The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has criticised the Scottish government for a perceived lack of charities and social enterprises among the organisations awarded contracts as part of an employment scheme.
Yesterday, the Scottish government announced it had awarded £96m worth of contracts to a mixture of public, private and voluntary sector organisations as part of the Fair Start Scotland service, which will try to help at least 38,000 people across the country find employment.
The announcement detailed a number of charities and social enterprises that were either partners or delivery partners in the programme, with three of the nine areas across Scotland involved in the programme having a third sector organisation as the primary partner delivering the programme.
But SCVO said referring to many of the charities named as "partners" was misleading, and claimed that the Scottish government had rowed back from its promises to put voluntary organisations at the heart of Fair Start.
John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, said: "The Scottish government promised a brave new world in its vision for employability in Scotland.
"Its ambitions were that the third sector would be heart and centre of the new employability landscape, but instead charities and voluntary organisations have been sidelined to make way for private companies which lack the local knowledge required.
"It’s simply not good enough, and ignores the successful values-driven approach of the third sector in providing such vital services across the country."
A blog post from Downie said the Scottish government’s referral to many of the third sector organisations announced as "partners" was misleading.
The blog post said: "I think more than a few would have been surprised to find themselves described as ‘partners’ of the winning bidders, particularly as while these third sector organisations have agreed in principle to be in the supply chain – depending on negotiations – they haven’t, as one large charity told me, seen the actual business delivery model.
"This would indicate that they’re not really partners – and they say it’s misleading to say they are."
Fraser Kelly, chief executive of Social Enterprise Scotland, said: "We find it hard to understand how, after such a thorough consultation process, the vast majority of contracts have been awarded to big private sector corporations instead of social enterprises and charities.
"We believe that this was a unique opportunity to reshape the employability landscape in Scotland and to tailor services to the real needs of individuals to get them back to work. It was also an opportunity to grow the capacity of locally owned and controlled social enterprises and, ultimately, to bin the old-fashioned approach of prioritising bargain basement provision."
The Scottish government did not respond to a request for comment before Third Sector’s deadline.
Jamie Hepburn, employability minister, told the Scottish parliament yesterday that Fair Start "is an important milestone in our commitment to providing Scottish employment support which will help people faced with barriers into work, access a fairer and more targeted support service".