Scotland politics

Spending review 'will hit job services in Scotland'

Job centre Image copyright PA

The Scottish government claims funding for employment services, due to be devolved to Holyrood, will be cut by £40m after the chancellor's latest spending review.

Fair Work Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said anticipated funding for employability services would reduce by an estimated 75%.

She has outlined "serious concerns" in a letter to the UK work secretary.

A UK government spokesman said Scotland would get its "fair share" of funds.

Control over the Work Programme and Work Choice is due to be transferred to Scotland in 2017 as a result of the Smith Commission on further devolution.

The services involved are those designed to get people with disabilities and on benefits back into work.

'Serious implications'

A consultation was carried out over the summer on the potential for implementing distinctive new services but Ms Cunningham said the spending review would limit the Scottish government's options.

She has written to UK Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith about her concerns.

She said: "We estimate DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) intends to cut its spend on Scottish programmes to be devolved by around £40m annually - around 75%.

"This undermines the agreed intentions in Smith and comes on top of existing limitations in powers being devolved.

"It is our view that the Smith Commission envisaged the Scottish government having greater influence over these issues from April 2017 and this cut diminishes their recommendations to an unacceptable level."

She added: "The UK proposals will magnify the challenge of helping those further from the labour market into work."

'Fair share'

Ms Cunningham said she had requested an urgent meeting of the joint ministerial working group on welfare to discuss the issue.

"The clarity needed to procure services has also not been forthcoming from DWP with a number of information requests by the Scottish government remaining unanswered after several months," she said.

"The lack of information on this vital issue is unacceptable and this latest move will have serious implications on both unemployed people in Scotland and the support they require."

A UK government spokesman said: "The Spending Review 2015 clearly responds to today's challenges and looks to spend taxpayers' money in the most effective way.

"Scotland will get its fair share of spend for the new contracted employment programme and will be able to use its own resources to top this up.

"We are firmly committed to delivering the Smith Commission Agreement in full, which includes the transfer of powers over contracted employment support for people with disabilities and those at risk of long-term unemployment in Scotland."

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