Demerger of Careers Scotland
UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Executive
Consultation on the Demerger of Careers Scotland from Scottish
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing
more than 150,000 public sector workers. It represents around
900 staff (80-90%) employed by Careers Scotland. We welcome the
opportunity to respond to the Scottish Executive's consultation
on the demerger of Careers Scotland from Scottish Enterprise.
The Deputy First Minister Nichol Stephen announced
in March 2006 that Careers Scotland should be moved out of Scottish
Enterprise in April 2007. (It was stressed that the part of Careers
Scotland which is within Highlands and Islands Enterprise will
Unison Scotland broadly welcomes the decision that
Careers Scotland should be moved out of Scottish Enterprise. We
believe that Careers Scotland was never a comfortable fit within
the ethos of Scottish Enterprise.
Our preferred option is for Careers Scotland to
be subsumed into local authorities on a regional basis. Importantly
this would return the careers service to local democratic
We would strongly oppose establishing a new quango
with or without other public bodies. Learndirect Scotland is not
a realistic option, given that it is less than one tenth of the
size of Careers Scotland. We would simply be recreating another
poor fit for this important service.
The growth of the quango state devalues our local
democratic structures and creates a highly centralised form of
government unsuitable for a geographically diverse nation like
Scotland. To create yet another quango for a service that can
and should be delivered locally is sheer folly. Both ministers
and previous government reports emphasise the importance of careers
working closely with schools and other local services.
We propose the establishment of four regional joint
boards based on the existing regional areas operated by Careers
Scotland (West, South West, North East and South East). The Scottish
Executive would require local authorities to form these boards
and employees would transfer to them.
We support the existing priorities of Careers Scotland
and welcome the emphasis on equality and social inclusion. We
believe that to properly fulfil such remits, particularly the
Scottish Executive strategy of reducing the number of young people
considered Not Engaged in Employment and Training (NEET), the
vacancy handling service, removed from Careers Scotland in April
2006, should be restored to the service.
Responses to Consultation questions
There are nine questions in the Consultation paper
and we address each of these below.
1. What do you think Careers Scotland's
priorities should be?
We believe the current three strategic priorities
are sound ones. (They are:
investing in the workforce of the future (work with
schools); reducing economic inactivity among young people (work
with the NEET group); and improving productivity through personal
career planning (working with all adults, employed and not employed).
We also support the client centred approach and the need to be
impartial and to be seen to be impartial.
The Scottish Executive's Transforming Public
Services paper (www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/06/15110925/0)
says that the values underpinning public services are that they
should promote social justice and equality and build for the future.
The Careers Scotland priorities fit well with this if the
organisation is allowed to and is resourced to fulfil these functions.
However, we strongly disagree with the recent decision
to remove the vacancy handling service from Careers Scotland.
We would emphasise that this function contributed to the priorities
and should be restored as part of the coming changes. (see
answer to Q9 for more detail)
2. What should Careers Scotland do differently
to better realise its full potential?
UNISON Scotland believes that staff within Careers
Scotland have been providing an excellent service despite recent
problems, which were recognised in the decision to move the service
out of Scottish Enterprise.
The successes are shown by various research studies
including one which highly praised the All Age Guidance work and
by a study which said that the service is the best example of
the kind recommended around the world by the OECD - "Careers
Scotland is probably the largest publicly funded organisational
structure in the world that is dedicated to career planning support…the
most substantial exemplar of the recommended approach".
We believe the future Careers Scotland would also
benefit from the introduction of a more specialised approach in
areas such as Additional Support needs and the Adult sector which
appear to have been eroded by the multi-disciplinary team approach.
However, UNISON members have highlighted concerns
about matrix management and an imbalance in the ratio of numbers
of non client contact staff to the number who work directly with
clients. We would like to see a more simplified and focused management
Members of the workforce are skilled and committed
and have years of experience. We believe that a commitment to
fully involve staff in planning and delivering change will reap
major rewards in realising the service's full potential, as will
a return to democratic control.
3. We think that there are five
options for the demerger of Careers Scotland from Scottish Enterprise.
In no particular order these are:
i. establish as an Executive Agency
ii. merge with another public body e.g.
Scottish University for Industry
iii. another public body (please specify)
iv. subsume into Local Authorities (on a regional
v. establish as a stand-alone non-departmental
Which of these options would you favour?
UNISON Scotland has consulted its members
in Careers Scotland and there is decisive support for option iv
- subsume into Local Authorities (on a regional basis).
We recommend this because it returns the
careers service to democratic control. It would also
be consistent with the Scottish Executive's response to the Duffner
Review recommendation which stated the need for the new Careers
Service to have stronger links with secondary schools. Indeed
as the main agency challenged to take forward the Executive's
NEET strategy this option could arguably make the achievement
of NEET related targets more readily attainable.
We propose the establishment of four regional boards
based on the existing regional areas operated by Careers Scotland
(West, South West, North East and South East). The Scottish Executive
would require local authorities to form these boards and employees
would transfer to them. Funding should go directly to the regional
This would still allow for a national body (or brand)
known as Careers Scotland to exist so that the benefits of the
national profile of Careers Scotland would not be lost. This co-ordinating
body would deal with strategy, national standards, consistency
of delivery, and regulation, with the local delivery of services
transferred to the joint boards. The activities of this organisation
would be coordinated by representatives from each of the four
Regions. This would be a ‘bottom up' co-ordination not a centrally
imposed direction of the service.
This approach would be consistent with the Scottish
Executive's approach to public service reform recognising that
innovation comes from local service delivery.
Other options which we reject
We reject the options of further adding to the ‘quango
state', as we believe most of Scotland would (see below).
And learndirect scotland is not a realistic option, given that
it is less than one tenth of the size of Careers Scotland.
Most careers staff work on themes based on the three
strategic priorities. Their work in many instances crosses geographical
boundaries, sometimes even straddling existing local authority
areas. This means that it would not make sense to transfer staff
to each of the 32 local authorities as most work is not area based
and smaller authorities would not be able to sustain this thematic
approach to service delivery. A change to the thematic approach
could severely disrupt service delivery, particularly on the timescale
of achieving the changes by April 2007.
A new quango including all skills and training
functions of SE
It was reported in the media (28 August 2006) that
the Scottish Labour Party supports proposals by a group of business
and education leaders to split Scottish Enterprise in two, moving
Careers Scotland and the agency's skills and training responsibilities
into yet another new quango. Such a proposal has never even been
considered by the Scottish Labour Party. It is also astonishing
that such a proposal should apparently be ‘confirmed' before ministers
have even read the responses to this consultation.
COSLA highlighted in February 2006 that Scottish
Executive spending on quangos greatly exceeds funding to local
authorities. President Pat Watters said that five years ago local
government had 33% of the public sector budget, with unelected
quangos receiving 36%. Now councils have 26% of the public sector
budget compared to 40% for quangos. This is unacceptable and we
would urge Ministers to think long and hard about increasing the
number of quangos at a time when they are urging reform of the
public sector. Even the Scottish Conservatives said in June 2006
that most of Scottish Enterprise's functions should be transferred
to councils, accountable to local electorates.
UNISON Scotland is opposed to creating more unelected
unaccountable quangos and believes that the vital work carried
out by Careers Scotland needs to be returned to local democratic
control. Change has been promised for April 2007 and staff have
been geared up for this since it was announced. The wider consideration
of the future of Scottish Enterprise should not delay that change.
4. In his statement the Deputy
First Minister said that Ministers would "work with the grain
of the Duffner Review and its recommendation for an all-age national
guidance service, but with stronger links to our secondary schools
as a clear objective".
How would your preferred option for Careers
Scotland achieve these stronger links to our schools? Should Careers
Scotland staff become part of the complement of school staff?
Careers Scotland already does most of its work with
younger age groups and we believe that moving the service into
regional groupings of local authorities can only help in strengthening
the links to schools. However, Careers Scotland staff should be
distinct from the school staff. It is seen as essential that the
advice they give is impartial and client centred and we believe
this should continue to be the case.
5. How would your preferred option for Careers
Scotland best achieve an all-age national guidance service?
Local authorities are already part of the solution
when people of all ages consider going back into education or
training and look for information, funding, options and ideas.
They are a logical fit for the careers service and are already
involved, in democratically accountable ways, in providing economic
development investment and support along with learning and cultural
initiatives which contribute to local communities' job markets,
to well-being and to personal development opportunities. They
are the best option for a new ‘home' for the service.
Specifically local authorities currently
deliver the Community Learning and Development strategy
(linked in many ways to Priority 3) and other national Initiatives
such as Determined to Succeed. Careers Scotland is heavily involved
in supporting this and would benefit from more formal links to
6. How would your preferred option for Careers
Scotland assist Careers Scotland to balance better these stronger
links to schools and the delivery of an all-age national guidance
A particular area of importance highlighted by UNISON
members is the fact that there is currently a risk of duplication
and of competing for funding or for clients, with liaison not
always succeeding in preventing this and the consequent potential
waste of taxpayers' money. More formal links between authorities
and Careers Scotland should embed more joined up planning of services
and reduce inefficiencies. It means that Careers Scotland would
be able to more directly help shape some local policy decisions,
with the benefits of ensuring policies are delivered in a more
integrated way. This would help Careers Scotland in having the
knowledge and links at local level to properly balance these two
aspects of the service.
7. It will be important to ensure
proper connection between Careers Scotland in the Highlands and
Islands Enterprise area and in the Scottish Enterprise area.
Given your preferred option, how would the
links with Careers Scotland in the Highlands and Islands area
Clearly we would expect a national role and strategy
for the Careers Scotland ‘brand', achieved by strong links between
the rest of the country and the Highlands and Islands service.
It would be in the interests of all to have a nationwide approach.
While Highlands and Islands would remain separate, it would be
one of several regional groupings and could therefore potentially
fit well within this new structure.
8. There is a danger that by
making this change to the position of Careers Scotland we shall
cause it to lose focus and momentum.
How should we ensure that, in moving Careers
Scotland out of Scottish Enterprise, we maintain focus and momentum
for Careers Scotland and continue to build on its good practice?
This is an important point. Planning time and resources
need to be allocated so that the service itself does not suffer,
given the very short timescale to demerger in April 2007.
An advantage of the option that we recommend in
transferring to local authority regional boards, based on existing
regions operated by Careers Scotland, is that the transfer should
be less complex and less ‘disruptive' than with other options.
Many careers staff remain in the local government pension scheme
and we anticipate no significant problems in staff returning to
local authority terms and conditions of service.
9. Do you have additional comments on the
future position of Careers Scotland?
UNISON Scotland would like to emphasise the importance
of the Vacancy Handling Service being returned to Careers Scotland.
We were very concerned when it was announced that Careers Scotland
would no longer accept and administer vacancies for jobs, employed
status Skillseekers and modern apprenticeship programmes after
1 April 2006. It seemed also that this was ‘slipped through' when
Scottish Enterprise was under a media and political spotlight
over budgetary and other difficulties.
This decision should be reversed as a matter of
urgency. It was in our view linked to the ways in which Scottish
Enterprise did not fully embrace the inclusiveness agenda. However,
the Scottish Executive strategy to reduce the number of young
people considered Not Engaged in Employment and Training (NEET)
needs Careers Scotland to work with these young people.
As part of that work, contacts with employers and
discussions regarding vacancy handling inform staff knowledge
of local employer requirements and their perception of the skills
and qualities that young interviewees need to demonstrate. There
is no substitute for the benefits of interaction with local employers
that the vacancy handling service offered.
Dealing with vacancies is also essential in giving
proper credibility to the image of Careers Scotland as far as
parents, school leavers and unemployed young people are concerned.
Many young people do not necessarily value career planning for
its own sake. Therefore, when Careers Scotland was advertising
"real vacancies", this helped them understand the concept
of career planning and the stages of the career planning journey.
There is anecdotal evidence since the change that it has not been
understood, has led to criticisms, confusion and complaints and
has impacted negatively on the work of Careers Scotland, especially
in encouraging those viewed as NEET to retain contact with Careers
In the Scottish Executive's Transforming Public
Services paper, it is argued with reference to strengthening
accountability that more account must be taken of the views of
users of services. We would suggest that unless vacancy handling
is returned, young people will be increasingly less likely to
see Careers Scotland as the place to find the help they need in
finding work and training, with consequentially detrimental effects
on their employability and career path. We believe they would
say that if consulted.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the recognition that Scottish
Enterprise has not been a supportive home for Careers Scotland.
We believe that there are opportunities in the demerger decision
which will allow the service to flourish in a new structure embedded
within local authority regional boards. Our members look forward
to being partners in planning and delivering the coming changes
for the benefit of all users of the service.