Scales and harmony

There are more than 11,000 front-line staff delivering the
Connexions support and guidance service for 13-19 year olds in
England, including 7,900 personal advisers. Connexions personal
advisers now have national occupational standards, a code of
practice and a national training structure, but unlike youth and
community workers, who are paid according to established pay
scales, they have no national bargaining arrangements, no national
pay scales and no nationally recognised conditions of

They are also employed or part-funded by a wide range of bodies.
Only 21 out of England’s 47 partnerships use a direct
delivery model where they employ their own staff, leaving the rest
with a combination of arrangements, including subcontracting
services to a lead body, which may in turn subcontract out some of
its services further. Of the 20 or so partnerships which originally
contracted out most of their services to a combination of
privatised careers firms, councils and voluntary sector groups,
seven have so far opted to change to direct delivery, says Carolyn
Caldwell, executive director of the National Association of
Connexions Partnerships.

Unison and the Community and Youth Workers Union (CYWU), the two
main unions representing Connexions workers, are lobbying hard for
national pay and conditions and for assurances that Connexions
partnerships will have to consult staff and unions.

Dave Proctor, national case work negotiator for the CYWU, says
that within and between partnerships, there’s variation in
terms and conditions, even for people doing the same job.

“Some Connexions workers are paid according to youth work
scales, some to local government pay scales, and some on new pay
scales established by the partnership. Some partnerships are
attempting to harmonise but we don’t want them to harmonise
to the worst conditions.”

Unison represents about 15,000 members working in or with the
Connexions service and careers service companies in England, while
CYWU has tended to recruit former youth workers and new Connexions
staff and has a personal adviser representative on its national
executive committee.

“Most partnerships work quite well with unions and have some
form of union consultation at local or regional level,” said Owen
Davies, senior national officer for Unison. “Careers services
formerly run by local authorities already had well established
links with unions and members retained union membership when their
careers services were privatised.

“But there’s no national body setting terms and conditions
for Connexions staff. We tried to persuade the Connexions Service
National Unit from the outset this was a good idea but they were
adamant that they did not want to follow that route.”

Too little support
Doug Nicholls, general secretary of the CYWU, agrees. “We
were originally told there were to be 15,000 advisers, when in fact
we have around 7,900. They have too much work and too little
support. We maintain that a free market in pay and conditions does
not help to professionalise the service. The adviser role was a
unique creation – if it is to stay and to be of value then it needs
to be consolidated. If it remains a fragmented pseudo profession
with different terms and conditions and no identity it will wither
on the vine.”

According to the DfES, pay for a Connexions personal adviser
ranges from £14,000 for trainees without qualifications, to
around £25,000 for qualified personal advisers with NVQ level
4 qualifications and extensive experience. Each Connexions
partnership makes its own arrangements for pension schemes and
benefits such as car loans, and annual leave can vary from 23 to 35

Many personal advisers enter the profession with a degree, an
HND, and careers guidance or other professional qualifications,
such as in teaching or social work, while trainees can enter the
profession at lower pay levels if they have relevant experience of
working with young people.

Philippa Haddrill, a trainee shop steward for Unison and
Connexions personal adviser, believes that union membership is
important not just to secure better pay, but also to support
advisers with issues such as lone working, home visits,
transporting clients and antisocial hours.

But others see the flexibility of the current set up as an
advantage. Linda Taylor, chief executive of South London
Connexions, which subcontracts many of its services to private
careers firms, thinks the model works well. Of the 250 staff at
South London Connexions, only a small core is employed by the

Pay down to employers
“As a chief executive I don’t get too involved in
the pay and conditions of staff,” says Taylor. “I negotiate a price
for the contract, while pay is down to employers. It’s
important that we use contractors who value their staff and provide
high quality training and decent salaries, but my job is to get the
best value for money for young people in south London without
compromising on a quality service.

“If we manage our partnership well young people should see a
seamless and unified service on the ground, regardless of who is
employing personnel. I’m not sure that national pay scales
are a good idea since there are different issues in different
areas, such as the cost of living in London. Local negotiation
gives more flexibility.”

Whatever the differing views, this may all change with the
establishment of a Children’s Workforce Unit at the
Department for Education and Skills, in response to the Children
Bill, which aims for a unified service for children and young
people across health, education, social and youth work. The unit
aims to develop a pay and workforce strategy for all those who work
with children and young people, to build a common core of
occupational standards and to make working with children and young
people a more rewarding and attractive career.

But while Unison and the CYWU see this as potentially a great
opportunity, Owen Davies has reservations. “Unison wants to see
this work, but it’s very ambitious. There are 2.4 million
people in this workforce and the DfES wants a strategy that
includes everyone from part-time child minders to directors of
social services. We also want the DfES to take the time to get it
right – this is a mammoth task and it can’t be rushed.”

Saved from redundancy

Philippa Haddrill and her colleagues recently had reason to be
grateful that they were members of a union. Fifty-two staff at
Sheffield Futures, where Philippa is a personal adviser for
Connexions, faced redundancy. Now the proposed job losses have been
reduced to six.

Philippa, a trainee shop steward for Unison, said the unions
played a pivotal role in getting the local council to step in with
financial help. “Unison lobbied schools, MPs, councillors and the
press and put on an awful lot of pressure,” she says. “People who
had left the union joined again during the dispute because the
benefits were suddenly brought home to them.”

In Sheffield the problems were blamed on an increase in pension
contributions, but Unison regional officer Steve Torrance believes
the way the service is structured also played a part. Sheffield
Futures is an independent charity which runs a merged youth service
and Connexions service in the city.

“It’s a small and new organisation which is not robust
enough to weather the peaks and troughs. Also Sheffield Futures
relies on 90 different contracts to generate income so if some of
these are not renewed it can result in a loss of income.”

David Gault, director of operations at Sheffield Futures, said:
“Sheffield Futures management and board worked extremely hard to
reduce the number of staff we had to make redundant and we were
able to attract some additional funding for our range of services
to young people.” As a result, some staff who had been issued with
redundancy notices were offered their jobs back.

“Job losses were necessary because of factors including a
shortfall in funding due to a legal obligation to increase pensions
for staff in the South Yorkshire Pension Fund, real-term cuts in
the Connexions contract, and because several projects came to an
end at the end of March.”

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