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Monday, 28 July 2014

Impartial career advice ‘vital’

STRATEGIES to tackle youth unemployment in Furness and Cumbria have been dealt another blow with the publication of an education report, the boss of a youth work provider has said.

The Education Select Committee’s latest report warns of problems with “the quality, independence and impartiality” of current careers advice and believes “the government’s decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable”.

Mark Bowman, the chief executive of Inspira, Cumbria’s leading youth work provider, said: “The report simply highlights what we as an organisation have been saying for some time now.

“Impartial careers advice and guidance available to all young people and delivered by trained professionals is essential to help them make the right decisions for their future. Given current factors such as the raising of the participation age, the expanding range of educational choices available and high levels of youth unemployment, impartial, professional careers advice is even more critical.”

The report also states “vulnerable young people in particular need careers guidance support”.

Inspira points out that this is in direct contrast to Cumbria County Council proposing to cut a further £1.1m from its children’s services budget which is allocated to advice and guidance for vulnerable young people.

Mary Bousted, leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “The reality is that schools aren’t run by magicians – if they don’t have the time, money or appropriately trained staff, but have a multitude of other pressures because of Ofsted inspections, it is no surprise they are struggling to offer the careers guidance pupils need.”

Cumbrian businesses also support the report’s view.

A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce said: “Too many young people are missing out and employers are facing recruitment difficulties because young people aren’t aware of the range of career choices and don’t understand what they involve. It is vital that information, advice and guidance is provided absolutely impartially, by organisations that don’t have a vested interest in channelling young people in a particular direction.”

Inspira predicts that if Cumbria County Council’s proposed cuts to targeted advice and guidance go ahead, combined with the inadequately resourced statutory duty on schools, more young people in Cumbria will become not in education, employment or training, which could cost the public purse an estimated £56,000 per person. Councillor Eddie Martin, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “We have had no choice but to look very hard at what services we can continue to fund. What we must be sure of is that we are able to fund the services that we are legally obliged to provide. In the coming financial year the council is going to have to find over £24m of savings, with many more millions to find in subsequent years; this is a huge task. So with the responsibility for providing careers advice now being passed to schools the council has proposed in its budget consultation to stop funding this area of work. However, the council would continue to provide careers advice to the most vulnerable or disabled young people and those in local authority care.

“This proposal was not made lightly, the council understands the value of careers advice, but tough choices like this are unavoidable and it is unlikely this will be the last. At this stage this is still a proposal, a final decision will not be made until the Cumbria County Council meeting on February 14.”

People can still respond to the council’s consultation at www.cumbria.gov.uk until Thursday.

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