A survey of 40 careers services, 25 Training and Enterprise Councils and six other organisations found that unpredictable and decreasing levels of funding are sidelining guidance services at a time when they should be central to the development of a lifelong learning society.
Rodney Buse, chair of the Guidance Council, said: "Current funding streams are too short term, ad hoc and do not ensure a coherent minimum provision across the country.
"This makes it difficult to plan and develop services to meet the challenges of the Government's proposals in its Green Paper, The Learning Age."
The survey found that the proportion of people seeking one-to-one consultations as a proportion of the total number using the service varied enormously across the country - from 2 to 90 per cent.
Thirty per cent of respondents said that the short-term funding arrangements had constrained their service and 19 respondents reported cuts in their funding during the current year. Where subsidies had been reduced or withdrawn, the level of use of services had reduced dramatically.
Among a number of recommendations, the Guidance Council, which commissioned the survey with support from the TEC National Council and Careers Service National Association, is asking further education colleges to provide services to people other than enrolled students. They are also calling for a detailed mapping of adult advice and guidance services, an investigation into their effectiveness and funding.