|Skill Scotland - Policy|
Careers Service Review
Executive Response Consultation
A Response from Skill Scotland
Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities promotes opportunities to empower young people and adults with any kind of disability to realise their potential in further, continuing and higher education, training and employment throughout the United Kingdom. Skill works by providing information and advice to individuals, promoting good practice and influencing policy in partnership with disabled people, service providers and policy makers.
Skill Scotland is part of Skill UK. Skill Scotland contributed written and oral evidence to the Beattie Committee Report and the Chair of Skill Scotland was a member of the Beattie Committee.
2. Structural Issues
The role of the voluntary sector has been largely overlooked in both the Duffner Report and the Executive Response. Many voluntary sector organisations in Scotland play an important part in this field and should be considered key stakeholders, for example those involved in the Beattie consultations (see appendix). The Executive has rejected the Beattie recommendation for Area Strategy Groups, which would have involved disabled people and voluntary organisations and would have had flexibility in which was the lead agency. Without this avenue for participation, it becomes especially important for them to be involved in the new Careers Service structure. The proposed Working Group, Joint Venture Group and Local Boards will need to include members with the experience to ensure that disabled clients are successfully catered for by eg. quality models and standards, access measures, training, confidentiality protocols and assessment tools. Skill Scotland strongly recommends that voluntary agencies are included on the proposed Working Group, Joint Venture Group and Local Boards.
(Duffner Recommendation (DR) 10, 14)
Mention is made of the Beattie National Action Group (NAG) liaising with the Working Group to develop the Key Worker role (DR 20). We believe it is crucial that the 2 groups co-ordinate their plans in all areas. Skill Scotland recommends that these groups hold regular joint meetings, or that representatives from NAG sit on the Working Group.
Local Boards are expected to ensure impartial delivery of services. However, we believe there may be tensions between day-to-day pressures to deliver on targets and the situation of some disabled clients - who may have complex social / personal / developmental needs over a long period of time. There is a danger that this tension will cause services to deteriorate, particularly for disabled people who are not currently able to work - given the strong emphasis placed by the Executive on employment. Skill Scotland recommends the establishment of an independent inspection body to monitor delivery. We further recommend that once Quality Standards and a Complaints Procedure are framed they be made available at a local level in all appropriate accessible formats (eg. Braille, disc, large print etc.).
The proposed transfer of the vacancy handling role to the Employment Service would mean that disabled / disadvantaged young people would need to have contact with 2 agencies : Careers Scotland for advice and a Jobcentre for placing. Since Jobcentres tend to work mainly through a self-service system, this would place vulnerable clients at a significant extra disadvantage. Skill Scotland recommends that in the event of a transfer of the vacancy handling role - special attention be given to creating clear arrangements for a sympathetic and co-ordinated process for transferring vulnerable clients between the 2 agencies. (DR 23)
We note that delivery of many of the Beattie recommendations is now to be subsumed within an all-age Careers Service. We are concerned that more vulnerable clients, such as disabled / socially excluded young people may become squeezed out by more demanding consumers of the service. Skill Scotland recommends that the needs of vulnerable clients are protected by ring-fencing the money allocated to the Beattie proposals, to ensure that it reaches its intended target group.
Whilst we support the principle of an all age careers service, we are aware that there are times when the needs for support and advice for disabled people are particularly acute, eg. the period of transition at age 16. Skill Scotland recommends that the new careers service be given a strong remit to deliver improved services to disabled young people, including advice on assessment options.
The change over to the new system is proposed to happen in April 2002. However, the period from April to August is typically a peak season for client work and placing and the potential for disruption and client confusion is therefore high. Skill Scotland recommends that the change be undertaken in 2 phases : (a) April 2002 for the smaller companies; (b) other companies to complete the task by April 2003, as and when their business plans are ready. This would allow national management to devote more time to an initial smaller group, both aiding their transition process and gaining valuable experience to facilitate the second phase.
5. Professional Issues
Staff recruitment, training and development will be crucial, regarding : new client groups, lifelong learning and labour market knowledge.
Skill Scotland recommends that it is essential that the recruitment and training of specialist careers advisers on disability be continued and that continuous professional development is encouraged through funding of accredited courses and, for example, membership of the ICG. We further recommend that general training should include more coverage of inclusion themes.
There is a need for the profession to draw from as wide a spectrum of the population as possible, to ensure inclusiveness and equal opportunities. However, some groups - such as many disabled people - are typically less likely to be geographically mobile. Skill Scotland recommends that Careers Scotland carries out recruitment on an area or zone basis and not (only) at a national level.
The Executive suggests that staff will have enhanced career prospects within the new structure. However, there is a danger that the best staff will be promoted away from the careers side of the service and be absorbed into management posts within the wider organisation. This phenomenon has obvious implications for quality of service, professional morale, and costs of staff turnover and training. (There is a precedent in the experience of the Training and Development Agency in Northern Ireland since the late 1980s). Skill Scotland recommends that a strong career structure be provided within Careers Scotland itself, with a clear commitment to the role of specialist careers advice for people with disabilities.
(DR 35, 36, 37, 38)
Some examples of relevant voluntary organisations:
Children in Scotland
LEAD (Linking Education & Disability)
Royal National Institute for Deaf People
Royal National Institute for the Blind
Scottish Association for Mental Health
Scottish Downs Syndrome Association
STAG (Support Training Action Group)
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