How Connexions has been cut across the country: a spreadsheet of info


by Chaminda Jayanetti    
11:40 am - September 3rd 2010

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I’ve published a comprehensive database of cuts announced so far to the Connexions youth service.

Connexions provides universal information, advice and guidance to young people, and works with young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to help them back into education or work. The service is funded by local authorities with a grant from central government

But after the coalition government cut this grant by 24 percent in June, applied to this financial year (‘in-year’), councils across England have announced cutbacks to local Connexions services.

My blog A Thousand Cuts and Unison have now collated details of Connexions cuts from councils across England – the full database can be seen here.

The database covers all councils that administer Connexions services, with information sourced from council announcements, local press reports, Children and Young People Now, and local Unison branches.

While some councils have yet to announce the cuts they will make, the database shows that many Connexions services are facing severe cuts to funding and jobs. Many local authorities are planning to scale back the universal Connexions service into a targeted service – although Lewisham is reducing support for NEETs with mental health issues, while East Sussex is cutting back projects for school students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The Connexions services which are under threat of outright closure are:

  • Windsor & Maidenhead – council is terminating the contract with Connexions at the end of March 2011; the council has emphasised this is due to government funding cuts, not the service’s performance
  • Brighton & Hove – Connexions service at risk of closure, with schools having to provide advice to teenagers on issues such as sexual health, careers, housing and healthy living
  • Birmingham – closure of the Connexions service is one of three options presented to council bosses, which would leave the council unable to fulfil its statutory obligations

There are also local authorities scaling back universal services in favour of targeted programmes and some implementing large-scale job cuts to the Connexions services.

Many local authorities have yet to finalise the impact of the government’s in-year cuts – many councils expect to reach decisions this month, so the national picture is likely to get worse. Moreover, the government’s October spending review may lead to even more severe cuts to local government funding – so further cuts to Connexions in future years may be on the horizon.

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PPS – while this database has been compiled by A Thousand Cuts and Unison, no payment from Unison was ever requested, offered or received, and the entering of information and data into the database was completed entirely by A Thousand Cuts at our discretion

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About the author
Chaminda is an occasional contributor. He writes at the A Thousand Cuts blog and Twitter account.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts ,Local Government


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Reader comments


This isn’t really a “cut” at all because the useful service of helping young people into jobs is to be brought under the rubric of a single, efficient back-to-work scheme rather than, as at present, fragmented under numerous schemes.

I love the consequences of Connexions closing in Brighton:

Connexions service at risk of closure, with schools having to provide advice to teenagers on issues such as sexual health, careers, housing and healthy living

I assume that as a supporter of Connexions, you oppose the teaching of those things seperately in schools then? Because although careers is normally dealt with externally (anecdotally, Birmingham Connexions have been doing a very poor job of it, hence the option before the council), the other issues are meant to be taught by schools. I believe in PSHE (has that gained another letter recently?) and citizenship.

@watchman

You must be aware that there will always be cases when young people don’t feel able to go to a teacher or use services provided in a school context with regards to all of those issues. Hence Connexions (and others).

S. Pill,

I am of course aware of that – I’ve written too many policies concerning exactly that sort of thing to remember. But the elephant in the room here is that such services could be provided by other schools , other groups or other companies. Connexions is not the only answer, as sometimes seems to be implied.

“I am of course aware of that”

Sorry, my writing is in full pretentious mode today. I am not meaning to sound as if I assume I know everything… :)

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Why on earth do the people who ‘work’ in imaginary jobs in pointless things like Connexions believe that the rest of us should have to subsidise their lifestyle choice to be useless?

@Watchman

Haha that’s ok, I made the assumption that you knew in my comment so your pretention/condescension was justified ;)
Let’s see what Chaminda (OP author) has to say to clarify though cos I’ve a feeling that it’s not as clear cut as you say.

‘Connexions provides universal information, advice and guidance to young people, and works with young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to help them back into education or work.’

I don’t know when Connexions expanded their customer base but my local one hasn’t restricted it’s services to young people for quite some time.

‘Good riddance to bad rubbish. Why on earth do the people who ‘work’ in imaginary jobs in pointless things like Connexions believe that the rest of us should have to subsidise their lifestyle choice to be useless?’

You’d rather keep paying taxes to pay for benefits rather than help people back into work and off your hands?

Connexions is a bit of a con. Those NEETS who have found work through it are more often than not employed by the council running the scheme, often as “NEETS advocates”. Same as many drug-rehab services end up employing all the clientele as drugs counsellors. The beast just grows and grows by swallowing all its own children. Can’t go on for ever.

‘I assume that as a supporter of Connexions, you oppose the teaching of those things seperately in schools then?’

How does that follow?

“You’d rather keep paying taxes to pay for benefits rather than help people back into work and off your hands?”

I suspect Chris might be somebody who thinks benefits should be abolished and the unemployed made to starve to death.

“Connexions [...] works with young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to help them back into education or work.”

Is it cynical to suggest that seeing as there are more NEETs now than ever before, that perhaps Connexions isn’t doing it’s job of getting them back into education or work particularly well?

I think the idea of Connexions is fabulous and I think a lot of the people who work there are decent. Having worked there myself for a brief and painful period, I seriously question its effectiveness.

For example, we were supposed to be able to direct unemployed young people to exciting employment opportunities in the local area… However, the service was abused by (some) unscrupulous employers who, as I understand it, received tax breaks or some such for employing NEETs for a set period of time – then, of course, dumped them and recruited some other poor sod.

Some employers managed to do this without actually paying anyone anything. Effectively slave labour – no wonder 95% of the young people who came in frankly couldn’t be arsed with it all.

Once again Chaminda has come up with a misleading piece of crude propaganda. Gordon Brown’s government commissioned a report from a team chaired by Alan Milburn that was heavily critical of Connexions and recommended breaking it up and giving £200m of its £470m budget to schools.

Connexions is a widely discredited scheme and its replacement with a proper IAG strategy should not be misrepresented as “Tory cuts”.

Shatterface,

‘I assume that as a supporter of Connexions, you oppose the teaching of those things seperately in schools then?’

How does that follow?

To be fair, this may not be the only conclusion, but I was assuming that any sane government (and any sane taxpayer) would prefer to only pay one agency to deliver lessons, rather than have duplication. Apart from career advice (which is actually still an obligation on schools) all the other areas are taught in PSHE and Citizenship – compulsory subjects – so why try to justify the existence of an agency by noting it does things that schools do already.

I am quite happy to accept that schools many not always do this well, so long as people also accept Connexions also can not do this well (anecdotally from my, and now J’s, experience). But at least be honest if you want to replace schools with Connexions in these areas and say so – otherwise you have a fair degree of overlap and duplication.

Incidentally, this does raise an interesting point. Connexions may be cut, but as the services it provides for children and NEETS are almost entirely required to be provided, the services are not necessarily going with it.

My own experience of Connexions was pretty awful. I wanted college -> University, they wanted me doing some £10-£30/week apprenticeship thingy with a local landscaper.

I got my own way in the end, although I sometimes wonder how.

A4e seems similarly dismal, although I never experienced it directly.

The Connexions service is frighteningly ineffective as a source of careers and educational guidance (that’s what 16,000 young people say in the 2010 report “The Role of Information, Advice and Guidance in Young People’s Education and Employment” produced for the Dept for Education).

It seems to me, though, that what we should be doing is making the state funded careers advice services better, not hacking them (and I say that as a private-sector competitor of both Connexions and Next Step!).

An unrealistic, fuzzy remit is at the heart of Connexion’s problems. It hasn’t ever had the resources necessary to provide significant amounts of one to one career and educational guidance to ALL its target population. The population at large sees careers advice as the core function of Connexions and they’re angry when it doesn’t seem to do that job well.

Connexions and its partners see a major role for the organisation as a provider of Social Work support to troubled and embattled teenagers. Much of the organisation’s resources are devoted to such work. I don’t think they’ve persuaded the general public and parents of bright and “average” teenagers that this Social Work function is rightly theirs.

@ 18

I don’t think they’ve persuaded the general public and parents of bright and “average” teenagers that this Social Work function is rightly theirs.

Dead right.

But it goes farther than that. I object to the taxpayer forking out £470 million for something that ought to be partly provided pro-bono by the voluntary sector funded by employers and unions, and partly should be (ultimately) a revenue-neutral service provided by private sector contractors payed a bounty from savings in benefits.

£470 million is a lot of moolah for something that should be entirely free.

From what @18 says I think it’s fair to say Connexions does not provide value for money nor is it effective at what it is supposed to do. It therefore won’t be missed.

This is a bit like when Chaminder Jayanetti posted about how the cuts led to some paedophile being stabbed in prison. Yes, that’s really going to get people out on the streets against the government, eh? “Defend the men who fiddle with kids! Oppose the cuts!”

@20

I’m going to respond to all of these points in due course – but I want to correct Blanco right now that I never posted that paedophile stabbing story. I can’t remember if I’ve ever linked to it or commented on it (I don’t generally comment on other people’s posts, and frankly I wasn’t sure how much evidence existed that funding cuts caused that incident) but I’m not the one who posted it. I’m pretty sure my memory’s not failing me on that count.

Chaminda @ 21

I’m going to respond to all of these points in due course

You’d better hurry up. This story is about to drop off the bottom of the site and be consigned to archives.

the problem is, of course, that the government has been urging councils to find ways to cease the connexions service while running a smokescreen of consultations. many councils had been charged with closing the service, prior to claims that discussions were to take place. The government and councils have no clearly thought out policy to replace what connexions provides and the speed at which this is taking place when it was never formerly an issue with either tories or lib dems seems to indicate that it has not been examined with any perspective. it’s worth noting that it was the Labour government which made Connexions expand from a ‘careers advice’ oriented service to become personal advisers, extending the workloads, and then complained that the service wasn’t providing sufficient careers advise results and therefore wasn’t working.
of course, it would be too much to expect any council, birmingham especially, to look beyond the balance sheet, but it might be nice if they considered balancing the impact on youth services – and if the area grant is already earmarked for abolishment next year they clearly haven’t – as well as balancing the budget.

24. Commonsenseagenda

Let’s make a few clear points here…

1. The introduction of Connexions was established based on the CESI’s “Bridging the Gap” study which clearly outlined the need to provide a holistic service for young people who were falling through the net….(a key point to this would be the ES9 forms completed by the previous careers services to forward onto JCP which turned into a “conveyor belt” of sending young people to another service, thereby leaving the young person passed from pillor to post..)

2. The Connexions strategy insisted on NEET targets in different partnerships and set a up a tracking service on long term unemployed..

3. The nonsensical argument of “higher performing” students going without IAG support is again a myth…Connexions designed 2 approaches within local authority delivery (universal and targeted) the same universal services were normally led by existing private careers companies and targeted support by Local Authorities…

There is now a systematic delivery in most high performing local authorities, and while I will accept there areequally poor delvery partnerships that exist, this alone does not establish a strong enough argument to cut all existing Connexions services. OFSTED inspections have highlighted good and excellent Connexions partnerships who have continued to provide essential services to young people. I don’t hear too many arugments asking for the end of the NHS because of the existance of some weak PCTs in the country. Stop the generalisations as they simply potray a lack of knowledge in this debate.

25. Commonsenseagenda

Nick. I truly ermpathise with the shortcomings of the support you were given. Another perspective on this will be to look into the reasons why you were put on a £30 a week course when you wanted to go to college. Remember the Connexions service (and careers compamies before this) can only support young people onto courses which currently exist..they do not have the authority of control to create courses.

The creation and number of suitable provision for college courses are determined by the level of funding from local authorities (previously the Learning Skills Council and even longer ago the Training and Enterprise Councils). The current government have cut the level of funding for FE courses and also scaled back the resources which allow local authorities to commision additional courses..thereby leaving only the £30 a week training providers the remaining option should young people wish to return to EET midway during an academic year or if the young person did not have enough GCSEs the original course at college.

To Commonsenseagenda:

We’re probably both in agreement about the importance of sustaining and building on a free universal careers guidance service for young people and adults.

I’d also say from my own contacts with Connexions and Next Step that they’re doing as good a job as anyone could ask them to do, given their level of resources and the remit they’ve been given.

Where we may be in disagreement is whether the quality of services offered meet the needs of today’s young people, the remit is the right one and the funding arrangements (per individual client helped) adequate.

Re: “The introduction of Connexions was established based on the CESI’s “Bridging the Gap” study which clearly outlined the need to provide a holistic service for young people who were falling through the net…”.

I agree there’s a need for holistic, high quality “one stop shop” services for the smallish minority of young people falling through the net. I see no particular reason why these services should be LED / co-ordinated by careers advisors when most of the young people’s problems are due to social disadvantage and inequality, education provision not tailored to their individual needs, an absence of of adequate family and therapy, etc than to a lack of career advice and empoyment support.

Re: “The nonsensical argument of “higher performing” students going without IAG support is again a myth…Connexions designed 2 approaches within local authority delivery (universal and targeted) the same universal services were normally led by existing private careers companies and targeted support by Local Authorities…”

I’m not arguing “higher performing” students do without the standard IAG support, what I’m saying is that it’s not of the quality they need to help them make good choices about their futures. If you go to university now, you’re likely to be incurring £50K debt. In what other sphere of life would we expect young people to take life-changing decisions with so little professional support?

I’m also not arguing “public sector bad, private sector good”. Private careers services working within the same totally inadequate funding regime as Connexions will produce much the same results as they do, results that leave their “customers” unimpressed and still directionless.

We charge £405 to provide educational / careers guidance to each young person – they get lots of individual attention, full, high quality psychometric assessment and (standardised) job search support. These charges are very competitive when compared with providers offering packages of similar quality. I’m wondering just how little does the state spend on offering individual help to each of its “high performing” and average students?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How Connexions has been cut across the country: a spreadsheet of info http://bit.ly/a6zVYF

  2. Linda Jack

    “@libcon: How Connexions has been cut across the country: a spreadsheet of info http://bit.ly/a6zVYF”> deeply worrying even if I'm not a fan

  3. Kate B

    A very good bit of work by @1000cuts on Connexions http://bit.ly/a430vR

  4. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: How Connexions has been cut across the country: a spreadsheet of info http://bit.ly/a6zVYF

  5. Luke Walter

    RT @libcon: How Connexions has been cut across the country: a spreadsheet of info http://bit.ly/a6zVYF < £700K cut in #Brighton





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