Professional pioneers?

Carol Lewis looks at the kinds of training and
skills that are needed to work with Sure Start and Connexions and
asks whether the new generation of initiatives is leading to the
creation of new professions.

Sure Start and Connexions have evolved
separately, but together with the Children’s Fund they are expected
to reduce the risk of social exclusion for children and young
people aged up to 19. All three programmes rely on close
partnerships between local agencies to achieve their

So how
have the partnerships coped with recruitment, training and career
development for those professionals, the Sure Start managers and
Connexions personal advisers, central to the success of the new

Sure Start, according to the initiative’s director, Naomi
Eisenstadt “the key thing is for those employed to be able to
deliver the Sure Start agreement and outcomes for young

adds: “The job of the Sure Start manager is to work across the
agencies and deliver new services and improve collaboration. It is
a very difficult job to do. Two prime qualities they need are the
ability to work across agencies and the ability to work with

into Sure Start management posts has been varied and includes
health visitors, early years teachers, social workers, community
workers and staff from housing.

Start managers are employed by the local partnership bodies rather
than Sure Start itself. Many are employed and consequently
line-managed by councils, local education authorities, primary care
trusts, and voluntary organisations.

despite the myriad employers there appears to be consistency in the
jobs offered because, although there aren’t any national job
specifications, they “tend not to vary that much because everyone
plans to the same set of outcomes and there are key features in
common. Very often partnerships exchange job specs. We don’t want
them to have to reinvent the wheel, when the core skill set is the
same,” says Eisenstadt.

employing agencies also take some responsibility for the training
and career development of Sure Start managers. And although the
service is still in its infancy – the first managers were recruited
in 2000 – some are already fast-tracking ahead. Eisenstadt points
to the Sure Start manager who recently went from being the Telford
programme manager to strategic director across the Stoke-on-Trent

Vadher from the national Sure Start programmes team is responsible
for developing the national strategy on training.

explains that managers attend a two-day induction programme
organised by the national office welcoming them to the Sure Start
“ethos and principles”. This includes training in finance,
monitoring systems and partnership working. There are also seminars
and workshops on practical issues such as capital and

plan now is to devolve induction training to the nine regional
offices. The first of these training sessions should be held this
month with more following in the autumn.

will develop an over-arching strategy centrally, but it is up to
the regions to actually do it. We will map what they are doing, set
minimum standards, and encourage the sharing of good practice as
well as offering support and advice,” says Vadher.

employing bodies also have responsibility for identifying and
fulfilling career development and training needs, as do the
managers themselves, such as Lesley Lovesey, programme manager for
Sure Start South Fenland, Cambridgeshire. She is about to go on a
people management course, having booked herself on to this
externally organised course with the permission of the
partnership’s accountable body, the Fenland Primary Care

joining Sure Start as a finance and operations manager Lovesey was
assistant treasurer for Anglia Water. “I have gone off at a
tangent, but this is the most rewarding job I’ve ever

has been much talk about whether the new partnerships have created
a new breed of professional but Eisenstadt is cautious. She says
she doesn’t want to see this as a stand-alone profession but as a
component of many professions. “I don’t want to see people graduate
from university to become cross-agency workers, we need to build up
interdisciplinary working in all professionals.”

However, it seems that a new
profession is being created with Connexions personal advisers.
These people often have similar backgrounds to Sure Start managers
– all have professional qualifications to NVQ level 4 or above –
but have to do either a 10-month personal adviser diploma or a
three-month “understanding Connexions” course before being able to

doing the latter can only work in the general information service,
the newly revamped careers advice system, and not with children who
need intensive help.

personal advisers take the full diploma enabling them to work with
children and young people with particular problems who need
intensive support. These problems may include homelessness,
parenting in the teenage years, and substance misuse.

Connexions, in contrast to Sure Start, has
fixed national job specifications and the diplomas and introduction
courses are nationally organised. But there is a lot of activity at
partnership level on training and career development for personal

instance, Connexions Cornwall and Devon has devised its own
comprehensive training strategy for its 200 personal advisers in
addition to the national diploma. Sarah Johnson, training and
conference co-ordinator, explains that all staff attend an
induction at the central partnership office within the first six

Personal advisers also have to
attend courses on safety, confidentiality, child protection, equal
opportunities, and record-keeping within the first six weeks and
are not allowed to practise alone until these courses have been
attended. Depending on the role and client group of the personal
adviser there are extra courses which need to be completed at six
months and one year too.

addition there are seminars and workshops on careers guidance,
mental health, dyslexia, drug misuse, neurolinguistic programming,
anger management, stress management, supervision, reflective
practice and negotiation skills, to name just a few.

“There’s loads going on,” says
Johnson. “A lot of the training is organised in-house although we
do sometimes bring in external trainers or use external companies,
particularly for the IT courses.”

are encouraged to go to outside conferences and to disseminate
information to others in the partnership on their

Meanwhile, area training delivery
co-ordinators work locally to deliver more locally tailored

Cornwall and Devon is different to many Connexions partnerships. It
is a private company and employs its own staff, organises its own
annual appraisals, and assesses its own training needs.

often personal advisers are employed by partnership agencies rather
like Sure Start managers. These employers also take responsibility
for training and career development.

Hathaway, local services manager for East Hertfordshire, explains:
“Here, we have a sub-contracted model with different agencies
responsible for recruitment of personal advisers including youth
services, youth programmes, county council, youth offending teams,
careers service and organisations from the voluntary

agencies use a generic job specification based on the national one
with variations depending on the brief, role and base that the
personal adviser will have, for example, working with teenage
mothers or looked-after children. The specification will be written
to reflect the flavour of the role.

personal advisers come from a variety of backgrounds including
social work, teaching, careers guidance and youth work. The most
important attributes are the ability to relate to young people,
identifying barriers and supporting young people to overcome them,
helping young people’s development. To have the right approach and
ability to build rapport is essential.

Hertfordshire all of our personal advisers are undertaking the
national personal adviser diploma course. As a partnership we will
also be offering training and development on topics such as
interview skills, group work skills, counselling skills,
inter-agency working and a range of additional specialist skills,”
she says.

similar situation exists at Connexions South Yorkshire, another
sub-contracted partnership. Director of operations, Davinder Kaur
El-Harti, explains that there is an emphasis locally on networking
and information-sharing among personal advisers employed by the
different agencies. Some 10 per cent of South Yorkshire’s 226
personal advisers are employed by the voluntary and community
sector – something they are particularly proud of.

sums up the Connexions mission as “about ensuring that there is
cohesion between agencies delivering effective, consistent care,”
adding: “The service is new and evolving, it needs to be holistic
and able to focus services on children’s needs.”

And if
Connexions and Sure Start manage to deliver those aims, does it
really matter whether they classify their new workers as a new


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