Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2001
The end or future of youth work in Cumbria?
It seems that Cumbria Youth Service and Connexions Cumbria (now one and the same thing) were topic of the month at this year’s CYWU National Conference. So what ‘s fact, what’s fiction and what’s wishful thinking?
In order to enhance the debate on the future of Youth Services during the ascendancy of Connexions Partnerships, members of the Cumbria Branch of CYWU are able to offer a view of reality from the inside of the Connexions tent looking out.
It could be argued that Cumbria Youth Service began preparing for Connexions back in 1990/91. When a major review of the Service resulted in a shift of priorities from delivering a traditional, recreation based service to one which targeted provision at young people most in need and focused on advice, information and guidance, social and political education as well as educational support work in schools.
An OFSTED inspection in 1996 stimulated further change that included the establishment of a new management structure and the start of the process of increasing the size of contracts for part time youth workers. By 1998 the training leading to local qualification for part time youth workers was scrapped and all youth workers were expected to gain the National JNC Qualification through a choice of options ranging from one year Post Graduate Certificate to six years, in house, Dip.H.E.
By 2000 Cumbria Youth Service had gained Investors In People, Charter Mark and was reputed to be a top 11 performing service. We suspect 11 because we had not quite made the top ten but its still good going.
Was everybody happy? --------------- No!
Some Youth Workers, particularly those on smaller contracts, were not able or did not want to undertake the full professional training. During the course of the training a significant number of youth workers left the Service, which increased the opportunities to enhance the contracts of remaining staff.
Some County Councillors were not happy about the shift from recreation to education, it did not get young people off the streets and it did not win votes. This situation stimulated elected member v officer conflict, in three out of six areas of Cumbria, that by 1999 resulted in the scrapping of a strategic Youth Service in favour of a Service determined entirely by six Local Area Committees of the County Council.
Connexions and the Land of Opportunity
From July 2000 Cumbria Careers Service, Cumbria Youth Service and the Education Department began discussing the possibility of a Cumbria Connexions Partnership. At a full Youth Service Staff meeting in November 2000 youth workers and managers were shown a future land of opportunity with the choice of branching out into the proposed Connexions Service or remaining with the County Council to deliver a locally based service as directed by the Area Committees. It was noted that half of the Youth Service budget of £1.6 million would be made available to the Connexions Partnership. It was expected that up to 20 Youth Service staff would make the transfer.
From January 2001 political intervention increased. We suspect some key players in the ruling Labour Group on the County Council saw Connexions as an opportunity to get rid of Youth Service managers who were seen to be blocking the establishment of the Youth Service that they and their constituents required.
On 30 January 2001 at an LEA/CYWU/UNISON consultation meeting established to discuss T.U.P.E. issues relating to the transfer of Youth Service Staff into Connexions it was announced that there would be a full merger of Cumbria Youth Service and Cumbria Careers Service to form Connexions Cumbria. It was also confirmed that only £800,000 of the Youth Service budget would be transferred to Connexions Cumbria. The remaining £800,000 would be devolved to the six Area Committees to spend on services for young people. The sums don’t add up but it seems that influential telephone calls to Millbank Tower can make a difference.
The Score Sheet to Date
Acting Chief Executives 2
Permanent Chief Executives 1 - to start mid August 2001(external appointment)
Director Posts - Ex Careers Service Managers 3 Ex Youth Service Managers 0
Managers appointed to second tier posts - Ex Careers Service Managers 10 Ex Youth Service Managers 7
Managers demoted to third tier team leader posts on protected salaries Ex Careers 0 Ex Youth Service 3
CYWU NEGOTIATING SUCCESSES
All temporary or fixed term youth worker contracts made permanent prior to transfer.
Continuation of JNC professional Training agreed for ex Youth Service Staff.
Full TUPE transfer rights retained until harmonisation of terms and conditions of service is negotiated and agreed.
CYWU and UNISON established as the two negotiating unions under Connexions. Formal recognition and facility arrangements are still to be confirmed/negotiated.
Ex Youth Work Senior Youth Workers who were in level three posts to be included in the ring fenced recruitment for second tier management posts.
Three Connexions Cumbria Staff paid two days each to attend CYWU National Conference.
Area Committee Services to Young People Manager posts established under JNC terms and conditions of service.
At the County Council Elections in June the Labour group lost control to a Tory / Liberal Democrat alliance. Informal discussions between CYWU members and key Councillors may result in the re-establishment of a County Youth Service in Cumbria.
The merger of two top performing services should have a major impact on the opportunities and support that can be made available to young people in Cumbria. At the present time it's difficult to visualise the value-added impact that ex Youth Service Staff can provide for young people through Connexions Cumbria. Many youth workers in Cumbria have commented that the current management appointments and the feel of the service reflects that of a Careers plus operation rather than a radical, new support service for young people. It is notable that the Operational Management Team of Connexions Cumbria is made up entirely of ex careers Service Managers. Ex Youth Service Managers now hold key positions alongside the operational structure. These positions include Quality Assurance, Engaging Young people, Community/voluntary sector Development and Partnerships, Information, European Funding and Special projects.
The outcome of third tier team leader appointments and the personal adviser allocations to follow may give us hope for the future of the service. In addition the arrival of a Chief Executive with an Education Service background should establish the youth work agenda as a key component of Connexions Cumbria. This is now a priority if only to reduce the number of Youth Worker resignations that have been occurring since January 2001.
The main learning point to be gained from our experience is for local CYWU Branches to begin preparation for Connexions now. It will be established in your area within the next two years. It will impact on your Youth Service. Get to know Careers Service staff in your area, let them know the benefits of belonging to CYWU. Finally establish a working relationship with the UNISON reps in your area. It will make negotiations with the Connexions Partnership easier and more effective if the two Unions are seen to be working together.
For more information and an update of what’s happening in Cumbria contact
John Calvert - telephone 07980120329 email [email protected]
Pete Alger - telephone 07977214736
Archie Spence - telephone 07977387486
Watch out for the next instalment of the Connexions Cumbria Experience due out in the Autumn 2001. PERSONAL ADVISER DIPLOMA TRAINING - The inside story.
John Calvert Cumbria Branch Secretary