Find 20,000 advisers 'close to home'

THE Government has been told to make more use of teachers and youth workers as it moves to create personal advisers for young people.

An estimated 20,000 personal advisers will be recruited to work in the Connexions Service, which aims to guide young peoplethrough the maze of career choices and bureaucratic obstacles.

The advisers will act as a broker, tackling agencies such as social services, housing departments and job centres on behalf of their clients.

Tom Wylie, chief executive of the National Youth Agency, last week told a conference, organised by North London Colleges European Network, that the service needed to make more use of existing expertise among youth workers, teachers and others who already have the confidence of young people.

"There are already people out there working with the young. Surely the important thing is to make sure those people have the kind of competence needed to help young people who need personal advice.

"We should start with the people who are currently in post."

He said young people should be able to seek advice from any adult who has responsibility over them. "I believe that what they are proposing will not meet the policy goals - goals which I agree with."

The Government says personal advisers will be neutral, accountable only to the client, and will be trained in counselling and negotiating skills before being licensed to practise.

Mr Wylie estimates that the Government will need pound;850 million year to fund 20,000 personal advisers around the country.

And he predicts that most of this sum will be made available, although not in the first year.

Martin Stephenson, from the Department for Education and Employment, a leading figure behind the initiative, told the conference that the figure of 20,000 came about as a result of a model based on a manageable caseload for each adviser, although the final figure will depend on funding.

Figures from 1996 show that 10 per cent of people aged 16 or 17 were not in full-time education, training or employment. As a result, Connexions is expected to have close links with further education.

While the initiative, announced by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett in February, is aimed at helping young people on the fringes of society, the DFEE intends that a personal adviser will be available to every young person in the country - regardless of their circumstances.

Connexions is being piloted around the country before being phased in over three years from April 2001.

The North London Colleges European Network, mainly made up of FE institutions, has been working with the London boroughs of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey to run Youthstart Pathfinder 2000.

The network has also been trying to introduce a European dimension to vocational FE courses, including NVQs and GNVQs, to increase students' chances of being able to exploit the free flow of labour within the European Union.

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