Social Security Policies (Economic Inactivity)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to use its social security policies to address reported high levels of economic inactivity. (S5O-04205)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

We are already using the powers that we have to tackle long-standing issues. Our employability service, fair start Scotland, is delivering personalised support to 19,000 people, with 5,000 people already having been supported into jobs.

We are taking forward the disability employment action plan, which aims to at least halve the disability employment gap by 2038. In spring 2020, we will also deliver the job start payment, which aims to support 5,000 young people into work. I point out that Scotland’s unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent is lower than that of the United Kingdom, which is 3.8 per cent.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

The cabinet secretary will be aware of the latest figures, which show that the level of economic inactivity in Scotland, at 22 per cent, is well above the UK average of 20 per cent. To put that into perspective, that represents more than 750,000 people in Scotland who are not active in the labour market. Given that recent figures have shown that only 4 per cent of those who enter the Scottish Government’s fair start Scotland programme are still in work 26 weeks after starting the programme, is the cabinet secretary satisfied that her Government is doing enough to address economic inactivity in Scotland?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government will always endeavour to do all that we can and will continuously strive to do more. However, I point out to the member that the main groups of people who are economically inactive include the long-term sick, at 28.3 per cent; students, at 24.5 per cent; and people who are looking after the family or home, at 18.8 per cent.

I am more than happy to consider those aspects, as all the members in the chamber should do. However, using the figures that Dean Lockhart presents gives a less than full picture and is unfair to the work that has already been done by fair start Scotland.