Scottish work programme destined to fail, says SCVO

Jobcentre Plus sign.

The Scottish Government’s approach to improving the employability of those with the greatest barriers to work is destined to fail without “high-quality specialised support”, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has warned.

Third-sector organisations believe the Scottish Government’s approach to employability won’t help those in need, or get the best out of charities involved in helping people back to work.

Newly devolved powers from Westminister have handed the Scottish Government responsibility for helping more people into stable employment, but during a conference in Edinburgh the SCVO said the Scottish Government’s new ‘Fair Start Scotland’ scheme is unlikely to work because it “missed an important opportunity to explore the concept of person centred services”.

While many third-sector organisations have welcomed the Scottish Government’s apparent fairer and more humane approach to developing employment services, they claim the new system “will not help those furthest from the labour market and that the operational and administrative detail will not allow charities to fully participate”.

SCVO Director of Public Affairs John Downie highlighted key issues that he says need to be addressed:

  • The decision to adopt a single contract with each Contract Package Area has minimised the involvement of small and medium-sized third sector organisations
  • The time afforded to the procurement process is not sufficient for the formation of consortia and actively militates in favour of large organisations and current sub-contractors
  • The commissioning process has been overly complex and entirely inaccessible for many
  • The continued emphasis on job outcomes is not conducive to a focus on disadvantaged groups and those furthest from the labour market. Payment by results will continue to cause problems for small providers at the front of the pipeline
  • The commissioning process for Fair Start Scotland has missed an important opportunity to explore the concept of person centred services

John Downie said: “The Scottish Government has not been innovative enough to guarantee personalised support for all individuals and much of the commissioning process continues to shut-out small and medium sized charities.

“Without high-quality specialised support from third sector organisations, the Scottish Government will not be successful in their quest to focus on those furthest from the labour market.”

“Charities of all sizes must be at the heart of these programmes”, he added.

Responding to Mr Downie’s comments, Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn (SNP) said: “We are creating a future programme that is flexible, tailored, and responsive to the needs of Scotland’s unemployed people.

“Employment services should be designed nationally, and adapted at a local level to meet local needs and labour market conditions – and we are putting this approach into action.

“The third sector is critical in the delivery of employment support services and plays a key role on our independently chaired Scotland’s Devolved Employment Services Advisory Group, a group that reflects a broad range of interests including academics, local authorities, employers and national agencies.

“The Third Sector Employability Forum were regularly consulted during the design stage of Fair Start Scotland and the SCVO attended both the pre-market event and post tender.”