Sheffield faces Connexions merger of Youth Service with Careers
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2001The new Connexions service for all 13-19 year olds is being implemented in twelve parts of the country this year. A further batch of areas will see Connexions next year and it will reach the rest of the country the year after that. Pedro Conner of Sheffield CYWU warns that Connexions could mean the transfer of youth workers out of their local authority and into private companies. It could also threaten JNC. National Conference agreed to oppose this form of privatisation.
Sheffield Youth Service could be the next youth service to be moved out of a local authority as part of the implementation of Connexions. Such a move would threaten JNC pay and conditions and could lead to redundancies. It is CYWU national policy to oppose any transfer of staff out of the employment of a democratically-elected local authority. Developments in Sheffield, Cumbria and elsewhere should sound warning bells for other parts of the country where Connexions is not yet live and active.
Sheffield Youth Service is due to merge with Sheffield Careers and Guidance Service (SCGS) by April 2002. They will form a new company to deliver the Connexions service in Sheffield. SCGS is already an independent company, having come out of the local authority a few years ago. This development would mean moving the Youth Service out of the city council.
The whole of the Youth Service would be moved into the new company. All Youth Service staff would be transferred. Youth Service premises, however, would remain with the local authority.
The new company would be a non-for-profit company and a charity. It would probably be owned by SCGS and Sheffield City Council. The board would include members from Sheffield City Council, the Sheffield College, the two local universities, the health service and the Council for Racial Equality. It would also have to include one person not employed by the company with an expertise in youth work and one from a black and ethnic minority community.
Sheffield is in South Yorkshire, one of the first 12 areas in the country to run the Connexions service. The model that has been adapted here in South Yorkshire is to have a small central company, called Connexions South Yorkshire Ltd, to hold the budget and contract with ‘deliverer-partners’ in the four local towns: Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley. Connexions South Yorkshire Ltd is a non-for-profit company owned by the four local authorities and the two local careers companies. It is chaired by one Keith Pacey, the director of a local private enterprise, Maplin Electronics. Connexions South Yorkshire Ltd is not intended to employ large numbers of staff or to provide the Connexions service; this would be done by the deliverer-partners.
The main deliverer-partner for Connexions in Sheffield would be the newly-merged Youth and Careers company. In addition to supplying the Connexions service, the new company would deliver youth provision to young people outside the Connexions age range of 13-19 and adult careers guidance to those over the age of 19. Its main sources of funding would be from Connexions South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council and the national government (for the adult careers work). However, Sheffield City Council is unable to guarantee funding for more than one year at a time. If the new company lacked funds to pay all its staff this would lead to redundancies.
The company would be employing three different types of staff:
youth workers - employed on JNC pay and conditions
careers workers - employed on a modified version of NJC pay and conditions
personal advisers - who are being employed on pay scales unrelated to either JNC or NJC.
It is likely that the new company would want to ‘harmonise’ pay and conditions for all its staff. The logic of the arrangement is to threaten JNC pay and conditions for youth workers.
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 will apply to any transfer of staff from the local authority to the new company. Regulation 5 says that staff have the right to continued employment on existing terms and conditions. But this does not stop the new company changing pay and conditions at a later date.
There are a number of reasons for opposing what is in effect the privatisation of the Youth Service.
Loss of democratic accountability - at present, the Youth Service is directly accountable to elected councillors who can be lobbied if services to young people are under threat. It will be easier for councillors to deny responsibility if the Youth Service is part of a separate company. CYWU has campaigned for years for a firmer statutory basis for youth work, not to have it privatised.
Threat to services - the new company will be under contract to Sheffield City Council to supply youth work in the city but if the budget is cut year on year, then services to young people will be under threat.
Threat to jobs - the new company could face competition from the voluntary sector or even private enterprise. Sheffield City Council or Connexions South Yorkshire could choose to fund other suppliers at the expense of the new company. If the new company became short of funds then redundancies would follow more swiftly than in the local authority, where there is greater scope for redeployment of staff.
Threat to pay and conditions - since SCGS moved out of the local authority, new staff are now being appointed on spot salaries, rather than incremental scales, and there is an increased use of temporary contracts. ‘Harmonisation’ of pay and conditions could mean the loss of JNC. This in turn threatens the quality of youth work as JNC is linked to training and qualifications in youth work.
No improvement in services to young people - advocates of the merger with Careers say that it is justified if services to young people are improved. But they have given no evidence that services would be improved by the merger. Sheffield Youth Service is currently one of the best in the country. The Ofsted report into Sheffield two years ago said that the Youth Service makes “very good provision for young people” and is “very good value for money”. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Erosion of youth work - Youth Service management have said that Connexions will not work without youth work and that they do not foresee the closure of part time youth centres. But there are fears that youth work as we have known it will be eroded by Connexions. The Connexions personal advisers will be primarily working with a caseload of individual young people and working to an agenda of re-engaging young people in employment, education and training. Youth work, by contrast, is based more on working with ‘the whole young person’ and in a voluntary relationship.
No one wants it - no one, apart from senior managers and politicians, that is. No Youth Service fieldworkers want to leave the local authority and merge with Careers.
The experience of SCGS careers workers since they came out of the local authority is not encouraging. New staff are now being appointed on spot salaries rather than incremental scales. Owing to insecure funding, there are now more temporary contracts. Nationally negotiated pay awards have not been given automatically but have had to be negotiated locally. Management have attempted to bypass the trade union. The higher level SO2 grade is now reserved for co-ordinators rather than the bulk of careers advisers.
Meanwhile, a hundred personal advisers are being recruited across South Yorkshire to start in September. Forty of these will come to Sheffield, of which perhaps eight to 13 will be employed by the Youth Service, the rest being employed by Careers and a few by the voluntary sector.
The personal advisers will be paid £13,299-16,680 depending on previous experience, rising to a maximum of £22,194 on completion of the Personal Adviser diploma. They are required to have substantial experience of working with young people or a related qualification at a minimum of NVQ level II or equivalent with at least one year’s experience of working with 13-19 year olds. They are not required to be JNC qualified and the pay scale is not JNC although it overlaps with JNC levels 1 and 2, with a bar at Level 2.2 for the diploma. Sheffield Youth Service intends to employ its personal advisers on JNC conditions, whether or not they are JNC qualified.
There is a danger here that the typical personal adviser could be someone unqualified and inexperienced and unable to provide a good service to young people.
All the way through the roll-out of Connexions in South Yorkshire there is a feeling that management have been making it up as they go along. Basic questions such as ‘who will employ the personal advisers?’ and ‘what will they be paid?’ have been addressed and answered only at the last possible moment. Basic questions such as ‘where will they be based?’ and ‘who will supervise them?’ remain to be answered at the date of writing.
Opposing the merger of Youth and Careers will be difficult. SCGS have already appointed a new Chief Exec to carry through the merger. He is a civil servant called Jim Reid from the Connexions Service National Unit. The merger has the support of Sheffield City Council, currently Liberal Democrat.
It is possible that the new company might not be viable. The Youth Service currently receives a lot of hidden support from the City Council - help with personnel, legal and health and safety matters for instance. The contract between the City Council and the new company must reflect this or the new company will not have enough money to do its business.
There is a clear agenda for CYWU to follow over the next few months:
· Oppose the merger with Careers
· Defend youth work and youth workers’ pay and conditions as Connexions develops
· Recruit personal advisers to CYWU and improve their pay and conditions.
Another selection of areas will see the introduction of Connexions from April 2002 and the rest of the country will ‘go live’ in April 2003. So far, only three of the first 12 areas have opted for the model of transferring youth work out of the local authority. It might be that this approach will not be popular amongst principal youth officers elsewhere. Or it might be that, with encouragement from the new Labour government, the issues that Sheffield is facing this year will be facing you and your branch next year.