CUTS TO CONNEXIONS UNDERMINES TORY VISION FOR UNIVERSAL CAREERS ADVICE
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