Anne Weinstock
describes the practical work carried out by Connexions personal advisers to
help vulnerable young people achieve their goals.

has been designed with all 13-19 year olds in mind, but one of its main aims is
to ensure that the service reaches society’s most excluded young people.

All Connexions
personal advisers are trained to NVQ level 4 in an appropriate qualification
and take Connexions training, which equips them to provide a range of
professional support. This is essential, as young people often need help with a
number of complex and different issues.

For example, one
16-year-old mother had left school without obtaining any GCSEs and had no
permanent housing. She felt isolated from her peers and had few friends. Her
personal adviser addressed these issues by researching local young parents
groups for her to attend and suggesting she take a young mother’s “learning
gateway in lifeskills” as ways of boosting her confidence. On completion of
this course, the young woman felt ready to continue her education, so the
adviser helped her onto an open learning course in GCSE English. The adviser
also liaised with the housing agency and secured council accommodation for her.

In another area, a
young male refugee came to Connexions asking for advice on claiming benefit.
The adviser found he had no family to support him and was sleeping rough.
Connexions then contacted the local housing agency, refugee council and several
homeless charities to find him accommodation, and also helped him apply for
housing benefit. The young man had mentioned an interest in computers, so the
adviser also spoke to a local college and secured him a place on an IT course.
The young man’s confidence has risen dramatically as a result.

These are just some
of the ways that Connexions is providing a valuable service to young people,
but as the service develops we see its potential as enormous.

Anne Weinstock is
chief executive of Connexions National Service Unit.

star backs Connexions Direct

Coronation Street
star Samia Ghadie, who plays teenager Maria Sutherland, last month helped
launch the pilot of the Connexions Direct service and the opening of a new
Connexions centre in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Samia said:

“Having someone you
trust to talk to for advice and guidance is so important for young people. I am
delighted to help raise awareness of the new ways to access Connexions by
launching the pilot of the Connexions Direct.” The Connexions Direct pilot service
is part of a national strategy aimed at establishing the structures that enable
young people to  access the support and
advice Connexions can provide. This new service offers professional advice to
13 to 19 year olds, seven days a week, in four new ways, by:

• Free phone number
080 800 13 2 19

• Web chat or e-mail

• Text message 07766

Website praise

Cheshire and
Warrington Connexions has been highly commended as part of the Becta/The
Guardian UK Education Web Site Awards 2002 announced last month. Judges
said  was “a well-designed site, which young
people, teachers and employers will use”. 
The site was highly commended in the “Community Whole Site” category.
Linda Mottram, director of external affairs, said: “We are really thrilled.
Young people, particularly our reference group, which advises us on all aspects
of the Connexions Cheshire and Warrington service were very clear about how
they thought the site should look, which I believe helped us win the award.”
Owen Lynch, chief executive, Becta said: “Community websites can play a role in
encouraging learners of all ages to become involved.”

Partnership conference

The Connexions
Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership and local organisations from the
voluntary sector jointly hosted a conference last month aimed at developing
closer working practices between practitioners of the voluntary sector and
Connexions.The event was over-subscribed thanks to demand from both voluntary
organisations and Connexions personal advisers. A variety of other
organisations also sent representatives, which resulted in a mix of views and
opinions. These included the NSPCC, Millennium Volunteers, Mind (mental
health), Scope and Dial (physical disability), Rosa and Crasac (rape and sexual
abuse), Relate, Cruse Bereavement Care, youth clubs, environmental and wildlife
trusts, welfare rights groups and many more. The conference was designed to
develop joint working through promoting best practice, and facilitating the
brainstorming of new ideas on how the organisations can best work together in
the future. Other Connexions partnerships are looking at holding similar

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