Careers-staff cuts hitting job hopes hopes

UNIONS have hit out over employment prospects for young people after a number of careers staff were laid off in the past year.

Nine staff have lost their jobs at the Hartlepool Connexions service since the Government announced its spending cuts. About 50 are at risk at the Connexions service in County Durham.

The service is part of local councils’ education service and authority chiefs say the job losses are part of a shake-up which will see the services offered by Connexions integrated into the council’s day-to-day work.

Hartlepool has the second highest proportion in the country of 18 to 24-year-olds on the jobs queue, with 1,345 (16 per cent) claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

And union chiefs say the job losses form a “desperate picture of the careers service for young people in England heading for meltdown” as 97 per cent of authorities are set to cut Connexions services this year.

Howard Pink, Unison’s regional organiser for Connexions staff, said: “Youth unemployment has hit a record high, with more than one million young people out of work.

“In the North-East, one in 10 16-to-24 year olds receive benefits. But across the country, the Connexions advisors are losing their jobs. Local authorities have a duty to provide careers services, but these cuts mean many are flouting their responsibilities to young people.”

A Hartlepool Council spokesman said: “While the service has had to contend with significant cuts in 2011/2012, resulting in the deletion of three personal advisor posts and a further six managerial/administrative posts, the council has been able to preserve many aspects of the careers services Connexions historically delivered locally. This has been achieved through the pooling of resources within the Integrated Youth Support service, the efforts of the local 11-19 Partnership and joint initiatives delivered with the council’s economic development team.

“This has enabled us to continue providing careers services to young people and sustain many of Connexions day-to-day activities.

“The scaled-back service continues to deliver careers services to young people supported by youth support workers from across the broader Integrated Youth Support service.”

Carole Payne, head of early intervention and partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “Together with County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust we will be introducing new teams working with children and young people in County Durham from September.

“The multi-disciplinary teams, called One Point, are designed to offer easier and earlier access to a range of services.”

A Durham Council spokeswoman said the authority would bid to avoid any compulsory redundancies by offering early retirement and voluntary redundancy and seeking alternative employment for those at risk.