Work Programme must be abolished says SCVO
The UK government has announced plans to extend Work Programme contracts – a move which critics say flies in the face of the Smith Commission agreements.
Cross party talks on further devolution for Scotland agreed that the scheme would come under Holyrood's control.
There have been calls for the Scottish Parliament to use new powers recommended by the Smith Commission to abolish the controversial Work Programme – which critics, including many in the third sector, claim doesn’t work.
It has been equated with exploitation of the unemployed and has been compared to “workfare” schemes where people are forced to toil for benefits.
We’re completely dismayed by this delay in ridding Scotland of this exploitative, punitive and under-performing programme
The Scottish Government said Westminster’s announcement that contracts will be extended is a “flagrant and wilful breach” of the Smith agreement, less than a week after the commission’s findings were published.
However, Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael said the decision was made before the commission was set up.
The Scottish Government thought Work Programme devolution would happen as soon as current contracts with employers expire – in March 2016. However, there was fury when it was decided to extend contracts by a year.
While Holyrood and Westminster slug it out over the Work Programme, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) condemned not just the breach of the Smith deal, but the very fact that the Work Programme has been extended.
Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of SCVO, said: “We are utterly appalled by the UK government’s move to extend its Work Programme contracts when it was agreed by the Smith Commission that it would transfer to the Scottish Parliament as soon as current contracts expired.
“But our disappointment doesn’t lie so much in the almost immediate failure to keep to the agreement as in the fact that it’s impossible to justify why such a broken and failing system would ever be continued.
“All the evidence tells us that the Work Programme simply does not work. In fact, only getting 18% of people in the scheme actually get a job.
“We’re completely dismayed by this delay in ridding Scotland of this exploitative, punitive and under-performing programme.
“We already have the highly successful Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) which has changed the lives of 5,000 young unemployed people by creating paid jobs for them in charities and third sector organisations right across Scotland.
“This includes young people facing the biggest barriers to work, including low skills and qualifications. Overall, more than 60% of people taking part in CJS go on to either full time employment or take up further training.
“We need to invest more in approaches like this which are proven to create real jobs for people instead of punishing and exploiting them. This is the time to invest in what works not what doesn't.”