American charity enters employability programme

Third Force News, by Gareth Jones

26.03.19

An American charity has been named as a key player in Scotland’s employability programme.

A gap was left in the Fair Start Scotland contract when private firm Working Links fell into administration last month.

The company was jointly responsible for leading the Scottish Government’s new devolved work programme in the Southwest and East areas of the country, having embarked on a private-third sector partnership entitled Start Scotland Limited.

And now Fedcap Employment, which has operated in the USA since 1935, has been named as the replacement for Working Links.

TFN understands Fedcap plan to establish a subsidiary based in Scotland, having been appointed by Working Links administrators and Start Scotland Limited.

In a letter to Gordon Lindhurst, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, minister for fair work and skills Jamie Hepburn confirmed that Fedcap’s involvement had been accepted by the government.

He said: “The selling of shares in Working Links to Fedcap was a matter for Start Scotland Limited and the appointed administrator. However, as the minister responsible for Fair Start Scotland I have sought assurances that Fedcap have the capacity and capability to deliver that service to the standards required by the contracts and expected by participants.

“As part of our due diligence process officials have ensured that Fedcap meet all of the selection requirements as set out in the original procurement of Fair Start Scotland. We have also sought assurances on their commitment to the existing work force and the future delivery of Fair Start Scotland in the two areas Start Scotland Limited currently deliver in.

“The evidence provided by Fedcap Rehabilitation Services meets all the requirements for the delivery of Fair Start Scotland.”

It is understood Working Links fell into administration as it was unable to continue to provide probation services in England and Wales. Previous Working Links owners, the European investment group Aurelius, confirmed it had sold all of its public-sector business in the UK.

Fedcap will play a key role in delivering Fair Start Scotland in the East region (Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, the Borders and Fife) where it will be partnered with private firm Triage and charity Momentum.

Meanwhile, the Southwest region (Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway) will see the charity partner with The Lennox Partnership, with support from Rathbone and The Wise Group.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We undertook the full range of checks on those organisations who originally bid for the service and these were all passed by Fedcap – who also gave assurances that existing Working Links’ staff who were involved in delivery would be retained, unless they chose to leave.

“Fedcap are a not for profit organisation. How any surplus generated in the contracts are allocated is a matter for Start Scotland Limited to decide. However, Fedcap have assured us that they will invest whatever is necessary to provide the high level of support that Fair Start Scotland participants have the right to expect.”

Fedcap recently announced it had appointed Brian Bell, who left his role as Working Links managing director in October 2018, as chief executive officer of Fedcap Employment and Fedcap Employment Scotland.

Bell said: said: “We’re delighted to be able to help secure the jobs of many people doing amazing work across Britain as we look to support people back to work, or even into work for the first time. We believe that everything is possible, and we’re looking forward to helping people achieve what they want.

“However, this is just the start – we are extremely ambitious and will be building on the experience and success in America to develop and deliver further programmes of support across Britain. We will innovate and help to transform the lives of as many people as possible.”

Fair Start Scotland was introduced in April of last year, with the aim of getting 38,000 people into work over the next five years.

It is a voluntary scheme aimed at those who are furthest from getting steady work, including some with disabilities.

The programme is being delivered through nine regional contracts across Scotland, and is part of the Scottish Government’s drive to create a fairer Scotland through new devolved welfare powers.

The project drew criticism from third sector representatives after it was revealed that many of the lead contractors were private sector organisations. However the government has highlighted that a range of third sector groups are involved as delivery partners.

Third Force News contacted Fedcap and Start Scotland for comment but had not received a response at time of publication.