Review into failed £500m Job Support Wales scheme

By Paul Martin
BBC Wales political reporter

A woman on a laptop looking for a jobImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Job Support Wales aimed to help people with access to childcare, mental health support and skills

A review has been launched into how a £500m job support scheme failed to get off the ground for a second time.

Job Support Wales (JSW) was intended to help people into employment by giving them individually-tailored support and was meant to begin in April.

It would have replaced previous schemes including ReAct and Jobs Growth Wales.

The Welsh Conservatives said it was "totally unacceptable" but economy minister Ken Skates said existing support would remain available.

The idea behind the scheme - previously known as Working Wales - was to help people with things such as access to childcare, mental health support and skills training.

An "invitation to tender" for the £500m contract was advertised last summer and the Welsh Government selected a successful bidder in December.

But last month, it cancelled the process after a legal challenge by one of the other bidders - the second time the tendering process had been cancelled.

Mr Skates said there had been "particular issues around the moderation process leading to final tender scores".

An initial plan to award a £617m contract was dropped in December 2018, following a legal challenge.

Last week, Mr Skates told the assembly's economy committee a second "lessons learned" process was under way.

"The minister for finance has been asked to look into it, and I think it's now being led by the permanent secretary and we'll await the outcomes of that review," he said.

"We're not in a position to say how we're going to be moving it forward at this moment in time."

Conservative business spokesman Russell George, chairman of the economy committee, said: "It is deeply concerning that despite a 'lessons learnt' exercise taking place after the first procurement exercise was challenged and had to be abandoned, the second procurement exercise also had to be axed for the same reasons.

"This is totally unacceptable and it would be disappointing were a second lessons learnt exercise be required, but it really shouldn't be a case of third time lucky for a procurement process - the total cost of which is unknown - for such an important programme."