Charities fear job schemes will fail to find work for many
The Herald Scotland, by Stephen Naysmith
New schemes designed to get jobless Scots into work will fail to reach those who need most help, according to charities.
Instead of using new devolved powers to provide an alternative to Westminster’s controversial Work Programme, Holyrood ministers have been warned they are likely to replicate its failures.
But Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training, told The Herald the Scottish Government had redesigned programmes to make it easier for charities to play a leading role.
However, John Downie, head of policy for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said the new schemes were “wrong for Scotland, wrong for charities and most importantly wrong for the people furthest from a job who we really want to reach.”
The Scottish Government takes over control of employability from Westminster under powers transferred by the Smith agreement from today.
For a transition year, arrangements will be preserved, but from April 2018, instead of contracts covering the whole of Scotland, there will be nine contracts to help jobless people find work, covering different geographical areas.
One contract will be to run a “supported business”, with 30 per cent of employees disabled or with other specific barriers to employment.
Mr Hepburn said: “We recognise the approach taken by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) priced a number of suppliers out of the market.”
The fact that those winning contracts are not paid until after they get someone into a job also made bidding too risky for smaller charities, he said. “As a result we will include payment by outcome but there will also be an up-front service fee.”
He also praised the charity-run Community Jobs Scotland, in which the Government has invested £6.1 million and pledged to “learn from what works”.
But Mr Downie said the new system would still force most charities to opt out – or supply services only as sub-contractors. “They’ve basically taken on the DWP’s procurement system, with all its flaws,” he said. “Large organisations will be the only ones who will want to bid.”
He said an emphasis on payment by results could lead to cherry- picking of those closest to the labour market and disadvantage charities working with those furthest from the labour market.
Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Edinburgh Cyrenians, said: “Nine regions is still not small enough for organisations like us to bid directly, and the short timescale for bids makes it difficult to work with others to bid.”
Cyrenians helped 850 people into work last year, including a partnership with Edinburgh’s Fort Kinnaird retail complex. He said: “I think we could have provided better value for the public money had we been given a chance.”
Mr Hepburn said: “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 has been key to developing the new services and has a crucial role to play.”