Third sector organisations face race against time to access employment fund

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Concerns have been raised about the new Flexible Workforce Development Fund

7th September 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Third sector organisations face a race against time to gain vital employment funding.

The Scottish Government unveiled details of the £10 million Flexible Workforce Development Fund this morning (Thursday).

It is aimed at assisting employers affected by the new apprenticeship levy - a new tax on all organisations that employ paid staff, set at 0.5% of their PAYE bill.

The one-year pilot fund – available to those paying the levy in Scotland - will focus on the up-skilling and re-skilling of existing employees of any age, with individual organisations able to apply for up to £10,000.

However concern has been raised at third sector organisations having to face off against those from the public and private sector, with the fund being allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

“This is a totally inadequate response to the UK apprenticeship levy which will have barely any impact in the third sector,” said Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

“Handing out 5% of the Scottish Barnett share of the money raised in this most convoluted, public sector dominated way does nothing to address the fact that valuable charitable donations have had to be handed over for this farce. 

“Unfortunately, this is another example of the third sector being side-lined by Scottish Government employability decisions.”

Care and support service provider Cornerstone has calculated that the apprenticeship levy will cost the charity £130,000 for 2017/18, and Hazel Brown, leader of exceptional service (quality), said it had fundamental concerns about how funds from the levy would be allocated.

She said: “As we have previously highlighted the new apprenticeship levy has had a negative financial impact on us and whilst we obviously welcome any initiative which seeks to upskill employees we continue to have fundamental concerns regarding the new levy and how its funds are allocated.

“In particular, the levy collected from the income of charitable organisations to potentially subsidise training within private and public sector organisations and the lack of clarity regarding how the rest of the funds collected through the levy will be accessed and allocated across Scotland.”

The government will operate the fund through colleges and regional strategic boards, in order to ‘enable them to respond to employer demand’.

Minister for employability and skills Jamie Hepburn said: “This unique pilot scheme will enable Scotland’s employers to make training and skills development available to their staff, addressing knowledge gaps and improving productivity.  

“The Flexible Workforce Development Fund is part of the Programme for Government, and an important element of our skills offer in Scotland. It is part of our wider offer of training and support that provides a clear and distinctive response to the introduction of the UK Apprenticeship Levy.

“Training and skills development is beneficial for employees of all ages and levels and I would encourage all organisations subject to the levy in Scotland to get in touch with our colleges to learn more about the opportunities available to them.”

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