The success of Connexions services for young people with
learning difficulties could be jeopardised unless more money is
made available, it was revealed last week.
Roger Allen, team leader of eastern England Connexions
partnerships, told delegates at a national conference on learning
difficulties and Connexions that many chief executives of
Connexions branches had expressed “concern about the resource
implications” of delivering the service to young people with
Margaret Palmer, a career service manager who is developing
Connexions services in the eastern region, said that the
responsibilities of Connexions personal advisers to young people
with learning difficulties were “very resource intensive”. Many
personal advisers, who provide one-to-one support to all young
people, were struggling to meet these specific responsibilities and
to find the time to attend review meetings, she added.
Review meetings to plan for a young person’s future beyond
schooling became mandatory from January this year for all children
with a special needs statement. But Palmer said they were felt to
be an unnecessary task creating extra work for personal advisers,
because young people with learning difficulties tended to stay in
education until they were 19, so plans were being discussed
“several years too early”.
Although Connexions services are expected to work with people
with learning difficulties until they are 25, research into some
local schemes found that many staff lacked the skills to deal with
people with learning difficulties and more money was needed to
train them, Palmer said.
Lack of awareness of learning difficulties was leading some
personal advisers to have very low expectations of some young
people’s potential work or training abilities.
Other problems identified by the research were a lack of clarity
over the role of the personal adviser, who too often became
responsible for plugging the “chasm” between Connexions and social
services, and a feeling that personal advisers were “ineffective”
because they had no direct access to funding.
– The Partnership Working and Community Development Conference
was organised by the National Development Team.