Community services set for shake-up

4th August 2000 at 01:00
COMMUNITY education workers in Edinburgh are to lose their jack of all trades remit after a nine-month review revealed "clear evidence" that specialists are more effective.

The authority is now to urge more face-to-face contact with individuals and groups to bring it into line with Government guidelines. Targets will ensure staff spend less time on administration.

A major shake-up of the service, with cuts in senior management, is on the cards, although changes are against a backdrop of continued pressures on the pound;8.3 million budget, already overspent by more than pound;400,000.

The extensive review, involving surveys of adult learners, young people and community leaders, found "a core of effective practice" in key areas such as adult basic education and youth work.

But the inquiry states: "The overall picture painted by the review teams is of a service which has grown incrementally on the basis of demand and opportunity rather than on the basis of a strategic vision. The service has a body of good practice but it is fragmented and inconsistent in terms of scope and quality across the city."

Only 25 per cent of time on adult education was focused on socially excluded inividuals, groups and communities and less than 3 per cent of generic community education workers' time was spent on face-to-face adult education, compared with 50 per cent of a dedicated worker's time.

The review concludes: "Specialist focus is more effective and efficient than partial responsibility within a generic remit."

Just under a quarter of a community education worker's time was spent on youth and children's issues with 6 per cent on face-to-face work. Almost half the time went on work with the under-12s, 35 per cent on 12 to 15-year-olds and 17 per cent on the over-16s.

A survey of 141 young people showed that half (51 per cent) felt they had received no real help with personal problems, although staff said a third of their time with young people was devoted to social education. More than half (54 per cent) said youth work had helped control their temper while 45 per cent saw discussion of drugs and alcohol as a priority.

But 43 per cent said they had no information on their rights and 64 per cent felt politics was never a focus of discussion. And more than 50 per cent said truancy, housing, parents and families, and employment were never discussed.

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