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Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I should like, first, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for their powerful support. I also thank the Minister for her reply, which became progressively more encouraging. I am most grateful for what the Minister said and look forward to seeing her amendment. I imagine that we shall be allowed to see her amendment before the next stage. I have no hesitation in begging leave to withdraw my amendment.
Baroness Blatch: I should point out here that, for a reason beyond my ken, there is a typographical glitch or simply an error in my Amendment No. 59. My instruction for this amendment was to insert the words "and guidance". Therefore, I should be most obliged if
The amendments in this group all concern the powers of the LSC and the CETW in relation to the funding of information, advice and guidance services. We launched a new initiative last year to develop these services at local level, boosted by a new investment of £54 million over three years. Over time, our aim is to ensure that adults everywhere can find the support that they need to make better choices about learning and about careers. As we announced in Learning to Succeed, we intend that responsibility for planning and funding these services should lie with the LSC.
The amendments standing in my name clarify the powers of the LSC and of the CETW in the area of information, advice and guidance. They do so in two ways. First, the amendments make clear that the LSC will have the power to fund the provision of "guidance"--as well as "information and advice"--about education, training and connected matters. This is not simply a question of semantics. To practitioners in this field the terms "information", "advice" and "guidance" have well-established and precise meanings. In essence, they describe different levels of engagement between a professional adviser and a client.
It may be helpful if I give the Committee some concrete illustrations of the differences between the three terms. Let us take the example of an adult who wished to take a course in, say, horticulture. "Information" would simply tell that client what learning opportunities were available in his or her locality in the general discipline of horticulture. "Advice" would typically involve a short discussion with a professional adviser. The adviser would be able to discuss with the client, for example, which courses might be most suitable and what entry requirements might apply, as well as to "signpost" the client on to further sources of advice. "Guidance" would be an altogether more involved process, where the adviser might encourage the client to think through his or her motives for wishing to pursue a course in horticulture, to reflect on exactly what they hoped to gain from it and to relate this to their wider plans for career development.
We want the LSC to have the power to fund all these different types of provision. My noble friend Lady David raised the point with me at Second Reading and I am pleased, with these amendments, to be able to put the Government's position beyond doubt.
The amendments standing in the name of my noble friend Lady David would restrict the funding powers of the LSC so that they were exercisable only in relation to information, advice and guidance. I believe that this is also the case now--in the light of the correction that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has just made--with regard to the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.
I return to the amendments of my noble friend Lady David, which would restrict the funding powers of the LSC so that they were exercisable only in relation to information, advice and guidance. That would mean that the LSC would be able to fund only organisations that were able to provide all three of these types of provision. I hope that the Committee will agree that such a change would not be sensible. We want as many organisations as possible to be involved in the provision of information, advice and guidance at a local level, including community and voluntary organisations, which are particularly well placed to reach out to socially disadvantaged people and to provide a high quality service at the grass roots.
Insisting that any organisations which the LSC funds must be providers of guidance, as well as of information and advice, would risk squeezing out precisely these organisations. That is not a change that we would want to see. I wrote to my noble friend Lady David after the Second Reading debate to address her concerns and make these points. I hope that my reiteration of the arguments here today will convince her that her concerns are unfounded and that she does not need to press her amendments.
The second effect of the Government's amendments would be to make clear that the LSC would have the power to fund information, advice and guidance about employment, as well as about education and training. This is an important clarification. Since the beginning of the current financial year, my department has been developing through local learning partnerships a publicly funded information, advice and guidance service for adults. That service--for which we intend the LSC to be responsible--is certainly intended to help adults make better choices about learning. The consequences of the wrong choices about learning--both for the individual and the taxpayer--can be quite serious. As we expect the number of adults involved in learning to increase significantly over the next few years, there is obviously a sound argument for ensuring that they have good access to reliable advice on the subject.
However, it is also important that the service should offer support to adults in their decisions about careers. Changes in the labour market and in the nature of work mean that people can expect to change their job much more frequently during their lifetime. That is, of course, one of the major influences on the demand for learning among adults, as all of us need to update our skills continuously through life. Therefore we want adults to have access to information, advice and guidance about learning and work and, perhaps most critically, about the relationship between the two.
For all these reasons, it is important that the LSC's funding power in this area is not too narrowly drawn and that it should extend to information, advice or guidance about employment as well as about learning. I beg to move.
When my noble friend wrote to me and said that she was tabling an amendment to put "guidance" into the Bill I was extremely grateful. But then I was slightly disappointed when I saw that it said "or guidance" when I had hoped it would say "and guidance". I wrote to her and pointed out this matter, and I received a convincing reply in the letter that she wrote to me on 1st February.
I have tabled the amendment again because I want the Minister to explain to the Committee exactly why "or" was right and "and" was wrong. I hope she will repeat for the benefit of the Committee and to record the point in Hansard the reasons for this. I shall not be pressing my amendment. I tabled it only to draw out her response. I think that she has probably already given it.
Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I was not concentrating enough, but I was concerned about "all". Certainly in my amendments I had intended it to be "and guidance". I note that in Amendment No. 87, which stands in the name of the Minister, the words "advice or guidance" appear. It would be helpful when the Minister responds--without taking too much of the Committee's time--if she could give an explanation of that.
Although the Minister, in moving the amendment, was very helpful--it is clear that there has been a very positive response to the Second Reading--one point was not covered in regard to the role of the advisory service under the new arrangements. There is some concern about what its role will be, how it will work in practice, and what will be the practical arrangements for moving from the existing system to the new arrangements.
As has been said, the term "advice about educational training or connected matters" is inadequate. It should be more than mere information. We know that many people are given only information and then left wallowing and wondering what on earth they should make of it. Too many people need their hands holding at that point, and for some young people who drop out of mainstream education very often it is the key point at which they could have been helped. Their problems might have been resolved if they had had proper guidance at that time.
The Careers Service National Association has in fact suggested some definitions for "Information", "Advice" and "Professional guidance". I should like to place them on the record because they are worth studying. First:
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