Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, if the noble Baroness does not mind, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak now to Amendment No. 142. Because the arguments are so very similar, it may save her repeating herself.

At Committee stage I raised my concern that the Government proposed to fund Connexions services by robbing Peter to pay Paul. One cannot spend the same money twice. One cannot make the same person do two full-time jobs. One cannot take an existing group of services, tack on to them a host of new functions and then expect the job to be done properly without substantial additional resources.

The Government plan to provide 15 to 20 personal advisers. Where are they going to come from? Where are their salaries going to come from? In Committee, the Minister told us that 50 per cent of the resources would come from transferring 100 per cent of the existing Careers Service budget to the Connexions programme. But are the existing employees of the Careers Service presently occupied as personal advisers? I assume that many of them are not. Will personal advisers be transferred in from other jobs? If so, surely that will require additional funding. Where existing members of the Careers Service are transferred to become personal advisers, what will happen to the jobs they are doing at present?

In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said,

The Institute of Careers Guidance's briefing states:

    "Given the staff shortages in all of the agencies which will be part of the Connexions Service ... [there is] a real danger that human resources will simply move from those agencies to Connexions in the hope of better pay and conditions, thus exacerbating the staffing problems of existing agencies".

The Government envisage that that part of the funding which does not come from the Careers Service and from an unspecified amount of new money to be put in by the Government is to come from other services currently provided for young people. In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said,

    "resources for the service will come from the pooling of existing central government resources and from those that are already devoted by local partners to youth support and guidance".--[Official Report, 17/2/2000; col. 1380.]

My particular concern is for the youth service, which is already overstretched. As your Lordships will know, England's youth service is extremely irregularly funded. The 1998 youth audit shows that a number of local authorities grossly underfund their youth services. The best local authority--if I may put it that way--spends £292 per head on 13 to 19 year-olds. The worst spends £18. I ask the Minister how that is going

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1499

to work. Will the authority which spends £18 be asked to spend £9 on the Connexions service--in which case there will not be much of a Connexions service; will the Government subsidise that authority; or will they force it to spend more? Will the authority which spends £292 divert some of that money to the Connexions service? Will it receive the same subsidy as the local authority which spends only £18?

The danger for the youth services is that existing youth workers will be diverted by the local authority from mentoring to the new Connexions service as personal advisers. For example, there is an excellent watersports and canoeing service in Shadwell Basin in Tower Hamlets. There are several good youth workers there. If they are attracted away to become personal advisers, there will be no watersports service. Then, not only will the young people already using it be disadvantaged, but there will be no service to which the personal advisers can refer their clients--if I may put it that way--for ongoing support.

The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the new service--which is an admirable service--will not be funded or staffed at the expense of existing youth services. If that is what the Government intend, they have nothing to fear from my amendment. If not, then my amendment is badly needed.

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I wish also to speak briefly to Amendment No. 142. I appreciate the Minister's assurances in Committee on the human resource implications of the Bill. However, I remain concerned that such a far-reaching and, in many ways, extremely welcome Bill, may unintentionally undermine good work already in place. It is extremely disappointing for young people, who have come to trust and value particular youth workers and the service which they offer, to lose those relationships. I am thinking particularly of young people who do not enjoy good relationships at home. I therefore warmly support my noble friend's amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I appreciate that the Minister is probably having some trouble combining the responses to the two sets of amendments, but I should particularly like to speak to Amendment No. 142. It seems that the noble Baroness, Lady David, was expressing anxieties which must exist--but on which I have not been briefed--in the minds of the professionals who have such expertise in the different aspects of guidance of young people.

I am thinking in particular of the resources needed for youth work of the more informal kind, which has a great deal to do with how people become equipped to do jobs. Such work probably helps young people more than anything else. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, referred to canoeing and that kind of activity. We all know the great variety of possible provision. I wonder whether the Government realise how quickly the cost of such provision is escalating. Young people's standards and expectations, if they are going to be attracted to informal youth work, are

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1500

going up and up, partly due to television and partly due to the existing provision. Their expectations have risen in many ways. Informal youth work is growing more and more expensive. Unless the money is found to fund such work, it will die away and fizzle out because it will not be able to compete. That applies, of course, to voluntary youth organisations which deal with that age group, which must find higher and higher standards of provision if they are to attract young people.

The Government must face that problem. In their thinking about the new structures in the Bill, I hope that they realise that if they detract from expenditure on those provisions, they will lose them altogether. It may be that formal careers guidance improves, but the stimulation of individual young people's motivation, their desire to do things properly and to meet high standards in everything they do will be lost. That is the value of the voluntary organisations and the informal provision which local authorities can produce. The Government must consider the matter seriously. That point is not always put to them by officials because it is less obvious. It is clearer to people who are involved in making the provision.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I rise to support almost everything that has been said during the course of this debate. It may come as some relief to the Minister that I shall not press my Amendment No. 143, which seeks to remove Clause 102, because I was using it as a mechanism to prompt the kind of debate that we have just had.

I do not know whether the amendments in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Sharp, or indeed, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, are the right amendments, but there is a real issue here. One of the issues is the degree to which expectations have risen. Throughout the service there is an expectation that something big will happen and that there will be a great deal more provision. There is definitely a dearth of what I call dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's; information about how the provisions will work on the ground. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, raised the uncertainty, distress and dismay of those operating at the local level right now under some difficulties. What will be their future? Will their job descriptions be changed? Will they be redeployed? Where does professional pride come into this? They jealously guard the way in which they carry out their duties, the way in which they have developed culturally over the years and the way in which they relate to young people. That will be prescribed in the future and it is difficult to know how that will work.

Where is the money coming from? As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has said several times, it cannot simply be a matter of taking the money that is presently being spent in all the different departments, bringing it together and redeploying it in a different way. Even that in itself would cost money. However, there is not enough there at present to fulfil the aspirational policy aims set out in the document, Connexions.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1501

There are also other questions. I refer, for example, to peer mentors, youth brokers, youth workers and counsellors. How will those functions be incorporated? Will that be done by one individual relating to a young person or by more than one? As the noble Baroness set out in an answer to me on the record and in a letter to me, this service is not simply for the excluded 7 per cent but for 100 per cent of young people. If 100 per cent of young people are to have access to a personal adviser, counsellor or mentor, whatever one might call it, the service will not be deliverable. It would be almost a sin to build up such expectations without necessarily being able to deliver them.

I refer to yesterday's debate when we discussed transport issues for people with disabilities. A provision had been made for those people but they were unable physically to get to and from the colleges and/or schools. The noble Baroness said at that time that the pilot schemes being conducted for educational maintenance allowances, which will give young people £40 per week, will be extended to consider the possibility of addressing the issue of transport for this particular group. Again, the money will either be spread even more thinly or yet more money will be required. It will be much more expensive to roll out that scheme nationally. It will be interesting to know from where that money will come.

I refer to a magazine entitled Ten, which is not one I read with too much joy. It is produced by an organisation involved in educational affairs. That organisation recently stated that financial support comes via eight different routes and eight different agencies on behalf of two departments. If that is what it is saying--and it is very much more a friend of the Government than I believe the Government would describe me--it too has considerable concern about confusion.

There is also confusion about whether the local skills councils will take over the educational welfare officers, educational psychologists and youth workers. It would be helpful to know who will have the responsibility for funding what is called the non-skills based education. That is another issue. Who will be responsible for running the personnel services for educational welfare officers, educational psychologists and youth workers? There is huge uncertainty.

At the same time, one must mention the warmth of reception for the aims of the Government, what they want to do and, I believe, are determined to do. However, there are many practical questions and this is the time, while the Bill proceeds through Parliament, when they should be answered.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page