Employment minister Jamie Hepburn says Scotland's £96m employment services will be provided locally and offer Scots an opportunity not a threat
Contracts worth up to £96 million will be put out to tender to deliver Scotland’s full programme of employment services from 2018.
Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed that nine contract areas will deliver employment support across Scotland next year, with one of the contracts set to be reserved for a supported business. The contracting process will commence in March.
Employment services is one of the areas newly devolved to Scotland under the 2016 Scotland Act, the 2018 contracts will follow the transitional services Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland, which will start in April 2017.
Hepburn announced the contract package areas during an appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee.
The contracts also offer an opportunity to Scottish third sector employability organisations, such as the Wise Group.
Hepburn said: "People living in the Highlands have different needs to people living in the central belt which is why we are taking a fairer approach to employment support, which will see services more tailored to local needs and issues.
"Through our meetings with people and the organisations that use employment support services we have designed an approach which will make services fairer and simpler for people to access. There is no one-size fits all approach to helping people into work. When our programme is up and running we will be continually looking to make improvements by listening to those who use the services, and learning for 2021 and beyond."
Hepburn the Scottish Government's approach will mean much more locally focused employment support services than the UK Government provided under its much maligned Work Programme.
“This is in stark contrast to the UK Government which not only treats Scotland as one geographical area for its Work Programme, but last month confirmed proposed cuts to 23 Jobcentre Plus sites which will remove vital services and could increase barriers to finding employment rather than removing them.
“These contracts put us on track to ensure our programmes are person-centred and focus on skills and support needs rather than the benefits individuals receive.
"We have already secured agreement from the UK Government that our Scottish employment programme will not facilitate their benefits sanctions system, as we want our services to be seen as an opportunity, and not a threat."
Scotland is viewed as one area through the UK Government’s current work programmes, and as four areas through Work Choice, its employment service for disabled people.
Across England and Wales, there will be six contract package areas for the Work and Health Programme, the successor to the Work Programme and Work Choice, which is due to commence later this year.