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Under the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Government’s duty is to make sure that disabled people and those at risk of long-term unemployment get the support that they require to move into and towards work.
That is now being taken forward by fair start Scotland.
Fair start Scotland has already supported more than 19,000 people, with more than 5,000 people moving into work in a dignified and respectful way. We work with the UK Government and other partners to ensure that services are aligned and delivered for the people who need them most.
I am aware that fair start Scotland is the devolved employability service. It recently released some troubling statistics showing that only 276 people who had left the programme had secured a job for a year. Even more troubling is that in May 2019 the Scottish Government said that fair start Scotland will support 38,000 people over a three-month period, but a month later the Scottish Government published materials saying that the programme
“will reach a minimum of 38,000 people” by 2023. In the answer to a parliamentary question that I asked to follow up on the issue, it was confirmed that the date would be 2023.
In the current crisis, many people who are already struggling to get a job that meets their needs will now be even more worried about that. Can the minister clarify the numbers and explain why the targets in relation to that important service were moved?
It is important that Michelle Ballantyne acknowledges that the programme addresses the needs of the most vulnerable people and those who are furthest from the labour market. It will take time to bed in.
I draw the member’s attention to a fact that I already mentioned: 19,000 people have been supported, with 5,000 of them having moved into work. It is also important to recognise that a recent evaluation report showed the 92 per cent of participants in the programme felt that they had been treated with dignity and respect, and that 80 per cent felt that they had a choice about the type of support that they received. That shows this Government’s approach to employability services.