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Amendment No. 140 relates to the role of careers provision in the light of the establishment of the new Connexions service. I am grateful for support from all sides of the House for the Government's intentions to set up the Connexions service so that we can do better than we have in the past in supporting all young people. I refer especially to those young people in danger of falling through the different nets which at present support them. I hope that we shall all be able to work together to achieve what is an ambitious but at the same time laudable aim.
My noble friend Lady David asked an enormous number of questions. I am sure she will understand if I cannot answer all of them. I shall, of course, write to her and deal with those that I do not have the opportunity to address today. As I am sure she will understand, I shall not go into issues such as careers guidance for higher education. That is another issue which has nothing to do with the Bill or the Connexions service. However, I entirely accept that it is important that students in higher education receive good careers guidance.
As noble Lords are no doubt aware, Amendment No. 140 would have no legal effect. But I welcome the opportunity to confirm what I perhaps did not make sufficiently clear in Committee. We are not repealing, and do not intend to repeal, any part of the Employment and Training Act 1973. The duties and powers of the Secretary of State to secure careers services will therefore remain intact. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, suggested that we might have great difficulty in putting the Connexions service in place and that it might not be viable for every young person to have access to a personal adviser. It is the case that every young person has access to a careers adviser at present. The Connexions service will incorporate the Careers Service and provide a broader-based service which will do the same; that is, provide access to every young person who wants and needs that kind of support.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Perhaps I may press her further. Does that mean that there is no change? If every young person at present has access to advice and information, does that mean that the new policy is not extended in any way to 100 per cent of young people?
Baroness Blackstone: No, my Lords; there is change. The Connexions service will provide a much broader range of advice and support than the existing Careers Service. That is the real difference. It will also focus rather more than the Careers Service has been able to on those disaffected young people who are in serious danger of dropping out completely and becoming lost, marginalised, unemployable and poorly educated. That is what the Connexions service is about.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, perhaps I may ask for clarity over the question of mentors for those who have dropped out. Is the intention that the counselling service should be far more intensive? In Bridging the Gap, it was suggested that there should be a 10:1 mentoring service; that is, there would be 10 young people to every mentor. I believe that those two put together create doubts about whether the Government can achieve their aims.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. We want to provide a more intensive and continuous service, particularly for those with greatest need. There will be more differentiation than has been provided by the Careers Service in terms of the amount of support and help given to young people.
I am sorry that the noble Baroness and others are so pessimistic. I believe that we shall be able to achieve our intentions. Perhaps I may also say at this early stage that we are not trying to set up a brand new service on day one but to develop it over a three to four-year period, beginning with pilots to try out ways in which we can achieve that to greatest effect. I certainly believe that this is right when setting up a complex service of this sort.
Let me finally confirm that the Secretary of State's duties and powers to secure career services will remain and that the delivery of those services to 13-19 year-olds will be within the context of the wider range of support provided by the Connexions service. I want to be absolutely clear about that. However, that is not to say that in the future careers provision will be in any way subordinated. As I hope I have made clear, such provision will be an absolutely key element of the Connexions service. That is why it is vital for the new Connexions partnerships to build on the skills and experience which exist within Careers Service companies. It is also why we expect that the staff who currently work within those companies will form the core of the Connexions service, alongside staff from the youth service and other statutory, voluntary and community organisations.
Perhaps I can say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we will be drawing on expertise from a wide variety of different professionals who are working at present. Of course we will need to recruit beyond the existing numbers in the Careers Service. As your Lordships may know, local learning partnerships will continue to be responsible, as now, for providing information, advice and guidance services for adults. Responsibility for funding and planning will lie with the learning and skills council. We are determined to improve the quality, coverage and scope of information, advice and guidance for adults. That is why we announced last year an initiative to develop services for adults at local level with a new investment of £54 million over three years.
In many instances, Connexions service providers will also be important partners in the local delivery of careers provision for adults, but so too will UfI, Learn Direct and a wide range of community and voluntary organisations. Below the age of 13 most pupils are
A number of speakers, and certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about resources. As I said in Committee, we are committed to resourcing the Connexions service properly. Some of those resources will come from the pooling of existing central government resources and some from those already devoted by local partners to youth support and guidance. Of the existing resources that we expect agencies to contribute, about half will be made up of the existing Careers Service budget. That simply reflects the fact that careers provision for 13-19 year-olds will now be delivered as part of the new Connexions service.
As your Lordships will know, we are also considering what additional funding will be required as part of the Government's Year 2000 Spending Review and the rate at which the service is phased. It will of course depend in part on the resources available. Perhaps I can say to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that we are certainly not going to take funds away from the youth service. We have made clear--I think I have said this in previous debates--that we will not be top-slicing the LEA youth service budget, or indeed removing any part of it. I hope that that provides some reassurance to the noble Earl as well. I should like to say at this point how much we value the work of the voluntary and the local authority youth service.
Can I also say something about the whole issue of whether careers provision for the majority will be at the expense of services for the disadvantaged? I think I have said previously that this new service is really going to be for all young people, whatever their circumstances and abilities. Careers provision will be a core function of the service. I want particularly to provide that reassurance to my noble friend. For many young people this will be the part of the service to which they really want access. It will apply to the great majority who are on track towards achieving appropriate learning goals, to doing well at school and going on to post-school education and who face rather few barriers to reaching their potential. Their main need basically is for career support, particularly at key stages, in order to inform their choices.
However, as I said, some young people need a great deal more support across a wider spectrum to help them keep on track and stay on in learning. They have just as great a need, if not a greater need, for careers support but they also need an awful lot of other help. That is what the Connexions service will provide.
Of course, personal advisers will be expected to refer some young people to specialist advice where necessary. A young person with a serious drugs problem, for example, would need to be referred on to experts dealing with drug abuse among young people. As the Connexions document makes clear, in schools the Connexions personal adviser will be a learning mentor. My noble friend Lady David asked about this, building on the model that is being introduced in Excellence in Cities areas. This is being monitored and evaluated. The Connexions learning mentor will supplement the advice given by careers teachers in schools and, where appropriate, will refer young people for specialist advice and support, giving specialist careers advice and guidance.
The personal advisers will be appointed and managed by head teachers but their remit will be covered by protocols to ensure continuing objectivity of careers advice given in schools. I accept that objectivity is extremely important. My noble friend asked about transitional arrangements, including a phased introduction to the service, which will allow us to look at the different approaches to the involvement of existing Careers Service companies in the Connexions service. With support from the Careers Service National Association, the DfEE has established a group to provide guidance during the next few months on transitional issues facing Careers Service companies as the service develops.
Amendment No. 142 would place the Secretary of State under a duty to ensure that local authorities and LEAs continue to maintain and fund local youth services at current levels, including when he engages them in Connexions service provision. I understand and share the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, to ensuring that the very valuable work undertaken by these services is not just maintained but increased, in particular those wider activities which help young people across the spectrum to develop confidence in their life skills. We are not just talking about their ability to achieve in a formal school or college context. I understand that the noble Lord is keen to ensure that this work is not in any way undermined or marginalised.
As I said in Committee, I believe that the Connexions service could significantly improve the prospects for effective local youth services. We have said that we expect the youth service to be represented at all levels within the Connexions service. We have also said that we expect local three-year business plans to specify the contribution to be made by all the partners, including the statutory and voluntary youth services. Indeed, we have been explicit in saying that Connexions service delivery contracts will be awarded only if the national unit is satisfied that the partnerships have included in their plans the optimum mix of delivery through private, public and voluntary sector partners.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is concerned that the focus on Connexions activities could result in the further withdrawal of local authority funding. I believe that I have already covered that point, but I should like to emphasise that local authorities will retain all the powers they need to provide for local youth services. We intend that they should do so. I repeat that we have no intention of withdrawing funding or top-slicing that budget.
Along with several other speakers, the noble Lord was also concerned to ensure that demand for Connexions personal advisers does not result in a drain on key frontline youth service staff. Again, as I said in Committee, we have considered the potential problems as regards recruiting sufficient numbers of qualified staff for the Connexions service. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to phase in the service. I am being absolutely frank and straightforward when I tell the House that the rate of phasing will depend partly on the time that it takes to recruit enough qualified staff without causing an adverse impact on related services. We also intend to undertake an audit of the human resource implications for the very wide range of new and existing advice and support services provided by central and local government.
I hope that I have covered the main issues that have been raised in this area. If I have not done so, I shall be happy to write to noble Lords. However, having provided these reassurances, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will feel able to withdraw her amendment and that other noble Lords will not wish to press their amendments.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her lengthy and careful reply. I can see much more clearly what is being proposed here, and in particular I take on board the fact that the Connexions service will grow slowly and evolve over time as more resources are made available to it. It seems to me to be absolutely essential to secure a large slug of money from the comprehensive spending review that is due to take place. That is because, despite the reassurances of the Minister, the money put aside at present will not be sufficient properly to fund this service.
I am left with a degree of uneasiness about how the service will develop. If we are to continue to provide careers guidance services, it will not be easy for the staff involved to transfer over into mentoring activities. There is very little slack in the system. It may be that a new "army" will have to be recruited to carry out the mentoring functions because I am not convinced that it will be easy to shift staff over into those activities.