Broken promises for third sector as new work programme unveiled

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Third sector groups had hoped for a greater role in Fair Start Scotland

4th October 2017 by Gareth Jones 2 Comments

The Scottish Government has been accused of breaking promises with the introduction of its new employability programme.

Fair Start Scotland was unveiled at the Scottish Parliament today (Wednesday).

However third sector organisations have hit out at the programme, which will see the majority of the contracts for specialist employment services managed by private sector providers.

The government has highlighted that third sector groups will be engaged in partnership with those who have been awarded the contracts, but Third Force News understands that those involved are still awaiting full details.

The devolved work programme was created after a consultation process two years ago entitled Creating a Fairer Scotland – with then cabinet secretary for fair work, Roseanna Cunningham, saying that the government wanted to use its new powers to take a fresh look at employment services.  

Cyrenians chief executive Ewan Aitken said that promises of a distinctly Scottish employability service which involved third sector bodies had not been met.

“The outcome of Fair Start tender is a scandal,” he said. “Once again the most excluded have been sacrificed on the shareholder altar.

“With a few honourable very small exceptions, the outcome of this tender has been heralded by the sound of broken promises. 

“Public money is once again to be spent on the failed old model of pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap factory production work programme with a few private companies, not all of whom are Scottish, holding virtually all the power.”

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “The Scottish Government promised a brave new world in its vision for employability in Scotland. Its ambitions were that the third sector would be heart and centre of the new employability landscape, but instead charities and voluntary organisations have been side-lined to make way for private companies which lack the local knowledge required.

“The reality of this new employability landscape is that it won’t deliver the best outcomes for unemployed people – particularly those who experience multiple barriers to employment, who will end up receiving a second class public service.”

The total value of the contracts is £96 million, with only the north east area (Momentum Scotland) and the west area (the Wise Group) being led by third sector organisations.

This means that only 13.8% of the value of the contracts (£14.4m) will be third sector led.

Speaking in parliament, minister for employability and training, Jamie Hepburn, highlighted the role that third sector firms will play working in partnership with other firms.

He said: “Awarding the Fair Start Scotland contracts is an important milestone in our commitment to providing Scottish employment support which will help people faced with barriers into work, access a fairer and more targeted support service.

“We are taking a different approach to the UK government and listening to the views of unemployed people. By delivering Fair Start Scotland in nine contract areas we are reflecting Scotland’s different geographies, economies and population spread – as opposed to the UK government’s approach which simply considered Scotland as one area.”

When questioned by Labour economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie on the value of the contracts which will be delivered by the private and third sector, Hepburn said he would provide responses in writing.

It is understood that several large third sector employers applied for contracts, but smaller organisations were put off by the tendering process.

Peter Purves, chief executive of Into Work, described the procurement process as like a "spread betting exercise where the bookmakers didn’t even want to take your bet".

He said: “We were enthused by the consultation process and the stated intention of creating a distinctively Scottish approach to delivering employability support. 

“What we’ve ended up with is a missed opportunity. The procurement process was not a good experience. 

“Other than our positive involvement in an unsuccessful local authority led consortium bid, it was like being transported back in time to the original Work Programme procurement. Some of the big prime contracting organisations were just not interested in working with smaller local and specialist providers.”

Kayleigh Thorpe, head of campaigns, policy and activism at Enable Scotland – which will assist with the delivery of services in Glasgow, the west and north east areas - said that the innovation and specialism of the third sector had been recognised as vital components to success, but the sector could have been given a stronger role.

“We had hoped to see a stronger role for the third sector in today’s announcement, and emphasise that the wealth of creativity and expertise in the third sector should not be overlooked," she said.

“There is a proven track record of third sector consortiums with established community infrastructures delivering real results for those furthest from sustainable employment, including people who have learning disabilities – of whom fewer than 6% are currently in paid employment."

Comments

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6th October 2017 by RealFreedom

When SCVO ran the New Deal Programme under contract for the DWP up to 2010 in the Highlands and Islands, it was disaster for benefit claimants. Not SCVO, who pocketed a big wodge of cash. The extent of SCVO's "local knowledge" in delivering this programme was which of its memebrs chairty shops it could give you the option of working in. That was it.SCVO was perfectly happy to see claimants sanctioned and forced to live on no money if claimants thought that working in a charity shop was not going to help with a proper job search.Keep SCVO and its kind away from these contracts.

11th October 2017 by Peter Gunn

This is really dreadful. I have myself worked in this field and the third sector are better motivated to help people. For profit companies are just that, for profit, first and foremost, often paying lower wages as well. I am very very disappointed in our government. In fact they may now lose my vote.