Third sector organisations walk away from employability programme

Third Force News, by Gareth Jones


Third sector organisations have walked away from providing services for Scotland’s new employability programme.

The Scottish Government has pledged to create a work programme which will help deliver a fairer Scotland.

However there was criticism of the intiative from the third sector when Fair Start was unveiled last year, with the majority of the contracts for specialist employment services set to be managed by private sector providers, many of which are based outside Scotland.

And now Third Force News has learned that at least three of the organisations who were sub-contracted to help deliver the programme in regions across Scotland are no longer involved in Fair Start – again raising questions about the sector’s role in the scheme.

It is understood that at least one of the organisations has withdrawn its provision due to concerns about the financial viability of providing services.

The government has said that there is still an opportunity for further third sector groups to become involved in the delivery of the system – which aims to improve upon Westminster’s efforts to help the vulnerable into work.

In October, a TFN investigation revealed that that of the £96 million worth of contracts awarded across Scotland, £76.6m will go to PeoplePlus, Start Scotland Ltd and Remploy – who all have links to the UK government’s work programme.

Employability and training minister Jamie Hepburn said that the system was based on providing the best support for vulnerable people in Scotland, and that the third sector will play a key role in the delivery of Fair Start.

Cyrenians and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) are amongst the organisations that have raised concerns about the level of engagement from the sector in designing and implementing the programme.

A government spokesman said that charities had a critical role to play in the rollout of the new system.

“We are in constant dialogue with providers to ensure they will be ready to deliver the contracts they bid for, including assurance on the ability of their supply chain partners to take forward support needed for the individuals Fair Start is designed to help into work,” they said.

“Fair Start Scotland has been designed to develop personalised support for each participant based on their understanding of each individual and within the context of the most appropriate service for the participant in the customer journey. There is potential for new delivery partners to provide support to participants as well as some providers leaving.”