The Department for Work and Pensions has announced an estimated 75 per cent cut in anticipated funding which amounts to an estimated £40 million a year to Scottish employability services. The UK spending review will severely affect Scotland’s ability to implement a new service to replace both the Work Programme and Work Choice in 2017. This will impact significantly on the ability of the various agencies in Scotland to deliver meaningful programmes and would not meet the intentions of the Smith Commission to give Scotland the ability to plan and deliver these services.
The Work Programme and Work Choice were to be devolved in less than 18 months in line with the Smith Commission recommendations. As a result, the Scottish Government embarked on a wide-ranging public consultation over the summer to help design employability support services for the people of Scotland.
The Wise Group has many years of experience of delivering DWP Employability contracts and has first-hand knowledge of issues many long term unemployed people face in getting back into work. The Wise Group welcomed the Smith Commission proposals on the devolution of employment services and believed these would create an opportunity to create a service to meet the needs of the Scottish economy.
Laurie Russell, Chief Executive of the Wise Group said:
‘Scotland needs employability programmes that are appropriate for the economic climate in which we operate. The Wise Group believes that the reduced expenditure will undermine the ability to deliver support for individuals who find it most difficult to get into work, such as, those with health issues or that have been out of work for long periods. We are also concerned that the increasing number of people on benefits who are sanctioned causes severe hardship for families caught in the poverty-trap.
The Wise Group urges the UK Work and Pensions Secretary to rethink these proposed spending cuts because they will have a negative impact on individuals trying to come off benefits and get into work.’