Delivering effective employment support
One of the Scottish Government’s overriding commitments is to deliver dignity and respect for those people who face barriers to employment.
Since responsibility for employability services was devolved, the Scottish Government has taken a different approach to the UK Government. We have listened to those who use our employability services and designed a system which better meets their needs.
By taking a transitional approach to the introduction of devolved employability support, we were able to ensure adequate funding for services in the face of significant cuts in funding for devolved services from the UK Government. Moreover, we were able to develop a distinct Scottish approach to employability support, including safeguarding continuity of support for some of the most vulnerable groups in our labour market, including people with a disability.
Yesterday independent analysis of the Scottish Government’s transitional employability services – Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland, which launched in April 2017 – was published by Cambridge Policy Consultants. The report provides an early opportunity to see how our devolved services are performing. I’m pleased to see that the findings provide some assurance that we’re on the right track in many respects, but also challenges us to look at how we can improve the services we are delivering even further.
The report sets out a range of recommendations that I will be considering carefully. Encouragingly much of what has been outlined has already been embedded within the wider delivery of Fair Start Scotland, launched in April this year. For example, the report recommends that more time should be given to help people with barriers get the support they need – something we are already doing. This is just one of the areas where we have learnt from Work Able Scotland and Work First Scotland to tailor our approach to Fair Start Scotland.
When I decided to have transitional years services, I was acutely aware of the importance of providing a service to individuals that was tailored to their specific needs and to the needs of the wider economy. As the Cambridge evaluation found, people clearly value this approach and the time devoted to support them.
Over the past 12 months, I have seen first-hand the journeys that individuals have made in overcoming often extremely challenging personal circumstances. Time and time again people have told me they are glad that they are being treated with dignity and respect and that their confidence has grown by having a tailored support that reflects their needs. Of the 700 people interviewed for the evaluation, the majority were overwhelmingly positive about the support given to them.
We will continue to work with DWP and Providers to deliver services that deliver for those who have barriers to work. I am pleased that the report noted the transformational relationship that has taken place with DWP. For our part, the Scottish Government remains committed to working closely with all partners to ensure we get our approach right.
The spirit of continuous improvements, compassion and support is at the heart of our approach to employment support services, and it is right that our services are delivered as a voluntary service and people choose to participate without threat of a discredited sanctions regime.
I am committed to listening to the views of individuals who need support, to ensure we deliver the effective and responsive employment support that people in Scotland need. By valuing people and showing them compassion I believe we can continue to better support people to move into work.