilst awaiting the results of Strategic Reset Programme: This option may impact on the ability of the current providers to continue as businesses as well as significantly increase the headcount of KCC Open Access staff. The flexibility afforded to the organisations to respond rapidly to local need will also be removed. Also, some young people only engage in this provision because they do not recognise it as being part of KCC, there is a risk that we may lose some of our harder to reach cohort if they feel they are now engaging with the Local Authority rather than a local provider.


3.    Externally procure a new service: Since the award of these contracts in 2016 there have been no new entrants to the market that could provide a district wide provision with no mobilisation time. This would result in a gap in provision at the very time when young people who have already experienced a reduction in opportunities due to Covid-19 need it most. As a result of the pandemic, the Council has established a Strategic Reset Programme which is reviewing, amongst other things, the use of the Council’s estate. The progress of this has been delayed due to priorities re-opening buildings after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Work is due to re-start over the coming months to review whether these services meet the needs of service users. The outcome of this review will be pivotal to the development of specifications and service design for any new procurement. If Commissioners were to commence a procurement in advance of this review, contracts would potentially need to be changed or ended to minimise any duplication and maximise value for money.


4.    Directly award contracts (due to reasons of extreme urgency (reg. 32(2)(c)) for a period of 16 months to the seven providers of Youth Services and 12 months to the two providers of commissioned Children’s Centres to bring both in line to the end of the March 2023. In the Council’s approach to the response and recovery of Covid-19, the Strategic Reset Programme has identified workstreams that will look at how the Council can reset its priorities resiliently. The impact of this has provided delays in the development of a procurement process to align with the ending of these contracts. It is proposed that a full commissioning plan will be developed before the end of the proposed Direct Award contracts that will consider the implementation of recommendations of the workstreams and the understanding of the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the local communities they serve.


Only on completion of the reviews can a balanced and informed commissioning plan be developed that does not risk adversely impacting the deprived communities served. This plan will need to consider the long term added value that providers will continue to deliver and how this can be quantified moving forward to evidence the continuing viability of the services being commissioned to the external market.


To meet the end of the review, all services will need to be “extended” by way of directly awarding a 16-month contract with the seven incumbent youth providers and a 12-month contract with the two incumbent children’s centre providers under Direct Award, with the terms and conditions, contract values etc being unchanged.



·         Options 1 and 3 pose the highest risks, in that to do nothing or to create a gap in provision whilst awaiting the results of a procurement, will leave the Children, Families and Young People of Kent without suitable provision. The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted and created both economic and health consequences, the full implications of which are still far from known. Any gap in provision will only act to further exacerbate this for our most vulnerable service users.

·         Option 2 has some merits, although many of the providers will face an uncertain future, putting at risk the additional social value projects (such as food banks, employment of apprentices, wider SEND support, social action projects and racism education and awareness projects, to name a few)



Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Division affected: (All Division);

Notice of proposed decision first published: 22/09/2021

Decision due: Not before 22nd Oct 2021 by Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services

Department: Education & Young People's Services


Decision time-frame does not allow for Cabinet Committee consideration.  Non-Executive Members to be engaged prior to decision.

Financial implications: This action looks to continue the funding of services at the same level for 16 months for Youth Services and 12 months for Children’s Centre to the end of March 2023. There is an option in the contracts to terminate with a three-month notice period, should that be required. The existing contracts are fully funded within the current revenue budget for the Youth Services and Children Centres key service lines. The Children Centre budget is funded from a combination of the KCC base budget and public health grant. The Youth Services budget is funded from both the KCC base budget and Dedicated Schools Grant. The value of the contracts will remain unchanged for the period of the extension, there are no further financial implications from this proposal.

Legal implications: Whilst there is no statutory requirement to provide Open Access youth work, Kent County Council has maintained a strong commitment to an offer which has always included VCS organisations as part of delivery. The Open Access offer in Kent contributes to young peoples’ learning and development, working to give a sense of place and purpose and to reach their full potential. The two Children’s Centres form part of the totality of offer available to Children and Parents. By not having the two commissioned centres in place we would not be removing the children centre offer but would be detrimentally impacting two communities that are amongst the most deprived in the county. Action by way of Direct Award means awarding contracts without competition which is not compliant with Spending the Council’s Money or the Public Contract Regulations 2015.

Equalities implications: An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) screening has been completed and has concluded that the proposed option does not present any adverse equality impact.