Thousands of Scots supported by new employment service

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A new employment service in Scotland that removes the threat of sanctions has supported almost 5,000 people within the first six months.

The Fair Start Scotland scheme was launched in April, with 4,978 people voluntarily enrolling to receive help finding a job.

Out-of-work Scots can either be referred by their Jobcentre or ask to be put forward to participate without the risk of it affecting any benefits.

Although the number of those who joined and then found jobs has not yet been released, Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn has praised the initiative.

He said: “Despite only being in its first year, Fair Start Scotland has hit the ground running and is already helping almost 5,000 people move towards and into employment in a respectful and dignified way.

“While it’s too early to know the impact in terms of sustainable jobs, the positive start Fair Start Scotland has made means people can choose to take part without fear it will affect existing benefits.

“We are keen to encourage people to take advantage of the employability support Fair Start Scotland offers.

“For the first time we are now getting and publishing details on Fair Start Scotland, which will help us ensure that the service is reaching the individuals it was intended to support.

“The Scottish Government will continue to learn from and build on our existing work and deliver the fair and inclusive Scotland we all wish to see.”

The £96 million policy, which uses powers devolved following the 2014 referendum, is financed by a £20 million commitment from the Scottish Government in addition to UK Government funding.

Almost two-thirds (61%) of those joining the service were aged 35 or over, while women accounted for more than a third (35%) of the people enrolled.

More than half (58%) of participants were reported as disabled, with 69% of the total having a long-term health condition, the most common of which related to mental health.

Scottish Greens social security spokesperson Alison Johnstone MSP said: “Green pressure delivered the no-sanctions policy so it’s great to see people entering the new devolved work programme free from the threat of being pushed into poverty.

“It shows that while Holyrood’s powers over social security and employment are limited, that should not prevent us from taking a fairer approach to the punitive regime pursued by the UK Government.”

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