Anger as private sector wins Scottish Government employment services contracts

Written by Tom Freeman on 5 October 2017 in News

Fair Start Scotland will partner with different organisations at a local level to provide opportunities for people far away from the job market into work

The Scottish Government has been criticised for awarding most of the £96m contracts to run Scotland's new devolved employability programme to the private sector.

From April 2018 the new service will aim to help at least 38,000 people.

The new organisation, Fair Start Scotland, will partner with different organisations at a local level to provide opportunities for people far away from the job market into work.

This includes people with a disability or mental health issues.

Yesterday the Scottish Government announced which organisations had been successful in the tender process, including a mix of public, private and charity providers.

“We are taking a different approach to the UK Government and listening to the views of unemployed people," said employability minister Jamie Hepburn.

"By delivering Fair Start Scotland in nine contract areas we are reflecting Scotland’s different geographies, economies and population spread – as opposed to the UK Government’s approach which simply considered Scotland as one area."

But of the nine geographic areas, only Forth Valley will be led by the public sector, while two - the North East and West Scotland - will be lead by the third sector.

Disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland said it was "dismayed" at the awards.

Chief executive Dr Sally Witcher said: “We are disappointed and somewhat surprised that the new programmes will be delivered primarily by the same large providers behind the Department of Work and Pension’s discredited Work Programme.

“Disabled people were led to expect a step change in how the new devolved employability schemes would be delivered in Scotland.

“Instead disabled people will feel let down that the contracts have been awarded to some groups that have shown that they cannot be trusted to deliver with dignity, respect and fairness the services disabled people need.

“The onus is now on the successful bidders to show that whatever their past record they can deliver the inclusive services that disabled people have been promised. Inclusion Scotland will be monitoring their progress very closely.”

Fraser Kelly, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise Scotland said: "Social Enterprise Scotland is pleased that The Wise Group has been appointed as a preferred bidder in the Fair Start Scotland employability programme. However, we find it hard to understand how, after such a thorough consultation process, the vast majority of contracts have been awarded to big private sector corporations instead of social enterprises and charities."

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “The Scottish Government promised a brave new world in its vision for employability in Scotland. Its ambitions were that the third sector would be heart and centre of the new employability landscape, but instead charities and voluntary organisations have been side-lined to make way for private companies which lack the local knowledge required.

“The reality of this new employability landscape is that it won’t deliver the best outcomes for unemployed people – particularly those who experience multiple barriers to employment, who will end up receiving a second class public service.”

Hepburn also confirmed the new scheme would be voluntary so will not be associated with benefit sanctions.

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