Backing Supported Employment

I received very disappointing replies to questions from the Cabinet Secretary on supported employment last week.

Less than 50% of people with disabilities are in work, compared with 80% of able-bodied people. Supported employment has traditionally been an option for people to enable them to work for an employer geared up to utilising their talents while offering them support.

It’s a hard time for people seeking work and I believe the Scottish Government could do more to assist people with disabilities. In the light of the loss of Blindcraft and the threat to Remploy the Scottish Government needs to redouble its efforts to secure employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

We’ve debated supported employment several times in the Scottish Parliament and a key contribution the Scottish Government could make is to lead by example by using the provisions of Article 19 to enable them to give supported employment organisations a chance at bidding for public sector contracts. Given that supported factories have demonstrated that they can deliver value for money I believe this is a question of political will. So I asked the Cabinet Secretary for information – firstly, about the number of Scottish Government bodies using Article 19 during their procurement processes and secondly, how many disabled people are employed through those contracts.

Disappointingly the Cabinet Secretary ignored my first question and couldn’t answer the second. I’ve therefore submitted written questions as I firmly believe it’s not enough just to say that the Scottish Government supports the principle of supported employment – they need to drive the policy forward to get results.

These are my questions:

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress is being made in relation to the implementation of strategies by all public bodies to award at least one contract to a supported business or factory, as outlined in the Sustainable Procurement Action Plan?

To ask the Scottish Executive how many jobs have been secured for disabled people through contracts awarded using Article 19 of the EU procurement directive provisions following the publication of the Sustainable Procurement Action Plan?

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it met the Sustainable Procurement Action Plan objective that every public body should have a strategy for awarding at least one contract to a supported business or factory by 30 November 2010?