“We want to see economic growth that is inclusive, innovative and fairly distributed. For too long, our economy has been held back by rising inequality … I have been clear that a key priority for this government is to tackle the blight of inequality, which serves as a destructive social and economic spiral.” Nicola Sturgeon: launch of Scotland’s Economic Strategy – 3 March 2015

The First Minister has stamped her authority on government policy, direction and emphasis. There is, without doubt, a continuation of the programme and style of government that began in 2007 but the emphasis and political drive in creating inclusive growth is stronger than ever before.

It follows, therefore, that the design and delivery of future employability services in Scotland should incorporate the lessons learned from the past, recognise the best of current practice and demonstrate how they will contribute to improving national outcomes.

The purpose of future employment support programmes should be to deliver effective strategic interventions that enable the most disadvantaged individuals in our communities to both enter and progress in the labour market and out of poverty.

So how can the Scottish Government go about creating this? I believe that a clear evidence-based political target could grab the undivided attention of all those impacted or involved: service users, civil servants, providers, and wider stakeholders. A political target – meeting both economic and social aims – can provide the authority to shape direction and harness adequate resources.

There are, of course, many strategies, policies and plans but rarely do they have meaning and purpose in the way a clear target drives action.

So what sort of target could Scotland focus on for a future after 2017? Government could set a target of say 100% of the population to be economically active, in fair work and off benefit by 2030, and set interim targets for 2020 and 2025.  Such targets would be about driving sustainable and inclusive economic growth, so that with success, no one is left behind.  Targets also require regular measurement to establish if they are on course and that actions are fit to deliver on.

Fair work, in this instance, could mean:

• earning at least the Scottish Living Wage,
• engaged on an mutually-agreed employment contract,
• including people who are often excluded from the labour market

As well as supporting economic growth, full employment is vital to ensuring social inclusion and resilience. With a bold inclusive target such as I have outlined, Scottish Government and those involved in the employment support journey can help work towards reducing inequality in Scotland by ensuring that everyone who is able to, can achieve sustainable work.

by Grant Thoms – Head of Strategy & Policy, Ingeus Scotland and Vice-Chair, Employment Support Scotland