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The choices teenagers make affect the rest of their lives. With one in eleven young people not in work or education...
The choices teenagers make affect the rest of their lives. With one in eleven young people not in work or education, it has never been more important to ensure all possible support is made available to them as they navigate the difficult choices ahead.

In order to assist young people, whether they need to discuss a problem or find out how to exploit their options, the government is championing a new, all-inclusive advice and support service - Connexions. Operating across 15

regional locations, it is planned Connexions will cover the whole of England by 2003.

Bringing together all the advice and guidance a young person could need, Connexions aims to achieve its goals by building on the work of the careers and youth service, transforming it into something more effective.

According to Anne Weinstock, chief executive of Connexions, if the service is to be a success, it is vital it understands the needs of its users.

'Young people have been involved in designing the service from the start. They are the ones that truly know what assistance or advice they need and how to make it relevant to their lives. It was important for us to consult with them because if it is not attractive to them, they won't use it,' she says.

While ensuring the service is relevant to young people, Ms Weinstock recognises another key element in making Connexions a success is securing the support of front-line workers in the careers and youth service, social services, health, probation and education.

As the service is being delivered primarily through a network of personal advisers - who will often be the sole point of contact for the young person - their links with these specialist support services will prove invaluable.

This fact is certainly not lost on Ivan Lewis, minister for young people and learning with responsibility for Connexions. Mr Lewis addressed some of these issues in his speech to the Association of Principal and Community Officers on 15 October, focusing particularly on the future of the Youth Service and pledging a funding increase of£35m on Youth Service spending.

Mr Lewis recognised the importance of council support to a comprehensive youth service in advance of the publication of guidelines towards the end of the year;

'I hope councils will want to support and enhance this investment at local

level so that together we can deliver a vibrant youth service for all our young people. I want to work with councils to develop a new youth service pledge. The pledge will ensure we have a focus for youth work in England. When we publish our full plans for the service and the fund, the new pledge will be at the heart of what we do.'

The co-ordination of the services to ensure the provision of coherent support will be one of the key differentiators of Connexions.

'It is not enough just to give information,' says Anne Weinstock, 'Young people need someone to guide them through their options. That is why we are making sure personal advisers will be available to assess the individual needs of anyone who wants them.'

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