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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister and I thank him most warmly for what he has done between the Report stage and Third Reading. I gratefully accept what is proposed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 103 [Provision of services]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 5:

("( ) In exercising his powers under this section, the Secretary of State shall ensure that any action he takes--
(a) does not adversely affect the quantity or quality of existing information, advice and guidance services provided for young people;
(b) fulfils his duties to all young people under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and sections 43, 44 and 45 of the Education Act 1997.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the Careers Service, in its new guise as the Connexions service, continues to provide careers advice, information and guidance to all young people and does not find all its efforts swallowed up by the new mentoring and personal adviser service which is to concentrate on the disadvantaged. In this sense, the amendment merely reiterates what the Minister has already told us. In the debate on Report, the Minister said:

    "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

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    the wider range of support provided by the Connexions service ... However, that is not to say that in the future careers provision will be in any way subordinated ... such provision will be an absolutely key element of the Connexions service".--[Official Report, 14/3/00; col. 1503.]

The Minister continued, at col. 1504:

    "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 ... 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".

Why then, if the Minister has given those reassurances, do we raise this issue again and seek to get such reassurances written on to the face of the Bill? It is because the Minister's plans seem to us to be over-ambitious and her sums do not add up. In addition, evidence is emerging from many different areas of the country that those in mainstream education are not getting access to the advice and guidance they need because priorities within the service are shifting towards providing intensive help and mentoring for the disadvantaged, which is the other new half of the Connexions service.

I deal first with the resources element. We know that the aim is to gradually build up the Connexions service, which will eventually cost about £500 million. The Minister made clear that there is at present a shortfall of resources. She said, again on Report, at col. 1504:

    "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".

She added:

    "We are also considering what additional funding will be required as part of the Government's Year 2000 Spending Review".

However, the Minister also assured the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that the Government would not be taking funds away from the local authority-provided Youth Service. Therefore, the bulk of the funding has to come from the Careers Service, plus whatever new money is allocated in next July's Comprehensive Spending Review. We know that the Careers Service currently costs slightly less than £250 million, which means that the Government will be seeking between £200 million and £250 million out of the next Comprehensive Spending Review in order to finance this new service. Some of it may perhaps already have come in Tuesday's Budget announcement that an extra £1 billion will be given to education. I look forward to hearing from the Minister whether any of that money is to be devoted to the Connexions service.

The problem is that what is being proposed is a very much expanded role for the Careers Service, providing, as we have heard, mainstream information, advice and guidance to young people between the ages of 13 and 19 who are in school or college or who are seeking

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employment, but also becoming, in the schools, learning mentors, working with all pupils facing barriers to learning to help them to re-engage in effective learning, and, outside the school environment, personal advisers within the Learning Gateway programme. Indeed, during the past year some 1,500 careers advisers have switched to become such personal advisers. But there are only 7,000 careers advisers at present and until new resources are injected into the programme they cannot fulfil all of these functions.

We do not question the value of personal advice and mentoring services in helping disadvantaged young people back into mainstream education and training, but until further resources are provided--they will be available, at the earliest, in April 2001, or, more likely, April 2002, if they are to come from the Comprehensive Spending Review--the new service cannot be provided without detracting from the current level of provision for the Careers Service.

Moreover, there is already evidence that this is happening. The noble Baroness, Lady David, spoke on Report of the consultation document which was being circulated. That document suggests that some 47 per cent of students in the under-16 age group and 63 per cent of those in the post-16 age group, mainly those achieving five A to Cs in their GCSEs--in other words, mainstream good students--will require only paper-based or IT-based advice and will not need, or be guaranteed, access to trained careers advisers or counsellors.

A parent in the South West has a daughter in the sixth form who needs help to plan her future options and routes. A modern apprentice? A degree? Which subject? Which university? Why? She is denied access to a careers adviser because the Careers Service has been contractually directed to work with "higher priority groups" rather than students of average or above average ability.

Another parent writes:

    "My two older children had careers interviews in year 11 and in the sixth form. They were really helpful. Now our next son is not getting any advice. He is being discriminated against because he is clever. It's not fair".

Another parent writes:

    "Surely, my daughter needs more careers guidance than someone who will not get five Cs at GCSE--she has more options to choose [from]".

Another says:

    "My daughter can't choose her A-levels--how will she choose her degree and job without proper careers advice?"

One parent on the south coast summed up the problem about rationing access to careers advice according to so-called academic ability or problems of attendance, drugs and so on, as follows:

    "Does this mean [that] if my daughter truants from school next week she will get an early careers guidance interview?"

At a recent young people's conference in the Isle of Wight, called "Wight 2B Heard", many questioned why careers guidance services were being taken away from sixth-form students. All of this indicates that there are already problems in providing the guidance

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which the Secretary of State has a duty to provide. It is not fair to young people to withdraw those services from them.

We do not deny the needs of the disadvantaged. By the provision of the personal adviser and mentoring services, which are regarded as an important part of the Connexions document, the disadvantaged will be helped. But that should not be at the expense of the current information, advice and guidance service offered to 90 per cent of young people in mainstream education and training. This amendment reinforces that point and puts on the face of the Bill the assurances that the Minister has given. In so doing it strengthens her arm. Therefore, in her discussions and those of the Secretary of State with the Treasury there may be greater strength behind their plea for more resources. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness David: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her letter of 21st March which clarifies a good many points but leaves me with some uncertainties that I should like to clear up before she responds to the debate. In Committee my noble friend Lord Bach said that in schools the learning mentor would be the "first point of advice". But the main purpose of the learning mentors in the Excellence in Cities programme, as the Minister reminds me in her letter, is to work with pupils who face barriers to learning; in other words, with some, but not all, pupils, and on learning issues rather than careers advice. On what basis is that regarded as an adequate replacement for the current arrangements? I remind noble Lords that the present arrangements are based on a partnership between, on the one hand, a careers team and pastoral care tutors within the school and, on the other, a careers adviser based outside the school who is in touch with employers skilled in careers interviewing and able to offer genuinely impartial advice.

Is the system which is working well now to be dismantled, or will the learning mentor still have access, within the Connexions service, to specialist careers advisers based outside the school? The Minister suggested at Report stage, on 14th March, at col. 1505, that that might be the case. However, my noble friend also indicates in her letter that she hopes the majority of personal advisers will be drawn from careers advisers. Since currently there are only 7,000 careers advisers working in the Careers Service in the whole of England, Scotland and Wales, and the Government estimate that they will require between 15,000 and 20,000 personal advisers, the Minister's hope seems doomed to disappointment. The figures simply do not add up. Even if all careers advisers become personal advisers they will provide only some, not most, of the numbers needed. But then there will be no specialist careers advisers left to whom the learning mentors and personal advisers can refer.

The reality appears to be that the Government want to provide personal advisers for all young people, which is an admirable aim if it can be achieved. They will provide the first level of advice and support and identify young people's needs. They will then be able to

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refer to specialists where that is required. But, despite Ministers' suggestions to the contrary, it seems that the one area where that will not be the case is careers advice, because the only budget which has been brought totally into the new service is that for the Careers Service which is controlled directly by the Department for Education and Employment. The result seems likely to be a loss of the expertise on which most students and their parents depend in making their way through an ever more complex series of course choices, which are also career choices. Many noble Lords may not be aware of their complexity, particularly for 16 to 18 year-olds. At the very time when the maze becomes more complex the key expert support to help students and parents find their way through it is being removed.

I should welcome the Minister's response to three very clear questions. First, will all young people continue to have access not only to a personal adviser/learning mentor but also to a specialist careers adviser? Secondly, how many careers advisers need to remain as careers advisers to make this possible? Thirdly, how many careers advisers does this release to become personal advisers/learning mentors?

Finally, I would welcome my noble friend's comments on two other questions that I posed at Report stage to which I have not received answers. First, how do Ministers propose to ensure that there is a seamless transition from the Connexions service to information, advice and guidance services for adults? We have received a promise as to that in paragraph 6.13 of the Connexions policy document but no detail. Secondly, at the moment there is a major concern that the existing funding sources for adult guidance, as opposed to information and advice, are drying up. We are afraid that by the time the learning and skills council comes into being many guidance services will have disappeared with the loss of experience and expertise that that entails. The Minister suggests in her letter that steps are being taken to provide transitional funding. Is that correct?

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