The Scottish National Party has today (Sunday) called on the UK Government to rethink cuts to employability programmes that threaten to undermine a key part of the Smith Commission’s recommendations.
The Smith Commission recommended that “all powers over support for unemployed people through the employment programmes” be devolved – but an expert witness told a Scottish Parliament committee that swingeing cuts to these services prior to devolution threatened to severely undermine their effectiveness.
The argument was made by Dr. Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who told the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution Committee that Tory cuts would lead to the programmes having “something like 17-20% of the original budget”.
He went on to say that this could lead to employment services being offered to fewer people or only in certain geographical areas.
Commenting, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:
“Scotland was promised the devolution of employment programmes – but this promise is completely undermined by slashing the budget down to a pittance before handing it over.
“This will leave the Scottish Government in the difficult position of trying to do more with a fraction of the resources.
“Spending on employment services should be a no brainer for a government supposedly committed to saving public money. Ensuring that more people have the skills to get into work is good for the economy and for public finances. It’s a win-win investment.
“The Tories should listen to this expert evidence and protect the employability budget before they devolve these powers.”
Notes to editors:
Transcript of Devolution Committee, 21/01/2016
It would seem to me that even since the agreement and even the spirit of the Smith Commission that we are reducing the powers in real terms about what you can actually do, because already before transfer we’re having potential budget cuts and what was agreed at that point. And I know it’s not all about money, but it does make a difference as to what you can actually achieve.
Dr. Jim McCormick:
If you come at this from the perspective of what is the outcome for the intended participants and beneficiaries, we’re looking at something like 17-20% of the original budget prior to the autumn statements. We could probably turn that into 25%, maybe even 30%, of value for participants by trying to maximize what is devolved as well as maximize what is the effectiveness of local employability programs in Scotland. As an example, Fife has just conducted a media review of its employability services and as a result is substantially improved job outcomes over the last three or four years. So, I’m not going to say that we can’t achieve much more but this is kind of a ball park figure. We can probably get back to about 25-30% of value and outcome for intended participants but that is clearly 1/3 of what we thought might be coming. So we are probably looking at… Well, the decision will be for Scotland but I imagine it will be about a much more targeted offer to maybe fewer people, perhaps even more geographically specific. There might be an issue here but city deal in Glasgow and Clyde valley where a different kind of deal can be offered to those eight local authorities but that’s unsatisfactory because in every single part of Scotland we will find long term unemployed people and also people who are stuck in low paying and poverty who could benefit a much more ambitious type of offer. So our ability to do that certainly over the next five years will be constrained.