Social enterprises confused by new work initiative

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An opportunity to bin the old-fashioned approach to getting people into work has been missed

6th October 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

The expertise of social enterprises has been ignored by the Scottish Government’s new work programme less than a year after it launched its social enterprise strategy, which claimed they were "a vital part of the economy".

Social enterprise representatives hit out earlier this week after the Fair Start Scotland programme was unveiled.

The new devolved work initiative will see the majority of the contracts for specialist employment services managed by private sector providers.

Fraser Kelly, chief executive of Social Enterprise Scotland, has said that groups are confused at the awarding of the contracts.

He said: "Social Enterprise Scotland is pleased that The Wise Group has been appointed as a preferred bidder in the Fair Start Scotland employability programme (for the West area).

“However, we finds it hard to understand how, after such a thorough consultation process, the vast majority of contracts have been awarded to big private sector corporations instead of social enterprises and charities. 

"We believe that this was a unique opportunity to reshape the employability landscape in Scotland and to tailor services to the real needs of individuals to get them back to work.

“It was also an opportunity to grow the capacity of locally owned and controlled social enterprises and, ultimately, to bin the old-fashioned approach of prioritising bargain basement provision.”

Kelly added that many social enterprises specialise in helping people get back to work, and are driven by values as well as profit.

The new programme aims to help at least 38,000 people to find employment, including those facing barriers to entering the labour market. 

The government has said the system will be delivered by a mix of public, private and third sector organisations in nine contract areas across Scotland. It has highlighted that public sector groups will work in partnership with many of those granted the contracts, however only the north east area (Momentum Scotland) and the west area (the Wise Group) will be led by third sector organisations.

Fair Start Scotland Contracts

​Glasgow (estimated value £19.1 million)

People Plus Group Ltd (private) in partnership with Remploy, Momentum and the Lennox Partnership

Lanarkshire (£12.6 million)

Remploy (Supported business) in partnership with ENABLE and Routes to Work South

Tayside (£7.3 million)

Remploy in partnership with Rathbone and the Wise Group

Forth Valley (£5 million)

Falkirk Council (public) in partnership with Clacks and Stirling Councils & NHS Forth Valley

East (£21.3 million) 

Start Scotland Ltd (private and third sector) in partnership with Momentum, Triage and Working Links

Southwest (£10.1 million)

Start Scotland Ltd in partnership with Working Links, Rathbone, the Lennox Partnership and the Wise Group

Northeast (£5.6 million)

Momentum Scotland (third sector) in partnership with Life Skills Centres, ENABLE, Aberdeen Foyer, SAMH and Enterprise Mentoring

Highlands and Islands (£6.2 million)

People Plus Ltd in partnership with Argyle & Bute Council, Life Skills Centres, Lochaber Hope, Momentum Scotland, Third Sector Hebrides and 2020 Clearview

West (£8.8 million)

The Wise Group (third sector) in partnership with SAMH, The Lennox Partnership, Working Links, ENABLE and RNIB

Dr Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said disabled people were concerned about the track record of some of the private businesses that have won contracts.

“Disabled people were led to expect a step change in how the new devolved employability schemes would be delivered in Scotland,” she said.

“Instead disabled people will feel let down that the contracts have been awarded to some groups that have shown that they cannot be trusted to deliver with dignity, respect and fairness the services disabled people need.

“The onus is now on the successful bidders to show that whatever their past record they can deliver the inclusive services that disabled people have been promised. Inclusion Scotland will be monitoring their progress very closely.”

Speaking in Parliament earlier this week, employability minister Jamie Hepburn said: “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.” 

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