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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Careers advice hit when it’s needed most

SAVAGE – that is how the former children’s commissioner as long ago as January described the cuts to youth and education services. He spoke of his fears for the current generation of young people, of a rise in crime, and of “the destruction of many of the building bricks of support for children and young people”.

With youth unemployment reaching more than 20 per cent, the scrapping of education maintenance allowances, and the huge hike in university tuition fees, young people now more than ever need good quality support and advice.

In this context it is perverse that careers advice for young people is being decimated.

The much-vaunted National Careers Service, theoretically an all-age service, will in practice be mainly focussed on adult advice and guidance supported through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to the tune of £84million, with the Department for Education putting in a measly £4.7million for provision for young people.

This will provide a single point of access online and over the phone with limited access to face-to-face guidance for adults.

The Government is removing the requirement on schools to provide careers education and introducing a new duty to secure access to impartial and independent careers guidance for pupils in years 9-11 which may be extended down to year eight and up to year 13. So for schools the situation is challenging.

They have a new duty to procure a service out of their own funds which hitherto has been free of charge, without any of the £200 million central funding that previously paid for the service.

The financial drivers on local authorities have caused them to reduce funding for Connexions services. The Government has merged this into a so-called Early Intervention Grant covering a raft of provision of which Connexions is but one. The grant has been reduced by £2.2million – nearly 11 per cent.

In Cumbria, the county council has done its best to support Connexions Cumbria but inevitably faced with central government imposed cuts has reduced its financial contribution to the not-for-profit company, leading to reduced staffing levels and to developing an offer for schools to buy into.

Additionally new contracts have been sought and won. For example, Connexions Cumbria, in partnership with the Outward Bound Trust, won the contract to provide one of only 12 pilots nationally of the National Citizenship Service.

But in Cumbria, as elsewhere, careers work is being radically reconfigured and responsibility for resourcing careers guidance moved to schools without any transfer of funding.

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