Third sector will play a critical role in delivering Fair Start Scotland

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Jamie Hepburn MSP says he is "disappointed" by third sector reaction to Fair Start Scotland

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13th October 2017 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

Fair Start Scotland marks an important milestone for employment support in Scotland.

As one of the first examples of new powers devolved under the 2016 Scotland Act, it is an opportunity to make employment services work differently and more effectively.

When this government set out its ambitions for Fair Start Scotland we were clear that we wanted a different approach to employability in Scotland – one that was based on the values of dignity and respect, fairness and equality and continuous improvement.

We invited organisations to set out how they would deliver our vision of a flexible, tailored, whole person approach which was responsive to those with the greatest needs. We made it clear that these bids should be designed and delivered in partnership, with a drive towards real jobs.

Jamie Hepburn MSP

Jamie Hepburn MSP

I was disappointed to read that some believe the third sector has been cut out of the delivery of Fair Start Scotland - that is not the case

Following a rigorous, fair and open procurement process, earlier this month I announced the award of contracts of up to £96 million to deliver Fair Start Scotland from April 2018 – to support a minimum of 38,000 people further removed from the labour market. 

I was disappointed to read reports that some believe the third sector has been cut out of the delivery of Fair Start Scotland. That is simply not the case.

The third sector has been engaged and consulted extensively throughout the design of this service, through Scotland’s Devolved Employment Services Advisory Group, and at pre-market engagement events, attended by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and a range of other third sector partners.

The third sector played a key role in informing our approach, and will, rightly, play a critical role in its delivery, with more than half of the provision to be delivered by public, third sector organisations and supported businesses.

Fair Start Scotland will see significant new investment going into third sector employability provision.

However, it is important to remind ourselves that ultimately this programme is not designed to support those who deliver it, no matter the sector they are from, but rather it is designed to support those who will engage with it on the pathway into work. 

There should be no doubt around the support Fair Start Scotland will provide to vulnerable people. My primary concern is getting the best support possible for unemployed people across Scotland. The successful bidders were the ones who were most able to demonstrate how they would achieve that.

The quality of each bid was the key consideration, not the costs.  Indeed, the fact that the Scottish Government has leveraged in £20m each year of the programme from other sources above and in addition to the vastly reduced funding that came from the UK government should indicate that cost has not been the determinant factor.

Our job now is to make sure the successful bidders step up to the mark and deliver the service they have been contracted to deliver in the way they have said they will deliver it.

I want to be clear that this is not simply business as usual. Fair Start Scotland will be very different from previous programmes in design and operation.

Critically, the service is voluntary so there will be no fear of sanctions and it will be responsive to local labour market needs, being delivered in nine different areas across the country, rather than treating Scotland as one contract area as has been the case under the Department for Work and Pensions.

I will continue to work in partnership with the third sector and others to understand how we are meeting our aims through this programme, and I will always recognise the value of a strong, vibrant third sector.

The Scottish Government provided the third sector with a core budget of £24.5m this year, and look forward to working closely with the sector on Fair Start Scotland, and across our other programmes, such as Community Jobs Scotland - in which the Scottish Government has invested more than £50m since its inception. 

Working in tandem, we can make a positive difference to the lives of the people of Scotland.

Jamie Hepburn MSP is minister for employability and training.

13th October 2017 by Caz

We're not really convinced Mr Hepburn with some of the reasons why already highlighted in TFN's other article aside, I'd like to pick up on one statement that you made; "However, it is important to remind ourselves that ultimately this programme is not designed to support those who deliver it". If you had been actually delivering a person-centered, choice based, target-less programme and involved people with disabilities, long-term conditions etc. who have got back into work, who already run these types of initiatives, who really know and understand what the challenge and barriers are like you WOULD be doing both, therefore the impact and difference you'd make would be two-fold. One to those running the programmes and delivering AND to those getting back into work. If you could describe HOW the third-sector is going to be involved and make it compulsory that sub-contracts go to third sectors then maybe we might see it differently. How you think we do at the moment is beyond me.