Connexions’ painful evolution

As the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy has said,
Connexions needs to be clear about the level of confidentiality
young people can expect from its personal advisers. The
organisation has a national branding and its young clients
naturally expect to get a consistent standard of service. Currently
not only is there no common policy on confidentiality, but young
people are not routinely told in advance what will be done with any
information they share. This state of affairs is ethically dubious,
and puts personal advisers themselves in an invidious position. But
it also undermines Connexions’ own central aim of engaging
young people at risk of social exclusion. Its own research has
shown that less than 10 per cent of young people who talked to
someone from Connexions had discussed a personal issue such as
stress, alcohol and drugs, bullying or sexual health. At the same
time, recent Ofsted inspection reports indicate that some
Connexions partnerships are still working largely as a traditional
careers service.

The ideal of a joined-up, personalised support service for young
people is the right way forward. And it is unrealistic to expect an
organisation – and what amounts to a new profession – to mature in
three years. Developing occupational standards for delivering
services to young people are a positive step.

But like other public services, Connexions is under intense
pressure to meet an array of government targets. It’s
important that these don’t overwhelm local Connexions
services and prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities to
young people. It is the confidence of young people that will stop
Connexions becoming a white elephant.

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