Call for publication of support figures for long-term unemployed

HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has urged the Employment Minister to ensure figures will be published on new regional employment support schemes.

Fair Start Scotland will replace the UK-wide Work Programme for people at risk of long-term unemployment or people with disabilities who are out of work.

This was devolved under the UK Government’s Scotland Act 2016, which implemented the recommendations of the Smith Commission on expanding the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Halcro Johnston was responding to a Ministerial Statement which unveiled that Fair Start Scotland, which will begin in April next year, will split Scotland into nine regional contracts – with Moray covered by the Highlands and Islands contract.

He said that clear information on uptake of the voluntary scheme and its outcomes must be provided at regional level to ensure provision will be consistent across Scotland – asking the Minister at what stages this would be available.

The MSP said: “To ensure regional employment support schemes do not lead to a post-code lottery of provision across Scotland, figures on uptake and outcomes need to be published from all providers.

“I challenged the Employment Minister to make sure that this will happen in a timely fashion – and while he responded this was not yet clear, he has given assurances that he will contact MSPs soon to outline this in more detail.

“This is a new power for the Scottish Parliament and it is important we get it right. People across the Highlands and Islands, including Moray, will want to know that the Scottish Government is taking getting people into work seriously.”

Powers over the employment support services (the Work Programme and Work Choices) were devolved last year and are currently operating as two one-year transitional schemes: Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland. Fair Start Scotland will be in place from April 2018.

Contracts have been signed in the Highlands and Islands contract area with People Plus Ltd to deliver the new service.

This contract area covers Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.