January 23 2003 - (Scottish Executive) - An initiative to ensure EQUAL opportunities are at the heart of employment policies in Scotland and Europe took a step forward today with the international launch of the Equal Access Development Partnership in Edinburgh that will deliver part of the programme.
The EQUAL Community Initiative aims to test and promote new ways of combating discrimination and inequalities faced by disadvantaged groups in the labour market, both those in work and those seeking work. Groups targeted by EQUAL include women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, older workers, refugees, ex-offenders, drugs, alcohol misusers and asylum seekers.
EQUAL is an EU funded programme providing Scotland with £20 million for the period 2000-2006.
The Equal Access Development Partnership consists of twelve organisations with North Lanarkshire Council, through the European Section of the Policy and Economic Development Service, acting as Lead Partner. The purpose of the Development Partnership, which has been awarded £2.3 million in funding for its pilot activity is;
- To combat discrimination faced by individuals and groups and promote equality in the workplace.
- To test support mechanisms to help target groups integrate/re-integrate into the labour market.
Minister for Finance and Public Services Andy Kerr said:
"This partnership is vital in developing new ways of working with employers to make jobs more accessible and varied for disadvantaged groups.
"I am certain this initiative will give encouragement to disadvantaged groups and I am delighted that partners from around Europe are here today and are working towards our shared goal of promoting equality in the workplace."
The key objectives of the Development Partnership are:
- To influence European, national and local policy on the introduction and wider application of supported employment and other similar approaches to achieving entry into work and continued employment for excluded groups
- To develop ways of changing employers' perceptions and behaviour and employers' policies, practices and procedures with respect to disadvantaged groups.
- To develop new ways of making disadvantaged individuals job ready (through-care) and supported into sustainable employment (aftercare)
- To develop appropriate standards and benchmarking tools to measure and achieve effective integration of disadvantaged individuals into employment.
- To ensure ongoing quality of employment and training opportunities
The priorities of the EQUAL programme are:
- Facilitating access and return to the labour market
- Opportunities to provide potential for ethnic minorities within the world of work
- Opening up the business creation process to all by providing the tools required for setting up in business
- Strengthening the social economy (the third sector), in particular the services of interest to the community, with a focus on improving the quality of jobs
- Promoting life-long learning and inclusive work practices
- Supporting the adaptability of firms and employees to structural economic change
- Reducing gender gaps and supporting job desegregation