I welcome this opportunity to update Parliament on progress towards the delivery of the Fair Start Scotland employment support service – one of the first of the powers devolved under the 2016 Scotland Act .
This is an important milestone for employment support here in Scotland.
It is 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 these are already helping unemployed people with health conditions and disabilities across the country to find work – and to stay in work.
These services are providing a continuity of support while we progress towards delivering Fair Start Scotland from April 2018.
We all understand the health, social and economic benefits from getting more people into good, rewarding and fair work. This is at the heart of our ambitions for delivering 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.
That ambition is also writ through Fair Start Scotland as well.
Presiding Officer, today following the conclusion of a rigorous and open procurement process, I can announce we have signed contracts for up to five years – to deliver Fair Start Scotland from April of next year.
Fair Start Scotland will provide tailored, person-centered 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 would like to thank all of the organisations that have taken part in this process.
Engaging in any procurement process requires a significant investment and whilst I know that those who have secured these contracts will have been pleased to, there will be others who feel they have missed out.
Every bid 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 have put into this process.
In announcing who has been successful today, I am confident that we have been able to award contracts to range of providers that have demonstrated strong, collaborative proposals that will deliver our shared ambitions.
Presiding Officer, let me now outline the detail of those nine contracts.
Contract Area 1 covers the city of Glasgow. The contract has been awarded to People Plus Group Limited, to be delivered in partnership with Remploy, and third sector partners Momentum Skills and The Lennox Partnership. The estimated value of this contract is £19.1 million.
Contract area 2 covers the North and South Lanarkshire local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Remploy Limited, to be delivered in partnership with third sector partners ENABLE Scotland and Routes to Work South. The estimated value of this contract is £12.6 million.
Contract area 3 is Tayside, and covers Perth and Kinross and Angus and Dundee. The contract has been awarded to Remploy Limited, to be delivered in partnership with third sector partners Rathbone Training and The Wise Group. The estimated value of this 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 this contract is £5 million.
Contract area 5 is East and covers Edinburgh, Midlothian, East and West Lothian, Fife and the Borders. The contract has been awarded to Start Scotland Limited, to be delivered in partnership with Working Links, Triage and third sector partner Momentum Scotland. The estimated value of this contract is £21.3 million.
Contract area 6 is South West and covers Dumfries and Galloway and the three Ayrshire local authority areas. The contract has been awarded to Start Scotland Limited, 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 this contract is £10.1 million.
Contract area 7 is North East and covers 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 Limited and Enterprise Mentoring Limited. This contract will be delivered alongside third sector partners ENABLE Scotland, Aberdeen Foyer and the Scottish Association for Mental Health. The estimated value of this contract is £5.6 million.
Contract area 8 is Highlands and Islands and covers Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar [Ey-lan Shee-ar], Highland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. The contract has been awarded to People Plus Limited. This contract will be delivered in partnership with a mixture of public, private and third sector partners of Argyll and Bute Council, Life Skills Centres Limited, Lochaber Hope, Momentum Scotland, Third Sector Hebrides, and 2020 Clearview Limited. The estimated value of this contract is £6.2 million.
And finally, contract area 9 is West. This contract area covers East and West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire. This contract has been awarded to the 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 for the Blind. The estimated value of this contract is £8.8 million.
Under the provisions we have laid out, the contract for the West area was specifically reserved for supported businesses to bid into. This is the first time we have exercised this power – demonstrating this Government's commitment to that sector.
Supported businesses provide vital permanent employment for those disadvantaged in the labour market, and we are determined to develop a more diverse delivery market for employment support through devolution.
This is why – unlike previous approaches – we have used devolved powers to reserve one area for bids from supported businesses.
Whilst the Wise Group has secured this specific contract under the reservation for supported businesses in the West area, we have also seen successful bids from a supported business in two other lots – Remploy in Lanarkshire and Tayside – and involvement from both organisations in other areas as delivery partners – demonstrating the strength of that business model.
Presiding Officer, we have evaluated the bids we have received to secure best quality and consistent provision across the whole of Scotland – and will rigorously performance manage the service to ensure this is delivered.
This is crucial to helping us ensure continuous improvement in the public services we can offer people.
We have listened in public consultation. We have listened in ongoing stakeholder engagement. And we have listened to the Devolved Employment Services Advisory Group that has helped shape, develop and test our devolved employability approach.
I want to place on record my thanks to Professor Alan MacGregor the chair and to the third, private and public sector members of that Group.
As we enter the delivery phase of Fair Start Scotland, I can confirm that I plan to develop that consultative approach further - and to continue to listen to a diverse range of voices - as we deliver Fair Start Scotland and a more aligned wider employment support landscape.
Fair Start Scotland will see unprecedented levels of partnership delivery. The joint working 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.
Whilst Fair Start Scotland has been designed nationally, all services will be delivered locally, through new consortia and featuring a range of specialist providers to ensure that people receive the right type of support for them.
And we are taking a different approach to the UK Government by funding these services appropriately – committing an additional £20 million each year from our budget, over and above the significantly reduced funding being provided by the UK Government.
Presiding Officer, today I am laying out who will deliver our Fair Start Scotland programme through the contracts that have been awarded. But much more critically than that, we must remember that delivery of this programme is about providing support to people who need it.
Our vision for Fair Start Scotland is clear – we are using devolved powers to deliver a distinct and different approach to employment support in Scotland.
Our approach is significantly different than previously seen in UK Government programmes.
We are putting people at the centre of these 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 – with 9 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 providers have committed to a wider Fair Work, Workforce and Community Benefits agenda as part of their bids – including paying the living wage and avoiding use of zero-hours contracts.
And – crucially – as this Parliament has endorsed by overwhelming majority – Fair Start Scotland will be voluntary.
Working with unemployed people to encourage them to take the opportunity of support towards work not threatening them with sanctions by the Department for Work and Pensions.
This is in keeping with our desire – through all of our new employability and social security powers – to treat people with dignity and respect.
Presiding Officer, 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.
People who deserve to be supported to achieve their full potential.
People who deserve to be supported to enter work and retain a job.
People who deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness to get on in life.
Presiding Officer, just as is the case with the approach by this Government to all its endeavours, people will be at the core of our approach to taking forward Fair Start Scotland.