Professor Watts fears plans may be stymied by local cuts


Professor Tony Watts, who is regarded as  an leading international expert on information advice and guidance issues, remarked in a Guardian article recently (29 June) that  while plans to develop a much stronger Careers advice  service for adults are to be implemented under the title Next Step , this  new service for adults  needs to provide a strong basis on which to build the promised all-age service, integrated with the careers services for young people  currently provided under the aegis of the Connexions brand. He fears  though that such plans may  be  stymied  by significant funding  cuts, more generally across all  local authority budgets . Connexions and careers advice funding is not ring fenced. Watts wrote that despite some attempts to reform the service (a Review is to report in September)  ‘ .. it is clear that some local authorities are planning massive cuts to their Connexions services. Already there is significant disparity in the extent of such services across the country’. He believes that all careers advice funding should be placed under the Next Step initiative.

Watts has long been an advocate of a universal, all age, impartial  careers guidance service. Individuals need  informed professional  independent advice, he and others have argued , not just when they   are 14,16 or 18 but well into adulthood and indeed throughout their careers .This will benefit the individuals concerned but the economy too, and will save public money over the longer run  and this is backed by international evidence.  His main gripe is that careers advice under Connexions has  focused on those threatened with exclusion, to the detriment of young people in the mainstream.  Ministers David Willetts and John Hayes have created the right mood music  preparing the ground for an all age service  and indeed  the BIS has put the first building blocks in place. But Watts sees a big threat on the funding side and this needs to  be addressed sooner rather than later.  He wrote ‘.. the two arms of government with a stake in this particular manifesto commitment need to work in concert if the commitment is to be delivered. The statutory careers service within Connexions needs to be removed from the Area Based Grant to local authorities, and its funding integrated with the new Next Step service for adults. And this needs to be done very quickly, before it is too late.’ Dr Deirdre Hughes of the ICG, responding to Watts concerns  on the Guardian  web site , wrote ‘ There is now an urgent need for decisiveness and action where Ministers and policy makers consciously avoid working in Departmental silos and pool their resources to create an all-age careers service framework. Lead by example; failure to do so will waste scarce public resources and erode individuals’ access to jobs and opportunities in fast changing labour markets!’  It appears that a number of  advisers redundancies are in the pipeline and the universal entitlement for pupils is  now thought to be under real threat


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