Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools - Education Committee Contents

7  Targeted support

Role of local authorities

110.  Following the Education Act 2011, the role of local authorities in careers guidance is limited to assisting the most vulnerable young people and those at risk of disengaging with education or work. These groups often require greater levels of career support and services targeted to their needs.[163] Vulnerable young people are less likely to have access to informal sources of careers advice and guidance and are more likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training). Interim findings of a survey by the Prince's Trust indicated that 69% of respondents felt that careers information, advice and guidance provided to their target group (care leavers, teenage parents, young offenders, those with special educational needs or disabilities and those at risk of becoming NEET) was ineffective or very ineffective.[164]

111.  Guidance provided for local authorities by the DfE sets out that they have a statutory duty to encourage, enable and assist young people's participation in education or training. The guidance says that it expects local authorities to utilise the Early Intervention Grant to "support young people to engage in education and training, intervening early with those who are at risk of disengagement". But the guidance is clear that it is for local authorities themselves to determine "what services are necessary to fulfil their statutory responsibility".[165]

112.  We heard evidence of a wide variation in the support offered by local authorities to targeted groups across the country. Judith Denyer of Propects explained to us: "Some local authorities' interpretation of their statutory duties is basically, 'I am just going to do something with LDD [learning difficulty and disability] young people,' and even other vulnerable groups are not getting the level of access they would have had before."[166] She added that she had some targeted support contracts worth five times more in one borough than in a neighbouring borough.[167] In a similar vein, Mary Vine-Morris of London Councils said that only around 30% of 16-18 year-old NEETs in London were receiving the local authority targeted provision.[168] A report by the Local Government Association (LGA) quotes a local authority officer from Greater Manchester, who was concerned that some local authorities were only targeting their support at "traditional" vulnerable groups, and that "some vulnerable young people will not be detected, including those who 'fall in and out of vulnerability'".[169]

113.  More positively, the LGA also indicated that some local authorities are working hard to redesign services for targeted groups, citing Leeds City Council and County Durham as examples where this work is taking place.[170] Councillor David Simmonds of the LGA added in oral evidence that Kent County Council was working to develop its own Risk of NEET indicators.[171]

114.  The Minister reinforced the importance of targeted services for vulnerable young people, with particular reference to those who are likely to become NEET. He said:

This is a really important area, and the link-up between schools and local authorities on early targeting and data-sharing on which pupils are likely to become NEET, and then on putting in place early steps to deal with it, is absolutely crucial [...] It is their [local authorities'] responsibility to work with schools in their area, whether they are academies or not, to identify who is likely to go into that category and to deal with it. I think that is really important.[172]

115.  We believe that careers guidance services are an integral part of the support package needed by vulnerable young people. We are concerned that there appears to be too much variation in local authorities' interpretation of what constitutes a targeted group. We recommend that the Department of Education promotes the activities of the best performing local authorities so that best practice in identifying and delivering services to targeted young people is shared.

Youth contract

116.  The Youth Contract provides £1 billion to supplement the role of schools and local authorities with a range of opportunities to help young people access education, training and work. Within this, there is a discrete provision (worth £126 million over three years) for 16-17 year olds who are not in education, employment or training and who are at greatest risk of long term disengagement.[173] The Government has awarded contracts for this work regionally to private companies and third sector organisations. In a small number of areas the Government has devolved the funding to City Deals to buy services on a local level.[174]

117.  The DfE told us that the focus of the programme ensures that the "Youth Contract targets those who most need support".[175] It informed us that the programme was being managed by the Education Funding Agency to ensure coherence with other local initiatives. It also said that providers will "need to work alongside local authorities to agree priorities".[176]

118.  Criticisms of the regional commissioning of the programme were made by local authorities. For example, we were told that the Youth Contract was awarded in areas without local authorities being consulted by the successful bidder on the needs of the young people within the area.[177] The LGA claimed that:

the nationally commissioned model has offered minimal engagement with councils [...] As a result, there is a risk that provision will not be integrated with exiting local activity [...] the consequence of this is that this element of the Youth Contract will sit outside existing efforts and investments in all local areas making the offer to young people complicated and confusing.[178]

119.  The Minister agreed that more needed to be done to bring local authorities into the delivery of the Youth Contract. In response to questioning on the lack of local authority involvement in the letting of the Youth Contracts, he told us that "the best practice is where local authorities are involved, and it is very clear that, in some areas, that works really well".[179] He did not, however, accept the criticism that local authorities were not consulted in the letting of regional contracts. [180]

120.  We welcome the Minister's assurance that the Government is in discussion with the LGA about the Youth Contract.[181] While it may be too early to judge the effectiveness of the Youth Contract, we have concerns that the national providers are not sufficiently linked into the local networks and that this risks a duplication of services and young people falling between the cracks.

121.  We recommend that the Government ensures that discussions take place between local authorities and the regional Youth Contract providers about the delivery of the Youth Contract on a local level.

163   Ev w63, Ev w92 para 5.1 Back

164   Ev w48 Back

165   Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Targeted Support Services for Young People, DfE, April 2011 Back

166   Q 69 Back

167   Q 109 (Judith Denyer) Back

168   Q 109 (Mary Vine-Morris) Back

169   Filmer-Sankey, C and McCrone, T (2012), Hidden Talents: Examples of Transition of Careers Guidance from Local Authorities to Schools (LGA Research Report), Slough: NFER Back

170   Ev 58 Back

171   Q 97 Back

172   Q 291 Back

173 Back

174  Back

175   Ev 80 Back

176   Ibid. Back

177   Ev 121 Back

178   Ev 64 Back

179   Q 292 Back

180   Q 293 Back

181   Q 294 Back

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Prepared 23 January 2013