NIACE submits Right to Choice consultation response

22 June 2012

NIACE has outlined its concerns about the proposed legislation to enshrine the Right to Choice in law, in its response to the Government’s consultation, which closed on 22 June.

As part of the Open Public Services reforms, the Government is proposing a new initiative to support people to have direct control over the services they use through a ‘Choice package’. The consultation asks whether the Right to Choice should be enshrined in law through a mechanism of Choice Frameworks that will pull together all the existing legislation into one place. It will apply to health, adult social care, childcare, schools and further education.

NIACE has serious concerns about the proposed legislation, including:

  • it is unclear which parts of the Further Education sector it applies to and the draft legislation does not take account of the recent reclassification of colleges as private sector organisations;
  • it does not build on the sector’s existing work around Informing Choice framework or the new National Careers Service;
  • it sets up a separate set of organisations as Choice Champions, but these do not link to the existing mechanisms in the sector such as Community Learning Champions or Union Learning Representatives;
  • the associated costs and bureaucracy that a legal system around this legislation will inevitably divert scarce funding from learning and teaching; and
  • it is unclear how the proposed legislation interacts with established local accountability for learning and skills provision and national accountability through Ofsted’s inspection regime.

Penny Lamb, NIACE’s Head of Policy Development, said:

“Adult educators believe in empowering people to make the right decisions. NIACE believes this process should enable learners to make effective choices as to where and how they study based on informed knowledge of the range of local options available, the quality of that provision, and the costs involved. We firmly believe that all learners should know their rights, entitlements and responsibilities. All these factors improve the learning experience and in turn support successful outcomes that add to the economic, environmental and social well-being of society. However, we are not convinced that this legislation is the effective vehicle by which to do that. It appears to create a transfer of risk from the national to the local level with no additional resources to make it happen.”