'Bleak picture' at Careers Scotland

Staff at Careers Scotland have no confidence in its management, according to a survey by the public sector union Unison.

But the union's main target appears to be Scottish Enterprise, which has responsibility for Careers Scotland. It wants an urgent meeting with ministers to alert them to developments the union claims could lead to a "second-rate, demoralised and ill-equipped" careers service.

Unison's "bleak picture" reveals that 98 per cent of its members at Careers Scotland feel the management does not value the views of staff and 88 per cent have no confidence in senior management.

The union says it represents 80 per cent of Careers Scotland staff and the survey attracted a 60 per cent postal return. Members are particularly incensed about the "unfair and unequal" performance-related pay system which they accuse Scottish Enterprise of imposing.

A spokesperson for Careers Scotland said: "We are aware that there are continuing concerns about the introduction of performance-related pay and the pay review, and we are actively working with employees to introduce the process as smoothly as possible."

The survey also uncovered particular tensions between the new management at Scottish Enterprise and careers staff. Jack Perry, recently appointed chief executive at Scottish Enterprise, has said that inclusion policies should not be part of the organisation's remit - a view rejected by 85 per cent of Careers Scotland staff.

In a letter to MSPs, Peter Veldon, Unison's regional officer, said Mr Perry's attitude that the organisation should not be delivering services aimed at those who lacked employment skills was "ill-considered and regrettable". Careers staff must have a core role in helping to develop the skills of those excluded from the labour market.

But Careers Scotland hit back strongly, pointing out that one of its key priorities is to support people who face barriers to taking up employment, education and training (the so-called NEET group). "We have a statutory responsibility to the NEET group and there is no question of us relinquishing that or abandoning any client group we presently serve."

Unison is also taking issue with what it fears are plans by Careers Scotland to ditch is vacancy-handling function, which deals with matters such as qualifications and entry requirements for work. Neil Cruikshank, Unison branch secretary at Scottish Enterprise, says this is causing "grave concern". The survey showed that 94 per cent of careers staff believed that vacancy handling was integral to their work.

Careers Scotland confirmed it is carrying out "an independent strategic review", in response to an earlier recommendation that it should be transferred to what is now the JobCentre Plus network. The findings will be released in the near future, and staff will be told the outcome before anyone else.

The spokesperson acknowledged this was "a difficult time" and staff had faced enormous change since the organisation was set up in 2002. But she added: "It is vital that we continue to move the business forward to ensure we are a focused and co-ordinated organisation."

Careers Scotland has done out its own employee survey, conducted by Mori.

It identified areas requiring improvement and an action plan was drawn up.

Another survey will be carried out in January.

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