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Employment Support Scotland, the ERSA Network in Scotland, has today given a cautious welcome to the announcement by Scottish Government of new one year contracts to support the employability needs of the most vulnerable in society.

The Scottish Government announcements follow extensive consultation on the future of employability support following the end of Westminster commissioned contracts, Work Programme and specialist disability programme, Work Choice.  Decisions mean that Work Choice will be extended for one year only, whilst new one year contracts will be put in place using the existing Employability Fund mechanism for jobseekers with health needs, disabilities and at risk of long term unemployment.  From April 2018, Scottish Government intends to put longer term provision in place which enhances support for those in most need.

Speaking in response to the announcement, Kate Still, co-chair of Employment Support Scotland, said:

‘Scottish Government should be applauded for finding additional money to invest in employability support in Scotland.  In particular, extending Work Choice provision for one year is a pragmatic decision which puts the needs of jobseekers with disabilities first.

‘Whilst understanding the desire to put in place interim arrangements, we are concerned that letting contracts for just one year could fragment provision which is currently performing well.  Jobseekers with the greatest needs often require long term support and thus short term provision may risk jobseekers being referred from pillar to post. Our priority must be to ensure jobseekers are able to build and maintain relationships with employment advisers over the long term – that’s the best way of maximising the chances for people to enter good quality work.

‘Looking forward, we have a real opportunity in Scotland to design great provision from April 2018, which integrates employment, skills and health services to a degree not seen before.’

Work Programme and Work Choice contracts are due to end in April 2017.  As of end December 2015, the Work Programme had supported 503,000 long term jobseekers into sustained work overall, 45,190 of whom are in Scotland, meaning that it has delivered performance at least as good as predecessor programmes according to the National Audit Office; whilst Work Choice had helped 41,000 jobseekers with disabilities into work overall, 5,030 of whom are in Scotland. 

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Notes to Editors

1. Employment Support Scotland is the membership body for organisations delivering employment support in Scotland. More information can be found here. 
2. The Employment Related Services Association is the membership body across the UK for providers of employment support. It has members drawn across the public, private and voluntary sectors, with over two thirds of its membership not for profit.  More information can be found here.