Connexions to remain independent service within children’s trusts

    Fears that young people’s service Connexions is to be phased out as
    children’s trusts come on stream were allayed last week by a senior
    civil servant.

    Speaking at a conference on Connexions and young people with
    disabilities, Steve Jackson, divisional director for Connexions and
    the regions at the Department for Education and Skills, said that
    press reports on the service’s demise were “greatly
    exaggerated”.

    He said that Connexions needed to be “strategically” part of the
    new trusts. “The kids value an independent service so it’s going to
    stay being that and we can achieve that within a children’s trust,”
    he said.

    Although Jackson said it was “unfair” to say that young people with
    disabilities, learning difficulties and/or mental health problems
    had fallen off Connexions’ agenda, he accepted that it could
    improve its service to these groups.

    “We haven’t followed up the idea of champions – somebody on the
    [Connexions partnerships] boards who has an overview of raising
    these sorts of issues,” he said.

    Jackson said that Connexions was now “perhaps in more of a
    position” to make the optional training module for personal
    advisers in working with young people with disabilities, learning
    difficulties and mental health problems compulsory.

    Concerns were also raised at the conference about Entry to
    Employment, a pre-employment provision catering for young people
    who are not ready to enter apprenticeships or other employment.

    E2E is meant to help young people gain skills and qualifications
    such as NVQ level 1 or 2 working at their own pace. However,
    delegates at the conference reported that work-based training
    providers, who contract with local learning and skills councils to
    run E2E schemes, were not keen to take young people with learning
    difficulties on to the programmes.

    Jackson said that he was struck by the failure in some parts of the
    country of work-based training providers to provide any training at
    level 1.

    He added that there was a need for some specific support services
    for young people who may not be ready to go on to E2E schemes so
    that college was not the only alternative.

    “Colleges could become day centres and we don’t want that,” he
    said.

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