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The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the representative body for the employment support sector operating in Scotland, England and Wales, has today (22 January 2015) welcomed the decision to maintain the timeframe for the devolution of employment support services, stressing that time will be needed to develop new schemes which meet the needs of jobseekers and employers in Scotland.

Responding to today’s announcement of plans for devolution, ERSA emphasised the practicalities involved with designing and procuring a new Scottish employment programme.  It said that, although there have been some calls to try to fast track devolution of responsibility for the Work Programme and other schemes, it was in the interests of jobseekers and employers that the Scottish Government took time to consult on and consider the design of successor programmes.

The Bill will determine when responsibility for the procurement and running of national employment schemes for the long term unemployed will sit with the Scottish Government rather than the Department for Work and Pensions.  The current programmes include the Work Programme and the specialist disability programme, Work Choice.  The latest releases of statistics show that:

• As of September 2014, over 58,000 long term unemployed jobseekers on the Work Programme in Scotland have so far found some employment, with nearly 33,000 already in a long term job.  This means that well over a third of people on the programme in Scotland have already found some work – a figure which is set to grow.
• As of December 2014, 15,000 young people in Scotland have found work on the scheme, contributing to falls in youth unemployment over the last year.
• The National Audit Office has said that Work Programme performance is already comparable to that of predecessor schemes and that performance is set to increase further. The programme thus offers better value for money to the taxpayer.
• The specialist disability programme, Work Choice, has already moved 43% of jobseekers referred to it in Scotland into work. 

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive said:

‘The Scottish Government has a huge opportunity with the devolution of employment support services. The current suite of programmes, including the Work Programme, have been delivering for Scotland, but even more could be achieved with the right tie up between employment, health and skills. 

The Scottish Government now has the time to work through the practicalities of running its own schemes, building on what we already know works as a sector in order to benefit the Scottish people.’

In order to support the development of successor schemes, employment support providers will be launching a dedicated network to formalise the collaboration between providers that already exists.  Open to all employment support providers, its first meeting will be in February. 

Ends

Press enquiries should be directed to Anna Robin 07912 569 449 /anna.robin@ersa.org.uk.

Notes to Editors

1. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the sector body for those delivering or with an interest in employment support services.  ERSA’s membership spans the private, voluntary and public sectors and covers the whole of the UK. It has 180 members, the majority of which are not for profit. It has an active Scottish network many of whom deliver employability and skills services for local government and national government in Scotland as well as the UK government.
2. ERSA provided evidence to the Smith Commission, calling for full devolution of all employment related services including Jobcentre Plus and the employment related benefits budget. A copy of the submission can be found here.
3. The Work Programme is the government’s largest back to work scheme and caters for the most disadvantaged jobseekers in the labour market. Further information about how the programme operates, including the financial model, is available in this Policy Briefing on ERSA’s website.
4. The Government’s official statistics on sustained Job Outcomes, jobseekers who have been in work for (in most cases) six months are available here.
5. ERSA is able to set up interviews with jobseekers who have found work, Work Programme providers and employers who are recruiting form the scheme. Case studies are available on ERSA’s website. Interviews with ERSA’s Chief Executive Kirsty McHugh are available on request.