by Robert Armour
Charities can better support unemployed
THIRD sector groups are demanding the UK government acknowledges the crucial role they play in employment initiatives as speculation grows they will be excluded from the new £1bn Youth Contract.
Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg announced the three-year long scheme last week which will give employers subsidies worth £2,275 to take on 160,000 18-to 24-year-olds for six months across the UK.
However, leading charities in Scotland joined groups across the UK to ask for clarity over the announcement after it failed to mention any role for the third sector.
The government has so far only revealed that private sector businesses would run the contracts while young people would be given the opportunity to get private sector work experience.
It has led to calls for clarity from leading organisations across the UK concerned that their role in delivering major contracts is being overlooked.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman told TFN she could not confirm whether charities would be able to access the subsidies on offer as the details of how the programme would be delivered were yet to be announced
If third sector groups are left out, it will come as major blow as the sector has built a strong reputation for getting hard to employ people back to work through employment initiatives including New Deal, the Future Jobs Fund and the current Community Jobs Scotland.
Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said he was disappointed that the special contribution which voluntary organisations and charities had made to building the confidence and skills of young people had been ignored.
“We need clarification on what role the third sector will have in this scheme and how it will be funded,” he said.
“The Future Jobs Fund was highly successful in our sector and early indications are that Community Jobs Scotland is equally popular and will lead to good outcomes for young people, as well as enabling them to contribute to their communities.”
Barnardo’s Scotland, which has been successfully getting young people into placements with private sector employers through its Barnardo’s Works initiative, said the sector had been a key player in addressing the employability agenda and urged for this role to be recognised.
SallyAnn Kelly, acting director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “The voluntary sector has been successful in forming relationships with employers and preparing and supporting young people to succeed in the work environment.
“The creation of work opportunities for young people alone is not enough. It is vital young people are given the right encouragement, preparation and support to make the most of these opportunities.”
There were also concerns about what the fund would mean for disadvantaged young people in Scotland. Action for Children Scotland said it was concerned that the scheme didn’t make a provision to help disadvantaged young people access opportunities in employment and training and was instead centred on mainstream provision.
Paul Carberry, operation director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, said: “We need to make sure that those young people who are disadvantaged are not left behind – not just for the sake of the young people themselves, but also for the long-term economic health of this country.
“Disadvantaged young people lack basic opportunities to fulfil their potential. They face barriers which are often insurmountable, unless targeted support is available.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The Barnett consequentials generated for Scotland from the UK Government‘s three-year Youth Contract programme are £6m a year – a welcome, if limited, sum compared to the Scottish Government‘s expenditure on youth programmes.”