HC Deb 18 March 1994 vol 239 cc861-2W
Ms Short

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how the activities and performance of the careers service pathfinder areas will be assessed; what are the terms of reference of the pathfinders evaluation exercise commissioned by his Department; who is conducting the evaluation of the pathfinder process; what information will be made available about the activities and performance in each of the pathfinder areas; what restrictions the new pathfinder contract places on the ability of those organisations running the Careers Service to make public comments on the performance of the Careers Service; if a copy of the contract will be placed in the Library; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Widdecombe

Performance will be assessed against the standards specified in the requirements and guidance for providers, which is a public document. I am placing a copy in the Library.

The Department is commissioning an independent evaluation of the pathfinder arrangements. This will be carried out in two phases. The terms of reference for the first phase, which is largely complete, are to provide a comprehensive picture of the performance of a sample of careers services prior to the start of the new arrangements. This will provide a baseline against which the subsequent performance of pathfinder careers services can be compared. This initial study has been carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which won the research contract through competitive tender. The second phase of the study will be commissioned during 1995–96 to allow the pathfinders to make progress. This phase of the evaluation will also be competitively tendered.

Much of the information collected by the Department during normal contract management and by researchers in the evaluation will be commercially sensitive. The Department will not publish such information in a way which allows an individual contractor to be identified or which hampers subsequent contract negotiations.

Careers Service providers will produce client entitlement statements setting out the careers guidance and other key services to be provided. The main conclusions about the delivery of the Careers Service under contract will be presented in the Careers Service annual report.

Under the Careers Service contract, providers are free to make factual statements about the performance of the service, but will require agreement from the Department to any proposed public statement about Government policy which is intended to be made by or on behalf of the provider.

I shall place a copy of the standard contract in the Library.