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Demerger of Careers Scotland

UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Executive Consultation on the Demerger of Careers Scotland from Scottish Enterprise

September 2006


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 remain there.)

Executive Summary

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 control.

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 structure.

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 basis)

v. establish as a stand-alone non-departmental public body


Which of these options would you favour? Why?

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 boards.

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 local authorities.

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 service?

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 be maintained?

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 Scotland.

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.

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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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