GOVERNMENT plans to tackle social exclusion among disaffected teenagers ignore the need for effective careers guidance for all young people and adults, careers professionals claimed this week.
The Institute of Careers Guidance is annoyed that government plans for a new youth support service for teenagers overlook the distinctive role of careers advisers in schools and colleges as well as the wider community.
Bryony Pawinska, the institute's chief executive, said ministers appeared to want a new form of hybrid or "superhuman" adviser who could tell teenagers about drugs and other welfare issues as well as careers.
"You can't wrap all that up in one person," she said. "You need people who know about guidance and can provide youngsters with support before referring them on to the relevant agencies."
The youth support service was proposed in last month's report from the Government's social exclusion unit and builds on plans for a new "connexions" strategy. This would bring together the work of the careers and youth services, as first outlined in the recent post-16 White Paper Learning to Succeed.
Anger over the way both documents largely overlook the careers service dominated discussions at the institute's annual conferencelast week at the University of Warwick. The guidance agenda had become "peripheral" to other policy initiatives, said Allister McGowan, chief executive of Hertfordshire Careers Service.
Andy Freeman of Sheffield Careers Guidance Services was worried that personal advisers working in the new support service might end up offering careers advice to young people when guidance workers clearly had far greater expertise. "It's about differentiating roles," he said.
Ms Pawinska was particularly concerned that the work of guidance staff might become confused with that of education welfare officers - often seen by young people as carrying out a "policing role".
She said careers services were capable of setting up local partnerships with other agencies that work with young people and had already done so where funds permitted.
"Why assume that a formal structure is better?" she asked. "We have to give people a clear brief and give them money so that they can build on what's going on already."
The institute is working with the Careers Services National Association, the Guidance Council and the Local Government Association on a joint response to both the social exclusion unit report and the post-16 White Paper.
The four organisations will criticise the White Paper for setting out separate strategies for young people and adults instead of advocating an all-age guidance service, as has been suggested in Wales.
Ms Pawinska said there was little evidence of any "joined-up thinking" between the two documents and last year's Green Paper The Learning Age.
The Government was "drawing a line between guidance for young people, particularly if they are socially excluded, and guidance for people over the age of 19".
Terry Collins, chairman of VT Southern Careers in Hampshire, said he was fully behind the social exclusion agenda, but added: "Every young person needs to become an active citizen and participate in the learning age. You can't ignore the top of the ability range who are just as important for meeting education and training targets."