Anger as Fair Start contracts have been predominantly awarded to the private sector.
The Scottish Government has given most of the £96 million pounds worth of contracts for the new Fair Start Scotland scheme to private companies.
The scheme which will begin in April 2018 will partner with different organisations at a local level to provide opportunities for people far away from the job market into work. It aims to help 38,000 people including those with disabilities or mental health issues.
The Employability Minister James Hepburn said:
“We are taking a different approach to the UK Government and listening to the views of unemployed people,"
"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."
Mhariri Black MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South welcomed the scheme saying
“Employment support provided by the government should be seen as an opportunity to find work and not as a redundant task surrounding filling out forms as has been the norm with similar programmes we have seen from the DWP.”
“Making this service voluntary is a vital step forward as people will not be forced to take part under the threat of their money being sanctioned, which have been proven not to work, or save the tax payer any money.”
“The UK “workfare” schemes have been compared to modern day slavery for some benefit claimants and introducing an individual approach for each person looking for employment that is tailored to their skills is common sense from the Scottish Government.”
Whlist there is a mixture of public, private and third sector organisations only Forth Valley will be lead by the public sector and North East and West Scotland by the third.
Chief executive Dr Sally Witcher of Disabled people's organisation Inclusion Scotland 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.
Source: Hollyrood Magazine/ Renrewshire 24