Employment Support

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th October 2017.

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Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

I welcome this opportunity to update Parliament on progress towards the delivery of the fair start Scotland employment support service, one of the first powers devolved under the Scotland Act 2016. This is an important milestone for employment support in Scotland and an opportunity to make employment services work differently and more effectively for the people of Scotland. The Scottish Government is already using new powers to deliver one-year transitional employment support services and those are already helping unemployed people with health conditions and disabilities across the country to find work and to stay in work. Those services are providing continuity of support while we progress towards delivering fair start Scotland from April 2018.

We all understand the health, social and economic benefits of getting more people into good, rewarding and fair work. That is at the heart of our ambition to deliver inclusive economic growth. That ambition is laid out in our economic and labour market strategies and demonstrated through our commitment to the fair work agenda being promoted by the fair work convention; and that ambition is writ through fair start Scotland as well.

Today, following the conclusion of a rigorous and open procurement process, I can announce that we have signed contracts for up to five years to deliver fair start Scotland from April next year. Fair start Scotland will provide tailored, person-centred support to a minimum of 38,000 people who are further removed from the labour market and for whom work is a realistic prospect.

Before I outline the successful bids, I thank all the organisations that have taken part in the process. Engaging in any procurement process requires a significant investment and, whilst I know that those who have secured the contracts will have been pleased to do so, there will be others who feel that they have missed out. Every bid that we received showed the real commitment, dedication and desire of organisations in the public, private and third sectors to help support people into work. I appreciate the work that all those involved put into the process.

In announcing who has been successful today, I am confident that we have been able to award contracts to a range of providers that have demonstrated strong, collaborative proposals that will deliver our shared ambitions. Let me now outline the detail of the nine contracts that I am announcing today.

Contract area 1 covers the city of Glasgow. The contract has been awarded to PeoplePlus Group Ltd, to be delivered in partnership with Remploy Ltd, and third sector partners Momentum Scotland and the Lennox Partnership. The estimated value of the contract is £19.1 million.

Contract area 2 covers the North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Remploy Ltd, to be delivered in partnership with third sector partners Enable Scotland and Routes to Work South. The estimated value of the contract is £12.6 million.

Contract area 3 is Tayside and covers the Perth and Kinross, Angus and Dundee local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Remploy Ltd, to be delivered in partnership with third sector partners Rathbone Training and the Wise Group. The estimated value of the contract is £7.3 million.

Contract Area 4 is Forth valley and covers the Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Falkirk Council, to be delivered in partnership with public sector partners Clackmannanshire Council, Stirling Council and NHS Forth Valley. The estimated value of the contract is £5 million.

Contract area 5 is the east and covers the Edinburgh, Midlothian, East and West Lothian, Fife and the Borders local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Start Scotland Ltd, to be delivered in partnership with Working Links, Triage and third sector partner Momentum Scotland. The estimated value of the contract is £21.3 million.

Contract area 6 is the south-west and covers Dumfries and Galloway and the three Ayrshire local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Start Scotland Ltd, to be delivered in partnership with Working Links and third sector partners Rathbone Training, the Lennox Partnership and the Wise Group. The estimated value of the contract is £10.1 million.

Contract area 7 is the north-east and covers the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to third sector organisation Momentum Scotland, to be delivered in partnership with Life Skills Centres Ltd and Enterprise Mentoring Ltd. The contract will be delivered alongside third sector partners Enable Scotland, Aberdeen Foyer and the Scottish Association for Mental Health. The estimated value of the contract is £5.6 million.

Contract area 8 is the Highlands and Islands and covers Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. The contract has been awarded to People Plus Ltd. It will be delivered in partnership with a mixture of public, private and third sector partners of Argyll and Bute Council, Life Skills Centres Ltd, Lochaber Hope, Momentum Scotland, Third Sector Hebrides and 20/20 Clearview Ltd. The estimated value of the contract is £6.2 million.

Finally, contract area 9 is the west and covers East and West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire. The contract has been awarded to third sector organisation the Wise Group and will be delivered in partnership with Working Links and third sector partners the Scottish Association for Mental Health, the Lennox Partnership, Enable Scotland and the Royal National Institute of Blind People. The estimated value of the contract is £8.8 million.

Under the provisions that we laid out, the contract for the west area was specifically reserved for supported businesses to bid into. This is the first time that we have exercised that power, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to that sector. Supported businesses provide vital permanent employment for those who are disadvantaged in the labour market. We are determined to develop a more diverse delivery market for employment support through devolution, and that is why our approach, unlike previous approaches, used devolved powers to reserve one area for bids from supported businesses. The Wise Group has secured that specific contract under the reservation for supported businesses in the west area, but we have also seen successful bids from a supported business, Remploy, in two other lots—Lanarkshire and Tayside—and involvement of both organisations in other areas as delivery partners, demonstrating the strength of that business model.

We evaluated the bids that we received in order to secure best quality and consistent provision across Scotland and we will rigorously performance manage the service to ensure that those are delivered. That is crucial to help us to ensure that there is continuous improvement in the public services that we can offer people.

We have listened in public consultation and in on-going stakeholder engagement, and we have listened to Scotland’s devolved employment services advisory group, which has helped to shape, develop and test our devolved employability approach. I place on record my thanks to the group’s chair, Professor Alan McGregor, and its third, private and public sector members.

As we enter the delivery phase of fair start Scotland, I confirm that I plan to develop that consultative approach further and to continue to listen to a diverse range of voices as we deliver the programme and a more aligned, wider employment support landscape. Fair start Scotland will see unprecedented levels of partnership delivery. The joint working that we will see between private, public and third sector delivery partners across Scotland will be a real strength of our new approach.

This is not simply business as usual. We are taking a partnership approach in Scotland that will see more than half of provision delivered by supported businesses and by third sector and public sector bodies. Although fair start Scotland has been designed nationally, all services will be delivered locally through new consortia and will feature a range of specialist providers to ensure that people receive the right type of support for them. We are taking a different approach from the United Kingdom Government by funding the services appropriately. We are committing an additional £20 million each year from our budget, over and above the significantly reduced funding that is being provided by the UK Government.

Today, I am laying out who will deliver our fair start Scotland programme through the contracts that have been awarded but, much more critically, we must remember that delivery of the programme is about providing support to people who need it. Our vision for fair start Scotland is clear and we are using devolved powers to deliver a distinct and different approach to employment support in Scotland. Our approach is significantly different from what has previously been seen in UK Government programmes. We are putting people at the centre of the services and treating them with dignity. Fair start Scotland will have respect and fairness at its core, supporting people to achieve their full potential.

We are listening to the views of people who rely on these services and we will continue to do so. We are better reflecting the reality of Scotland’s geography, regional economies and population spread by having nine contract areas rather than simply lumping the whole of Scotland together as one contract package area, as has been the case under the UK Government. We are also delivering differently by ensuring that providers have committed to a wider fair work, workforce and community benefits agenda as part of their bids, including by paying the living wage and avoiding the use of zero-hours contracts.

Also, crucially, as this Parliament has endorsed by overwhelming majority, fair start Scotland will be voluntary. It will work with unemployed people to encourage them to take the opportunity of support towards work and will not threaten them with sanctions from the Department for Work and Pensions. That is in keeping with our desire, running through all of our new employability and social security powers, to treat people with dignity and respect.

Our employment programmes are not about supporting organisations, sectors or institutions; they are above all about supporting people: people who deserve to be supported through a person-centred and tailored approach that meets their needs, who deserve to be supported to achieve their full potential, who deserve to be supported to enter work and to retain a job, and who deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness and to get on in life.

Just as is the case with all of this Government’s endeavours, people will be at the core of our approach to taking forward fair start Scotland.