THE Scottish Government has defended a new employability programme after several third sector sub-contractors withdrew.

Third Force News (TFN) reports that “at least three” external organisations that were drafted in to deliver the Fair Start training scheme have cut ties with it.

The specialist news site, which focuses on the charity and voluntary sectors, said concerns about the “financial viability” of involvement are understood to be amongst the reasons. In November Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training, defended the allocation of major contracts to deliver the voluntary programme to private firms including Remploy, PeoplePlus and Start Scotland.

Critics suggested the Scottish Government was replicating the mistakes of the UK Government’s much-criticised Work Programme and the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations said the payment-by-results model brought financial risk to those aiding people with the biggest barriers to work, such as those with disabilities, addictions or homelessness issues.

Hepburn told The Herald: “We had an open, transparent and fair procurement process and the best bids won.”

However, TFN says there are now “questions about the [third] sector’s role in the scheme”. The platform did not name the organisations it says have walked away.

Responding to the allegations, the Scottish Government said: “We are in constant dialogue with providers to ensure they will be ready to deliver the contracts they bid for, including assurance on the ability of their supply chain partners to take forward support needed for the individuals Fair Start is designed to help into work.

“Fair Start Scotland has been designed to develop personalised support for each participant based on their understanding of each individual and within the context of the most appropriate service for the participant in the customer journey. There is potential for new delivery partners to provide support to participants as well as some providers leaving.”