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UNISON is the majority trade union representing employees within the Careers Guidance Service in Scotland. UNISON previously gave a detailed submission to the Careers Service Review Committee and now welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Executive's response to the report produced by the Review Committee, Chaired by Barbara Duffner.
The response set out below is the product of widespread consultation with UNISON members employed within the Careers Service in Scotland who provided written comments on the Duffner Report and the Executive response. These comments were presented to and discussed by a delegate meeting of UNISON members employed as career practitioners from all over Scotland covering all of the models of careers guidance delivery which currently exist
UNISON members employed within the Careers Service in Scotland are, in general, supportive of the analysis and recommendations of the Duffner Report and the Scottish Executive's response. UNISON accepts the principle of the Careers Scotland brand, organisation and structure and welcomes a return to the public sector of the careers service.
However, as would be expected, as part of the consultative process and the necessary negotiations which must take place beyond that, UNISON would welcome clarification of certain sections of the report and expects that this would happen over the course of the next period before the implementation date.
UNISON believes that it must, as the union representing almost all careers staff in Scotland, be centrally involved in the implementation of the proposed changes at both national and local level. UNISON as a major stakeholder would expect to be involved in all the discussions which have to take place to give effect ultimately to the creation of Careers Scotland. In that context it is UNISON's view that we must be involved and play a full role in both the National Joint Venture Board and within the local Boards. This in our view is particularly appropriate given that the report indicates that Boards should, in the view of the Review Committee, mirror the National Joint Venture Board.
Turning to specific recommendations in the report, UNISON would make the following comments.
In relation to Recommendation 10, UNISON believes that it is essential that the union representative chosen to sit on the Time-Limited Working Group should be a UNISON member from within the careers service who has the experience and understanding of the issues pertinent to careers service staff. UNISON will therefore be happy to discuss how this could be implemented.
In relations to Recommendations 7, 8, 11 and 12, UNISON would welcome clarification of the term "accountability". The question here is, does this include democratic accountability?
We are sceptical of the proposal that some careers services could be sub-contracted. In our view, this proposition goes against the grain of the Duffner Report's criticism of the "institutional clutter" prevalent in the current set up.
Whilst accepting the principle that the careers service does not operate in isolation from other organisations in respect of labour market issues and policies, we call for clarification of the future relationship and status of Careers Scotland within the Enterprise Networks.
The single biggest concern expressed by all responses from UNISON members and branches across Scotland without exception, was the placing and vacancy handling service currently provided to our members employed in careers services across the country. The overwhelming view is that the placing service should be retained within Careers Scotland and that we would have to reject this section of the report. In doing so, we have very clearly examined the issues relating to the placing service and would make the following points.
UNISON accepts the principle that careers guidance services should be accessible to all ages but we would argue that the first point destination of young people is a unique stage in their working lives. It is absolutely essential that the organisation which is assigned to deal with them at this critical stage should be able to understand these issues and to offer appropriate support.
We understand the arguments and concerns of the Duffner Report but the performance of the vacancy, handling, placing and benefits policing must be examined in the context of the difficult labour market conditions which young people encounter.
These can include the often unrealistic demands expected of young people by employers, their lack of understanding of young people and their qualifications and their ongoing reluctance to become involved in the training of employment of young people and consequent poor provision of opportunities available.
The careers service is in a unique position in relation to vacancy handling, selection and contact with the employers in that they advise employers about school qualifications and skills that young people possess. The employment service does not have this employee knowledge or skills base.
The careers service presently plays a vital role in advising employers of qualifications, entry requirements and equal opportunities issues. Without this direct involvement of the careers service in vacancy handling, this role and influence would be diminished.
It is also the case that as the union representing the staff involved in providing this service, we have real concerns at the continued employment prospects of our members should this be removed from Careers Scotland.
In conclusion, UNISON questions the criticisms of the vacancy and placing service for the reasons set out above. We believe this service should be retained as a core careers service and that the careers service is the most appropriate organisation to help link young people to their first point destination in the labour market.
As would be expected, the response from UNISON members to the report also dealt extensively with issues in relation to the mechanics and logistics of setting up Careers Scotland. In this area, UNISON wishes to comment specifically on the proposal that the provision of careers services within the Highland Council area be split into approximately six smaller areas and include the provision of services in the Moray area. UNISON Scotland rejects this proposal on the basis that the units proposed would be too small to be effective and could present difficulties for very small numbers of staff working in isolation. The consequential effect would also be to split the Moray service from the rest of Grampian to which it has been hitherto linked. Again this is not seen as an appropriate unit of service delivery by the practitioners who currently work within those areas.
We view the one year implementation period as an extremely tight timescale and would urge caution in respect of setting up Careers Scotland given the extremely complex issues which require to be resolved by all concerned. In this context we would draw the Executive's attention to the experience we had in the setting up of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Children's Reporters Administration in the wake of the 1996 reorganisation of Scottish local government which took considerably longer than one year to deal with all the structural and staffing issues.
Turning to those staffing issues, UNISON will inter alia wish to discuss all aspects of staffing matters in advance of the implementation date for the new body. This must include grades, structures, numbers and geographical locations.
We will then need to agree the terms under which our members will transfer to the new body from their existing employers including the application of TUPE, policies relating to pay and grading, including bargaining rights and responsibilities and of course pension arrangements.
UNISON is ready and able to engage in the debate and to play its part as a major stakeholder in the creation of Careers Scotland.
Finally, we hope this response to the Executive's view of the Duffner Report will be seen in a positive and constructive light and we shall of course be available to supplement it, as appropriate, over the coming months.