Meeting date: Thursday, September 16, 2021
Meeting of the Parliament 16 September 2021 (Hybrid)
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Community Jobs Scotland, Portfolio Question Time, Fairer and More Equal Society, Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Community Jobs Scotland
- Portfolio Question Time
- Fairer and More Equal Society
- Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill
- Decision Time
Community Jobs Scotland
The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-00768, in the name of Miles Briggs, on the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations creating its 10,000th community jobs Scotland job in Scotland’s voluntary sector. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament recognises and celebrates what it sees as the continued success of the SCVO-run Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) employability programme as it creates its 10,000th job; understands that CJS provides paid jobs for young people, with targeted efforts to help those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable; believes that its model and approach has been incredibly effective in ensuring that young people who face particular challenges, such as having caring responsibilities, being care-experienced, holding criminal convictions, leaving the armed forces early or living with disability, are given the opportunity to take their first steps into employment; notes that CJS was established in 2011, when levels of youth unemployment were high; acknowledges that, over this time, phases 1 to 11 of the programme have created paid jobs for 10,049 young people, with an average of 54% being retained by their employer after their initial job had ended, and 64% recording positive outcomes into jobs, volunteering or education; welcomes CJS’s adoption of a competitive application and interview process before a young person is offered a job and considers that this, alongside compliance with employer policies and procedures, is extremely important in terms of instilling a sense of belonging in a real work environment; understands that phase 11, which is currently underway, will support up to up to a further 560 opportunities for vulnerable young unemployed people aged up to 29 through a range of voluntary sector organisations across all 32 local authority areas; welcomes the recent announcement of the 10,000th CJS job, which will see a young person take on the role of Creative Assistant with Impact Arts (Projects) Limited for 40 weeks, and looks forward to further opportunities opening up with CJS, to help support vulnerable young people in the Edinburgh region and across Scotland who face significant barriers, but who deserve to play their full role in society.12:48
I apologise for the length of the title of my motion, Presiding Officer. I am grateful to members for supporting it, and to those who have remained in the chamber to take part in the debate.
Across Scotland, there are young people who face barriers to employment, which are often multiple and complex. One of the key barriers is caring responsibilities, but learning disabilities or health issues can also make it hard for someone to get or maintain a job. Now, more than ever, those who are furthest away from the labour market face multiple disadvantages, which are compounded by the impact of the pandemic.
However, it is my pleasure to be able to offer some good news—and don’t we just need that? Today, we celebrate the 10,000th person to find a job through the community jobs Scotland programme. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations set up community jobs Scotland 10 years ago, in 2011, and employers and young people in every part of Scotland have benefited from the programme. It was originally set up to reduce youth unemployment, but it has now become more specialised, and it supports the most disadvantaged young people in Scotland. That includes people who are care experienced or are carers themselves; armed forces early service leavers; people with criminal convictions; and people who have disabilities or health or mental health issues. The jobs are real jobs, with a fair wage.
There are many examples of the positive outcomes that the programme has delivered over the years, and I will share one with members today. Isabelle was employed as a youth worker and community centre assistant at Centre 81 in Garelochhead. She said:
“At the beginning of my placement, I lacked confidence, I was very shy, I had really low stamina and this really worried me in relation to whether I could maintain my placement. Over the months, I have been really supported by my colleagues and my confidence has grown. I can now talk to people much better and my stamina has definitely increased, and I feel much stronger and able to move on to the next part of my life. I have gained knowledge and experience and my communication with others has also dramatically developed. I have also gained skills such as patience, reliability, motivation, dependability and flexibility. As well as having my goal of further education, I feel I have greatly improved my future employability prospects through this placement.”
Community jobs scotland is also good for employers, one of whom said:
“Through Community Jobs Scotland placements, we support, develop and grow young people’s confidence on placements. We are a youth project. While utilising their skills to further develop youth work and outreach work, there recently has developed social enterprise growth and development within their organisations.”
In having the debate, we are recognising the positive impact that community jobs Scotland has had on the lives of over 10,000 young people across Scotland. The programme has provided young people with much-needed security while they have built up their skills to get meaningful and valuable paid experience with real responsibilities. CJS provides flexibility and personalised support and has given young people hope for their future and set them on the road to success.
Those third-sector jobs have also benefited every local community across Scotland, which means that charities, social enterprises and community organisations can build their capacity and increase and enhance the vital services that they deliver. We have all seen how important it has been over the past 18 months to have the support of the third sector especially. The 10,000th job has been created in Impact Arts, which is a great charity here in Edinburgh—and in Glasgow, Ayrshire and beyond—working in community art projects across Scotland. Over the years, Impact Arts has employed 155 young people through community jobs Scotland, from furniture restorers to graphic designers. Not only have so many young people been supported to develop their skills and get the secure, paid fair work that they need, but Impact Arts has also hugely benefited.
In my area in Edinburgh and the Lothians, there are countless examples of interesting and conscientious businesses, such as HomeAid West Lothian and its sister programme the Midlothian Advice & Resource Centre—MARC—which has taken on and employed numerous young people since the start of the programme 11 years ago; or the Cyrenians community hospital gardens and many more. This year, the community jobs Scotland programme is expected to support up to 560 young people, involving 176 employers across the country, which could be large household names, charities or small community groups.
Like Isabelle, most of the young people who come through community jobs Scotland go on to successful outcomes. Indeed, community jobs Scotland produces better outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged young people in the country than any other employability initiative in Scotland. We are here tonight—this afternoon, even—to acknowledge the success of community jobs Scotland. [Interruption.] It has been a long day, Presiding Officer.
We also need to recognise that we need to do everything that we can right now to make sure that this generation of young Scots get the support that they need and that they do not become a lost generation when it comes to employment. The SCVO’s recent submission to the Parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Committee called on the Scottish Government to extend and fund programmes such as the community jobs Scotland programme for another year at least, until local employment partnerships are ready to deliver more employability programmes, and to ensure that the voluntary sector is included in a comprehensive and inclusive whole-system response to the pandemic. I hope that, in closing the debate, the minister can outline whether that will be taken forward by the Scottish Government to ensure that we have additional funding available.
I thank members for their support for the motion.
Thank you, Mr Briggs. Yes, I think that we are still at lunch time, although in a different place, we would be at a different time.
Elena Whitham will be followed by Sharon Dowey. You have up to four minutes, Ms Whitham.12:54
I congratulate Miles Briggs on securing the debate and I refer members to my entry in the register of interests: I am still a serving councillor in East Ayrshire.
I remember vividly the moment when my jobcentre adviser said that she had an opportunity that she felt would be perfect for me. I was 22 and had not long taken possession of my first home, a wee granny flat bedsit in Kilmarnock, after negotiating the homelessness system and sofa surfing for what felt like ages. I was desperate for work and, as I tried to eke out my £37 per week jobseekers allowance, I had become fixated on watching how much of my power card was eaten every time I boiled the kettle. Thankfully, the low rent meant that housing benefit rules did not punish me further due to my age and, with a mixture of family hand-me-downs and the lifeline that was the Kilmarnock and Louden furniture redistribution project, I created myself a wee home to be proud of.
Therefore, when I was offered an interview for part-time youth work with a third sector project—funded as part of an area of priority treatment—which was aimed at preventing car crime, I jumped at the chance. The post was created for young persons such as me, who needed a wee helping hand into the world of work. After much coaching from the jobcentre, I attended the interview and nailed it. I was elated and terrified to be offered the job but, thankfully, the staff at the project also ensured that I was given the tools to manage my tenancy on the £100 per week wage, as I had lost all benefit entitlement. I absolutely loved my time with the Kilmarnock car project and, a year down the line, when I was able to secure full-time work, the staff at the project were made up for me, as I took my next steps into adulthood. I have never forgotten the time and energy that was afforded to me by the third sector.
As a councillor, I worked with many community trusts, voluntary sector projects and social enterprises that, through the community jobs Scotland programme, have given opportunities to the young people who are furthest away from the world of work. That symbiotic relationship has meant that young people have been able to gain skills and experience in a person-centred, flexible and supportive environment, while the organisation has been able to tap into much needed funding for staffing.
Those organisations are often the life-blood of our communities. An example in my constituency is Yipworld in Cumnock, which is currently hosting its seventh community jobs Scotland opportunity, as interviews were conducted last week for two further vacancies for junior youth work posts. Janice Hendry, Yipworld’s chief executive officer, told me:
“we are very aware youth work is one of the best ways to engage young people in confidence building and taking responsibility for delivering activities for children and young people, learning about work ethic and discipline and of course gaining much needed qualifications and certificates to build their CVs for employment opportunities.”
The pandemic has tilted our world on its axis, and recovery from its effects will be a monumental collective effort. There is a shared ambition for the transformation of employability support and provision in Scotland, through the no one left behind strategy and the young persons guarantee. Currently, employability support is fragmented, so it needs to be co-ordinated and managed, in order to have the best results for young people and the public pound, and it needs more accountability and local governance.
Phase two of the no one left behind strategy will help accelerate the move away from multiple, inflexible national programmes that offer specific support for a time-limited period, towards a single gateway of local service delivery, which is backed with local intelligence and a more holistic and flexible package of support that is tailored to the needs of individuals and communities.
A monumental amount of work is happening across our 32 local authorities to strengthen our local employability partnerships, and all council leaders have signed up to delivering on the no one is left behind strategy. Collegiate work is paramount, and it is imperative that there is a recognition for the crucial role that the third sector will and must play in ensuring that our collective aims are realised.12:58
It is a pleasure to join the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. We have already heard from my colleague Miles Briggs about some of the fantastic things that the community jobs Scotland project has achieved nationally, so I will use my time to focus on some of the projects that we have been working on in Ayrshire.
I recently completed my summer street surgery tour across South and East Ayrshire, having visited many different communities and encountered a cross-section of Ayrshire life. Although some areas of the county are noticeably wealthy, others are not; they often score high in the Scottish index of multiple deprivation and suffer from social issues, such as antisocial behaviour, drug misuse and unemployment. When I spoke to residents, sadly, all too often, they commented on how there were too few opportunities for young people, too little employment and, as a result, too few incentives for young people to remain and contribute to those communities.
I share their frustration; I have lived in Ayrshire all my life and I have seen the traditional industries in the region fade away to nothing. As a parent of three young Ayrshire residents, I know how hard it is for young people to find work, particularly in a rural area such as the south-west, far from the bright lights of Glasgow or Edinburgh. That is why I found it really heartening to read about some of the truly remarkable work that the SCVO and community jobs Scotland have done to turn around young people’s lives in Ayrshire.
There are stories such as that of James, from Muirkirk in East Ayrshire, who, like so many people in the region, felt that there was no support and sadly little hope of getting a job locally. CJS signposted him to a Street League employability course, which led to work with Auchinleck Community Development Initiative, where he specialised in helping people with mental health or learning difficulties. Now James works with the National Autistic Society, doing work that he loves and improving the lives of others.
The Carrick Centre has been another Ayrshire CJS success story. Led by centre manager Andrea Hutchison, the much-loved community centre has supported 31 young people through the scheme. Despite facing enormous challenges thrown up by the pandemic, Andrea has been a stellar advocate for the CJS and the impact that it can have in young people’s lives. She highlighted the work of one CJS participant in particular, Alastair Stobbs. Despite experiencing barriers to employment, Alastair has become a valued member of the Carrick Centre team. He has developed his skills to adapt to the pandemic, helping to set up online workshops and a weekly newsletter and updating the website to enable the centre to stay in contact with its service users. Not only that, Alastair now mentors two new trainees at the centre.
Alastair and James are only two out of the thousands of people who CJS has helped to put their lives on track. Encouraged by employers such as Andrea, CJS enables them to grow, both as people and as leaders, by providing them with rewarding, meaningful employment that makes a real contribution to their communities.
Any story of a young person succeeding is a good-news story, but 10,000 of them is another thing—absolutely fantastic. What SCVO and CJS have achieved in remarkable. I am glad that we can mark their efforts in Holyrood today.13:02
I thank Miles Briggs for bringing the debate to the chamber. As other speakers have done, I congratulate the SCVO on this significant milestone in the delivery of community jobs Scotland.
I recognise the immense contribution that the SCVO makes to society in Scotland, supporting our voluntary sector to flourish and working in communities across Scotland with people from all backgrounds. We must also recognise the immense challenges that have been placed on the sector, and on all other sectors, by Covid-19. However, we also want to celebrate the way in which the voluntary sector in Scotland has risen to the challenge of supporting the most vulnerable people and, more widely, our cities, towns and villages in this time of crisis.
I wanted to speak in this debate because, prior to my election to Parliament, I had the great pleasure of working for over a decade in the voluntary sector. After leaving university, in 2010, I landed my first job at Volunteer Centre East Dunbartonshire, based in Kirkintilloch, as a development officer. Part of my role was supporting people to get back into work through volunteering and getting involved in community projects. In my first year in the role, community jobs Scotland was created, and I was able to directly support people into the new roles that were created across the voluntary sector.
I met people whose confidence had been shattered, who felt that they did not have a pathway to work and who felt that there were just too many barriers for them to get a job. They were people who, as the motion describes, had caring responsibilities, were care-experienced young people, held criminal convictions, were leaving the armed forces early or were living with disability. Community jobs Scotland offered a new avenue for people and a new sense of hope that they could gain the experience and skills that they needed to enter employment, and not through unpaid or tokenistic work but through a meaningful paid role for a fixed period, with the support that they needed for the role and to move beyond that and into longer-term employment.
Voluntary sector partners such as Citizens Advice Scotland, carers organisations and advocacy services provided roles that gave a strong standard of skills development and training. Perhaps most importantly, those partners met people where they were: they took time to get to know them as individuals and to know their needs, and they developed strong support within teams in their organisations.
Later in my career, while working for Enable Scotland, I managed a number of community jobs Scotland roles and was able to give the same support, having learned so much all those years before in East Dunbartonshire.
When writing this speech, I was reflecting on one person in particular, who started in an admin role with Enable through community jobs Scotland and went on to become an integral part of our membership and events team, eventually running large member events and conferences. That person left Enable and went on to work full time in other roles across the voluntary sector and continues in full-time employment today. I hope that that demonstrates the real impact of community jobs Scotland. I know other members have spoken in similar terms about their experience.
As has been said and as the SCVO outlined clearly in its briefing, we should be a little concerned that community jobs Scotland will come to an end as funding transfers to local authorities. We would certainly want to see the bridging that Miles Briggs outlined in terms of the relationship between the SCVO and local authorities. In the words of the SCVO, CJS is a successful
“national ... programme which supports young”
It seems counterintuitive to remove it at exactly the point that furlough ends, particularly when we have seen the examples of young people being able to access the right support at the right time and finding that pathway into work, as I said at the start of my remarks.
We have much to do to rebuild from the pandemic. Our priority must be to support existing and new avenues to employment for everyone who needs them, particularly the most vulnerable. We should not forget the key role that our voluntary sector has played and must continue to play.13:06
I commend my colleague Miles Briggs for securing the debate and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in it. The significant contribution that the SCVO community jobs Scotland scheme has made to the lives of so many young people over the past 10 years cannot be overestimated. It has been an honour to learn more about some of the successful case studies that have been brought to Parliament’s attention today.
Supporting our young people is a subject very close to my heart. As we take steps together to address the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic on so many families and communities, providing that support for young people must be about reaching all young people. All our young people deserve no less. To do that effectively requires working in partnership, and community jobs Scotland’s employability scheme has an impressive record in that regard.
In West Lothian, I refer to the example of the Larder project, which provides work experience and training through food production, delivery of hot meals and the operation of cafes. The importance of equality of access to good-quality food and allowing everyone to dine in dignity is at the heart of the project’s goal, along with supporting young people into work. The feedback from 100 per cent of the young people who completed the Larder’s CJS programme told us that they were more confident and felt that they had been given time to develop their skills in a supportive environment. I am so proud to be able to bring the work of that project to the attention of my colleagues. As the Larder says:
“Community Jobs Scotland was a game changer for us and the young people we employed”.
Through the SCVO’s management of community jobs Scotland, it is able to provide a level of tailored and specialised support for both employers and employees from many different sectors and industries. There is a strong record of partnership working and joined-up referral processes with partners in the Department for Work and Pensions, Skills Development Scotland, local authorities, key workers, developing the young workforce and across the third sector.
The implementation of the no one left behind strategy will bring changes, and it is of course important that those should be well prepared, and for the better. As the pandemic has placed significant demands on the work and resources of all those partners, I ask the minister whether consideration has been given to delaying the implementation date for the changes to ensure that we do our best for young people who are furthest from employment opportunities. I urge the minister to assure members that, whatever lies ahead, the Scottish Government will take on board the best of the CJS program, to which so many have contributed so much over the past 10 years. We cannot risk losing the expertise that has allowed so many young people to benefit from CJS.
The Parliament celebrates the achievements of all those young people and I join others in placing on record my congratulations to the 10,000th young person to come through CJS. It was of particular interest to me that this 10,000th job is in Impact Arts. As members have mentioned, the creative industries contribute so much to our society and our economy. I look forward to seeing many more young people being given the support to secure work in that sector.
As the furlough scheme comes to an end and uncertainty dominates the labour market, I hope that we will continue to see co-ordinated and focused support for those young people in our ethnic minority communities, those who are live-in carers and those with additional support needs, disabilities or caring responsibilities. I know that we can learn from the young people who have completed the CJS program and I look forward to working with everyone in Parliament to give all our young people a future. I again thank Miles Briggs for the debate.13:12
I thank Miles Briggs for bringing the motion to Parliament. I add my congratulations and thanks to the SCVO for achieving this impressive milestone.
Many members have referred to the fact that employability support, which includes programmes such as community jobs Scotland, supports Scotland’s economic recovery and responds to the immediate labour market impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are thankful to the SCVO, partners and all employability providers across the public, third and private sectors for their flexibility in providing support to those who need it the most and for their ability to adapt their delivery models to respond to Covid restrictions and the wider implications of the pandemic.
Miles Briggs and Sharon Dowey, through case studies from Lothian and South Scotland, gave inspirational stories about how young people have been helped through new pathways to a career ladder and to improve their life chances. Paul O’Kane worked with CJS and brought some colourful insights into the importance of the organisation, where he met and worked with many of those young people.
As we turn our focus to delivering the priorities that the programme for government set outs and to long-term recovery, we are continuing to take forward our no one left behind approach to employability, which is based on partnership and collaboration to deliver joined-up person-centred services through transformational change. It is about delivering a system that focuses on the needs of the service user first and that is flexible enough to respond to any unforeseen labour market shocks in the future.
Partnership and collaboration will be critical to the delivery of no one left behind, with services that local employability partnerships, which comprise of representation from third sector organisations and other public service providers, including Skills Development Scotland, collectively design at a local level.
Phase 2 of no one left behind, to which members have referred, is scheduled to come into force in April 2022, after a delay to take into account the circumstances of the pandemic. The Government clearly wants to be assured that local employability partnerships are ready and able for phase 2 to take place in April 2022, and we are receiving those assurances. However, we are meeting and corresponding with the SCVO and others to discuss some of the issues that they face.
Elena Whitham emphasised the value of local decision making, how it is a big step forward and how we have to support that. There is, I think, cross-party support for taking more decisions at the local level. We want to press ahead with that, but we are taking into account a number of the issues that have been brought to our attention and we will make further announcements in due course. We want to ensure that the value of the community jobs Scotland programme and the whole concept is not lost but is protected.
Councillor Parry from COSLA wrote to me recently to reassure me that our local employability partnerships are ready, able and prepared for phase 2. I urge all members to speak to their local employability partnerships if they have any concerns. I hope that that will also reassure them about the future. In her letter, Councillor Parry says:
“The LEP survey was a genuinely hard-look at local policy and practice. Those survey findings highlight that, even in Spring this year: more than three quarters of LEPs’ funded third sector employability provision was through local commissioning; 94% presently have a commissioning procurement framework in place or intend to establish one; and the vast majority are in favour of establishing a national framework for procuring employability services. Since that survey was undertaken LEPs and their processes have been further strengthened.”
That is a quote from Councillor Parry’s letter, and I have no doubt that I will hand that to the official report later.
When I spoke to the local employability partnerships about all the benefits of community jobs Scotland and moving to the next stage of the no one left behind plan, they were adamant and at pains to say that they are champing at the bit to get on with the next stage, and to help local young people and others who are that bit further from the labour market. They also say that they cannot envisage moving forward without the third sector being at the heart of what they do. The extra flexibility of working with some local third sector organisations in their communities and having local decision making is seen as valuable, and that is the view of Parliament.
We will continue to hold discussions and correspond with the SCVO and third sector organisations that might have on-going concerns. We want to make sure that we can reassure them as we move forward.
On that note, I will conclude by saying that it is fantastic to mark and commemorate a milestone that the SCVO and community jobs Scotland have achieved for many young people in Scotland. As I said, many of the stories are inspirational, and that is the evidence that we need to hold at the forefront of our minds as we move forward. We need to ensure that those values are captured and promoted in phase 2 of no one left behind, as we support young people and others who we want to help to get on with their lives, improve their life chances and get into the labour market at the same time.13:17 Meeting suspended.
14:00 On resuming—