Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

There are various questions there. I will deal with the first point. I recognise that charities that are involved in assisting people with a disability have different views on these matters, and it would be wrong for me to spend too much time characterising them. I hope that the rest of my remarks will address the other points that the member made.

In order to do what we can, we will shortly commission a review of Scotland’s supported businesses. I have asked that it be taken forward as quickly as possible to ensure that we offer as much support as we can to Scotland’s supported businesses in the coming months. The meeting in February helped—and was partly designed and intended—to determine the content of the review. In other words, the Government did not say of the review, “This is the way it is going to be.” We asked people who are involved in Remploy and the other businesses to share in the construction of the remit for the review. It was clear that those who attended the meeting believed that the review should involve a mixture of individual site visits and thematic seminars to allow people to come together and share knowledge and information.

Among the support available to third sector bodies is that provided by the just enterprise consortium, which was launched in July 2011 and which involves a budget of £3 million over three years. It provides business support and learning services to enterprising third sector organisations to enable their development. To date, more than 500 organisations from all the local authority areas in Scotland have been approved to receive business support through the programme, although a relatively small number of supported businesses have applied for support—I should make that clear. Just enterprise support complements the economic development infrastructure in Scotland—Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the business gateway.

Those Remploy businesses that are looking to move to a social enterprise model could benefit from the just enterprise programme. They could also make use of the services to support the third sector and to develop volunteering through the network of local third sector interfaces. Should they show the potential to successfully adopt the social enterprise model, they could become eligible for direct funding through our programme of investment, which is expected to become available next year.

I turn to public sector procurement. It is clear that the key to the sustainability of supported businesses in Scotland is the ability to bring in business. We are certain that supported businesses can make a valuable contribution to the economy, and we have been working with them to realise that ambition. The sustainable procurement action plan asks all Scottish public bodies to have a strategy for awarding at least one contract to a supported business or factory under the provisions of article 19 of the European public procurement directive.