Under new devolved powers, the Scottish Government is able to decide what kind of services and support it will offer to unemployed people. These new powers are part of the proposed Scotland Bill, and will mean that decisions about employability support and work programmes will be devolved from Westminster to Holyrood. This includes transferring arrangements for employment programmes contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), particularly the Work Programme and Work Choice, when current commercial arrangements expire in March 2017.
This is a real opportunity for Scotland to provide a cohesive programme that meets the needs of all, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised job seekers.
Action for Children is working in partnership with the Prince’s Trust Scotland and Barnardo’s Scotland to help vulnerable young people into jobs, training and education. We believe that the greatest opportunity in a generation now exists to improve the lives of young people, by redesigning existing services and offering them the support they need to turn their lives around.
Lessons can be taken from previous employment programmes to ensure that future services in Scotland meet the needs of all sections of society, especially the hardest to reach.
Many young people in Scotland don’t access the services on offer, as they don’t feel they can help. This is especially the case for young people who are not in education, who come from workless households or those who are in, or are at risk, of being in care.
Often these young people are left behind as they need more time, guidance, and resources to find work. The young people we work with are worried about how to manage money so it’s crucial that we support them with the skills to help budget and keep debt as low as possible.
The current “pay-by-results” model is often more focused on helping young people “closest” to the jobs market rather than helping young people who face the biggest barriers when trying to find work.
The Scottish Government has made the right start to tackle some of the issues young people like Ian can face by launching an important consultation on what a distinctly Scottish approach to offering more appropriate and targeted support for those furthest from the labour market could look like. We will be taking part in this consultation together, sharing our knowledge and experience of supporting young people.
We believe that future employability services need protected funding to tackle youth unemployment, particularly those for the most disadvantaged and marginalised young people. The Scottish Government has committed to reducing youth unemployment by 2021.
To do this we must make sure that the right support is available to every young person regardless of their level of need. We require the right services to support vulnerable young people, and this consultation presents an opportunity to think of new ways of doing things.
Action for Children, the Prince’s Trust Scotland and Barnardo’s Scotland would like any new approach to ensure that policies designed to help young people into the job market are backed up with commitments to fund them.
We were encouraged by the response from cabinet secretary for fair work and skills, Roseanna Cunningham MSP when we discussed our views at our joint fringe event (hosted by Barnardo’s Scotland) at the SNP Conference in March. We are looking forward to contributing to this crucial opportunity to make a real difference to the life chances of thousands of young people throughout Scotland to help ensure that employment services prioritises the needs of all young people.
• Carol Iddon is director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, www.actionforchildren.org.uk