Scottish jobs agency plan ‘may create confusion for workless’
Plans by the Scottish Labour Party to create a new agency to get 100,000 unemployed people back into work could create confusion among job seekers, according to a leading regeneration expert.
The party has revealed it will create a full employment agency if it remains in power after the Scottish parliament elections in May.
It said the agency would help voluntary organisations prepare people for work and provide better skills training for hard-to-reach groups.
Ivan Turok, professor of urban economic development at Glasgow University, said some parts of the country were already ‘falling over themselves’ with agencies. ‘It is believed there are around 100 support organisations working in different employment services in Glasgow,’ he said.
‘What’s more important is to create a strategy to bring together existing organisations to consolidate and coordinate their work. The problem with another agency is that it could create confusion for workless people and employers about where to go for support.’
Professor Turok said a national organisation like the one proposed could be too removed from community problems and may not have the local specialist knowledge required to find solutions.
Social and economic development consultancy Blake Stevenson claimed there were gaps in the agency’s aims.
‘What the agency does not address is the need for continuous skilling and learning in the workplace,’ said Norma Hurley, the consultancy’s director of social and economic development. ‘Job seekers need a lot of help for health issues including depression, low self-esteem, and substance misuse for which there is currently insufficient investment.’
But the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the target of getting 100,000 more people into work by 2015 was achievable.
‘Employment in Scotland is currently at historically high levels but 651,000 people of working age remain economically inactive with surveys consistently showing that at least one third of these people want to work,’ said Stephen Boyd, assistant secretary at the STUC.
He said the agency should build on the approach taken by the Department for Work and Pensions through the pathways to work initiative by focusing on providing tailored help for the long-term unemployed.