The head of a firm awarded a contract to help unemployed Scots into jobs says his firm has so far helped 20,000 find work.
The figures date back to 2006, before Ingeus was given one of the UK Government's contracts to run the Work Programme in Scotland some two years ago.
However, it is an encouraging statistic. Businesses across Scotland are able to use the company's services to help them fill vacancies, says the Scottish director of Ingeus, Paul de Pellette. The private firm claims to be able to take the hassle out of recruiting, offering employers help (whether recruiting in small numbers or in bulk, by aligning job-seekers skills with the opportunities available) pre-screening candidates, preparing CVs and hosting interviews.
Given that each of the 40 Work Programme contracts across the UK costs the taxpayer between £10 million and £50 million a year, it is clearly desirable to see some return and a reasonable outcome if Scottish businesses are benefiting from the controversial scheme. And for those who successfully make the transition from unemployment to a full-time job, there is little to complain about.
Sadly there is plenty to complain about in the wider context of the Work Programme.
Performance data on the programme published in June showed that the scheme has missed every target which the government set for getting people into jobs. In some areas - although not Scotland - people would actually have been more likely to get a job if they had not taken part in the programme. The variable cost of the contracts is partly explained by the incentivised basis on which firms are contracted to help people into employment. The hardest cases are meant to offer the greatest rewards for companies such as Ingeus - for example people who have been on incapacity benefit can earn a firm more than three times as much as a less disadvantaged job seeker.
A frequent allegation has been that despite these incentives, job seekers furthest from the employment market - those with the biggest barriers in terms of ill health, lack of skills, or lifestyle - are "parked" by firms such as Ingeus, ignored despite the larger fees on offer to enable a focus on more likely candidates for jobs.
Mr de Pellette's comments do not go v far enough to assuage such fears, if Ingeus is indeed pre-sifting job seekers and marketing itself as a service company for employers.
Elsewhere today, Professor Andy Furlong of Glasgow University warns that Europe's young people are facing a bleak future with a fragmented and precarious labour market. Zero hours contracts, low pay and limited rights may become the norm for young people entering the job market, he argues.
In this context, there is something not quite right about the Scottish head of Ingeus boasting that his company offers "massive opportunities for employers".
The Work Programme needs to prove it can deliver for the jobless, not just the companies that employ them. The two outcomes sound similar, but may not always coincide so happily.
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