CUTS TO CONNEXIONS UNDERMINES TORY VISION FOR UNIVERSAL CAREERS ADVICE

CUTS TO CONNEXIONS UNDERMINES TORY VISION FOR  UNIVERSAL CAREERS ADVICE

Comment

Deidre Hughes, President of Institute for Careers Guidance, argued in the Guardian last  week (3 August) that the Government cannot yet articulate its vision for an all-age careers service. True, although the Tories had little problem articulating the vision  when in opposition.

And time is running  very short, as local  cuts bite.  With  area-based grants from the Department for Education to local authorities being cut Connexions services, which include  local careers advice ,are  bearing  the brunt. Some Local authorities look to be about to breach their statutory obligation in respect of  IAG. Hughes  claims plausibly that vulnerable young people not in education or employment (Neets) are likely to be affected particularly badly, as if they don’t have enough  on their plates.

She wrote ‘ While the careers profession had fully braced itself for significant reductions in budgets, it had not envisaged a knee-jerk reaction by local authorities to use the accounting mechanism of area-based grants to decimate this frontline service for young people, parents, teachers and employers. Nor had central government. The expectation was for 3.6% efficiency savings across the board this year (confirmed by the Department for Education). Instead, cuts ranging from 11% to 45% have been announced by local authorities. Formal notifications of careers adviser posts being “at risk” have been served.’

Steve Higginbotham, vice president of the Institute of Career Guidance, told the BBC recently  that  the cut, about 24% of the “area based” grant which funds Connexions, is being enacted halfway through the financial year, which  means in practice up to 50% losses to budgets for the remainder of the year

Some of the hardest hit areas are:

Norwich, where 50% cuts will lead to 65 job losses

Connexions Northumberland, which says 24% cuts will make redundancies “inevitable”

Council-funded youth advice charity Sheffield Futures, which says up to 95 of 370 jobs could be lost. £400,000 has been lost from the Connexions budget

Sutton – 34% mid-year cut, said to equate to 50-60% of current activity

Cheshire East – losing a third of frontline workforce

Bolton, where the cuts equate to about 30% of activity

Windsor and Maidenhead  is seeing its Connexions funding slashed  by £375,000.

In Birmingham too  Connexions workers are set to  bear the brunt of a swathe of job cuts in children and young people’s services .

Connexions, in Crawley , will take  a significant hit, with staff reductions central to a saving of £910,000.

West Sussex Youth Services, which includes Connexions, will lose £2m

Connexions  in Slough is facing £308,000 worth of cuts.

Northampton is cutting Connexions staff by almost a half

These are just some of the cuts  publicised by  local media.  But you will find that in most authorities  Connexions and Youth Services are  regarded as the easy option, even though youth unemployment is on the rise, and  the NEET cohort is likely to increase. NEET remained stubbornly high over the whole of the last decade at around 9.6 % of the cohort and youth unemployment had begun to grow even during the so-called boom years.  And the modest  economic recovery now  threatens to  compound the  problem.  It is now clear that the recession has had a disproportionate impact on the prospects of young people. Under-25s constitute one in five of the adult population, but they account for two in five of the unemployed. Figures for March 2010 show that 937,000 16–24 year olds are unemployed (and the figure rises to one in two for young black people). These problems can  only be exacerbated  by failing to give young people  access to high quality  Careers Education and Guidance.

On –going cuts are effectively driving a coach and horses through the Tories pre-election commitment to an all age professional careers service. Vital  expertise is haemorrhaging from the system.  Careers advice professionals even now are being laid off in numbers. The Governments approach is to allow Local authorities the flexibility to decide where they want to make cuts, which is fine until ,that is, it conflicts with a key  central government policy priority.  Ministers may just be beginning to realise these local cuts are  serving to undermine Government efforts to establish a careers service. This is where one  curses the long summer break that MPs still enjoy.  Minister Nick Gibb  really needs to focus now  on this growing crisis  and get Eric Pickles and David Willets in the same room –the task at hand -to save their own vision

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