New powers backed with £20 million of additional Scottish Government funding to help people into jobs.
New arrangements to support vulnerable groups and the long term unemployed, including those with disabilities and health conditions, towards employment for 2017/18 have been outlined.
Following an estimated 87 per cent budget cut by the UK government in the first year of devolved employability services in Scotland, Scottish Ministers have stepped in to provide up to £20 million in additional funding, to replace the UK Government's Work Choice and Work Programme schemes. This trebles the funding being made available to exercise new devolved powers on employability from 1 April 2017.
Scottish Ministers will replace Work Choice with a new contract with existing providers, for one year to provide ongoing support to disabled unemployed Scotland. At the same time, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) will use the mechanisms currently in place through the Employability Fund to deliver a new devolved service for clients with a health condition and at risk of long term unemployment who want to enter work.
Both measures will operate on a one year basis until March 31, 2018 in advance of a Scottish Government-led procurement for a new employability programme to help unemployed Scots find – and stay in – work, based on the principles of fairness and respect.
The announcement follows an extensive consultation with stakeholders across the whole of Scotland on what they would like to see future services deliver. Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham made the announcement while visiting disability employment provider Remploy in Edinburgh. She said:
"New powers on employability are among the most exciting of the new areas to be devolved as it gives Scotland the chance to create something that works for unemployed Scots. Figures released just last week show that the UK government's Work Programme is still failing to deliver for the most disadvantaged jobseekers.
"The UK Government is targeting budget, benefit and service cuts at the most vulnerable in society. The Chancellor's appalling withdrawal of most of the current budget to help disabled and long term unemployed people find work leaves us with a level of resource which is wholly inadequate.
"However as we have seen recently, the UK Government has no problem with cutting support for disabled people, not just through changes to disability benefits but also reducing Employment and Support Allowance by £30 a week.
"The Scottish Government will not follow the UK approach. Instead, we are now putting up to £20 million of new Scottish Government funding behind these new powers in order to be able to provide a robust Scottish alternative for current Work Programme and Work Choice clients.
"Not only have we effectively trebled the support available for 2017/18, we are building on responses to our consultation and making the most of the strengths in existing services. This creates a strong platform for delivering future services from April 1, 2018.
"We are clear that these are interim delivery arrangements for one year only, and this approach is one we have been forced into by a massive and frankly despicable budget cut. We are now looking ahead and working to deliver the aligned, effective and client-focused services which treat those who use services with respect and deliver the effective, efficient and responsive services unemployed Scots are entitled to expect for future years."
Beth Carruthers, Chief Executive of Remploy added:
"We are delighted that the Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment to disabled people through these new arrangements and the allocation of additional funding.
"We are confident that by working closely together we can provide even better services across Scotland and support many more disabled people into transformational employment."
The Scottish Government response to the Employability in Scotland consultation can be found here.