Publication - Research and analysis

Fair Start Scotland: economic evaluation

Published: 14 Oct 2021

This report contains findings from an independent economic evaluation of the delivery and outcomes of the Fair Start Scotland employment service. The evaluation relates to the first three years of the service, from April 2018 to March 2021.

Fair Start Scotland: economic evaluation


The purpose of this report was to conduct an economic evaluation of Fair Start Scotland, the first fully devolved Scottish service aimed at helping people further away from the labour market to find work.

Fair Start Scotland performed well in achieving value for money and an overall net benefit to society. It succeeded in helping some participants find sustainable jobs while upholding its values and principles of dignity and respect to individuals. By taking into account the impact of Fair Start Scotland on the broader society and economy, including public finance savings, improved quality of life, and income redistribution, the results indicate that for every £1 spent on the service, the estimated benefit was £3.60 to society, £1.60 to public finances, and £2.60 to Fair Start Scotland participants.

Fair Start Scotland performed better than expected when compared to the business case. This is mainly due to: i) the composition of participants, most of whom have lower barriers to labour market entry than expected, and ii) the way in which job outcomes manifest, indicating long-term benefits to participants without triggering incentive payments to providers.

Overall, FSS performs well in comparison with other programmes, achieving comparable results across value for money and performance metrics. The costs relative to the benefits were slightly higher for Fair Start Scotland compared to other programmes. This is likely due to design elements such as its voluntary nature, the type of participant it aims to help, and its narrower scope and timescale compared to UK-wide programmes. In terms of performance, Fair Start Scotland may not have achieved as many job outcomes as other programmes, likely in part due to the strict definition of job outcomes used. However, the jobs achieved by Fair Start Scotland participants are more stable. In terms of reach, it is very difficult to make conclusive claims given the differences in the target population. While Fair Start Scotland did not reach as many people with disabilities and health conditions as it set out to do, evidence suggests that it did reach a larger share of unemployed people than other programmes.

The evidence also indicates that Fair Start Scotland had a positive impact on the wellbeing of participants, both in terms of the quality of jobs achieved and improved labour market outcomes as well as their experience of the service as a whole. Participants report improved wellbeing, increased self-efficacy, and overall satisfaction with the provision of services and the way they were treated.

Fair Start Scotland set out to help people further removed from the labour market and, while it did succeed in reaching some of them, the numbers were not as high as expected. This is of particular importance, especially given that, across most wellbeing and labour market measures captured in Fair Start Scotland surveys, those who were unemployed for a long time and those with limiting health conditions and disabilities are likely to report worse outcomes and perceptions.