Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training
In July 2015 I published a discussion paper, Creating a Fairer Scotland: Employability Support. This aimed to draw upon the wealth of experience within our communities and our employer and provider networks, to shape future employability support in Scotland.
I would like to express my thanks to the individuals, groups, bodies and organisations who either responded to the consultation or attended one of the consultation events held across the length and breadth of the country. I have listened carefully to and reflected on all of the information we have heard from stakeholders to develop a vision for the future of employability support in Scotland. This is a vision that resonates strongly with the core aims of this government - namely, sustainable economic growth, inclusion, fair work and social justice.
In this paper I outline that vision - that we should provide greater support to those who struggle in the labour market. This is supported by six principles, and a set of core values, which together will govern our decisions on employability policy and delivery. The core values focus on dignity, fairness and respect, and a commitment to continuous improvement in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders.
As a Government, we are committed to achieving a Fairer Scotland through the levers available to us, now and in the future. In our Programme for Government we set our commitment to a Scotland where no-one lives in poverty and all people, no matter who they are or where they are from, can achieve their full potential. We also committed to introducing a replacement for the Work Programme and Work Choice by April 2017. With powers being devolved to support those at risk of long-term unemployment and disabled people, this offers a real opportunity, over time, to make Scotland a fairer country.
Throughout this programme of work, our first priority is to make sure that as the powers are devolved, those in need of support, can access person-centred services which address their barriers to sustaining high quality employment.
However, there can be no question that the UK Government Spending Review of November 2015 will impact on the reach and scale of those services. The UK Spending Review has magnified the challenge we face, and the proposed fiscal settlement for devolved services is inadequate for the task. But the Scottish Government, in partnership with our stakeholders, will rise to the challenge and work to deliver the services unemployed people in Scotland are entitled to receive.
The transfer of employability powers to Scotland will take place in April 2017 and, in the first instance, we will ensure continuity of service for those who most need it. In 2017-18 we will adopt the following transitional arrangements:
- We will replace Work Choice with a 1 year contract between
Scottish Ministers and current third sector providers of Work
Choice in Scotland, investing up to £20m to support
unemployed disabled people into work.
- We will ask Skills Development Scotland to use the mechanisms currently in place for the Employability Fund to deliver a new employability service for vulnerable clients with a health condition and at risk of long-term unemployment who want to enter work.
This approach will allow us to continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders to redesign the more enduring approach to employability support in Scotland. During this initial phase we will begin to take forward a programme of integration and alignment of existing employability services in Scotland, whilst beginning to differentiate the Scottish offer from that available in the rest of the UK. Where opportunities exist for immediate improvement we will grasp them in our transitional plans, with a view to evaluating their success at an early stage.
Placing dignity and respect at the heart of all we do means that the delivery of employability support is as important as the policy. In this paper, I outline the key principles underpinning both areas. As we develop and deliver new services in Scotland we will continue to work with stakeholders, practitioners and experts from local government, the third sector and representative organisations across Scotland. In doing so, we will work to derive maximum advantage from existing and new partnerships and services and build on the excellent relationships and innovative approaches that are already in place.
I believe that full transfer of employability powers, programmes and policies would provide the coherence to allow the Scottish Government to better support its most vulnerable citizens into sustainable employment. The Scottish Government will continue to make the case for transfer of full powers over employability support services, including transfer of the functions and programmes of JobCentre Plus to Scotland. Ahead of that, the vision and principles set out in this paper will shape our approach to both the powers currently being devolved, and any further measures in the future.