Job Start Payment evaluation: annex B - qualitative research

This report forms the annex to the main report on the evaluation of Job Start Payment. It presents findings from qualitative research conducted to support the overall evaluation.

3. Research Findings

3.1 Overview

This findings section begins with important findings on the context of JSP. This is then followed by sections on each research objective. Lastly, recommendations to improve JSP are summarised.

Quotes are included throughout indicating the research participants as:

  • Non-applicant - young people who were not JSP applicants
  • Unsuccessful applicant - young people who were unsuccessful applicants
  • Successful applicant - young people who were successful applicants
  • Skills and Employability - stakeholders from skills and employability focussed organisations
  • Third Sector - stakeholders from charitable organisations
  • Social Security Scotland - employees working for Social Security Scotland

3.2 Context of JSP

Data gathered from young people and stakeholders on the context of the job market, barriers to sustainable employment and the difficulties of covering upfront costs when taking up employment all supported the premise for JSP.

Overview of the youth labour market

Young people interviewed talked of losing work prior to and during the pandemic. Although there is no corroborating evidence, a few examples were concerning in terms of sustaining employment including:

  • Became pregnant and was not entitled to maternity leave,
  • Thought they were made redundant, but employer was claiming furlough and not passing onto them,
  • Having a miscarriage and gave up work due to mental health difficulties,
  • Catching Covid within their probationary period and losing the role as a consequence.

Whilst acknowledging barriers to employment experienced by individuals depending upon their circumstances, such as those outlined above, stakeholders all described the current jobs market in positive terms. They used terms including 'healthy' to describe the market during the research period and felt there were many opportunities for young people.

Stakeholders drew upon their experience of working in employability, skills development or engagement with young people comparing Scotland in 2022 with other times they remember, and their perception of other countries.

"There's more jobs out there for young people than there are young people looking for work…. I've worked through two recessions and the pandemic and all that….I think there's opportunities in every sector right now."

(Skills and Employability)

Barriers faced by young people to sustain employment

Young people were open in interviews about challenges they faced in securing and sustaining work. These included some issues raised of concern to equality policy, and some outcomes related to the pandemic:

  • Being made homeless and waiting for accommodation prior to applying for work,
  • Anxiety and fear of socialising- aggravated under the pandemic,
  • Perception that employers not open to hiring deaf people,
  • Living in an island community with large proportion of tourism and hospitality jobs shut down due to Covid restrictions,
  • Transitioning back to the workplace after being a carer for a parent with a long-term health condition who was shielding,
  • Close family bereavement following caring for them during their terminal illness,
  • Graduation coinciding with pandemic and lack of work experience on their CV.

Stakeholders outlined changes to the work available. Several stakeholders referenced a rise in work through agencies, short-term work and zero hours contracts. This was framed largely in negative terms as work, but not 'sustainable work' for young people.

The pandemic had led to a shift in the mode of work available. One stakeholder working for a skills and employability organisation, explained their views on its implications for the group they supported. They felt that remote working could suit young people suffering from anxiety better and lead them to taking up employment, however it was yet to be determined if they would sustain this employment when and if they were required to be back in a workplace.

Both stakeholders and young people highlighted the pressures associated with care responsibilities for older relatives. For example, one young person we interviewed had secured a new job and applied for JSP within a month of their mother dying from terminal cancer. They had also been a carer for their mother beforehand, and were in the processing of grieving whilst searching for work:

"My experience of getting back into the workplace after caring was difficult. Because I felt like I was pushed to get out there and look for job. It wasn't even a month from when my mum passed, and I was told my benefits were ended, and I had this pressure to get income right away. My case worker at the job centre wasn't very cooperative."

(Successful applicant)

Need for financial support on taking up employment

All research participants recognised the period of waiting for their first pay cheque as a difficult time for people taking up work. There was consensus that targeting support at this point was valuable. One successful applicant said they would recommend it to others on the basis of covering upfront costs of starting in new employment:

"It's a great helping hand if they're starting a job, they might need transport or clothes or equipment and not [having that] come out of the money they need to live on."

(Successful applicant)

Young people interviewed also explained how upfront costs for starting work had caught them, and their friends off guard. They explained how lack of experience made it difficult for them to understand the costs of:

  • Travel costs, especially petrol and diesel,
  • Energy bills,
  • Accommodation costs- when living away from home for first time,
  • Costs to do work, including working from home equipment, but also equipment for in person working such as tools and uniform, software and hardware.

Childcare was flagged as a significant cost by all young people interviewed with children, and by stakeholders from both charitable organisations and skills and employability focussed organisations.

All respondents were asked at the end of the survey-'Do you have any suggestions for ways to help young people meet the costs of taking up a new job?'. Many responses were positive reactions to the aim of JSP. Other comments, relevant for wider employability support for young people are included as Appendix D.

All young people interviewed confirmed they had, or would, recommend JSP. This was unaffected by the outcome of their own application. They emphasised that the benefit could make a real difference to people and have various impact depending upon their individual circumstances and needs.

Young people taking part in this research did not recognise any stigma with claiming JSP. Even unsuccessful applicants had no hesitation to recommend the benefit to other young people as they were supportive of the aim of the benefit.

3.3 The impact of JSP on employment outcomes

The purpose of research aim 1a was to determine whether JSP improves clients' employment outcomes.

For each objective relating to research Aim 1a, the main findings are summarised below.

  • How the payment is spent- Interviews with young people show that JSP recipients spend the payment in a range of ways, and indicate clothing for work and transport costs are the most frequent areas of spend. Other examples of spend included work equipment, food, domestic bills, and using the money as a contribution towards childcare costs.
  • Whether it helps to meet costs associated with starting a new job, and enables clients to take-up employment offers- All young people interviewed - including parents awarded the higher rate of JSP - were complimentary about the level of the benefit and how it had helped them cover the costs of starting a new job. Young people described JSP using adjectives such as 'fair', 'helpful', and 'amazing'. Stakeholder interviews elaborated on the start of employment for young people, and the challenges it can pose. They felt that any alleviation of the costs young people face during that period, through JSP, could improve aspects of their lives, in the short-term. Reflections revealed that whilst JSP does make a positive contribution to costs, it may not be enough to meet every individual's needs – notably parents who face upfront childcare costs. There was consensus from young people and stakeholders that the benefit coming before the first pay cheque was optimal and accordingly, processing times should be as quick as possible. In the interviews, several young people said that they did not get the payment before their first pay check. Waiting for the payment was described as worrying, and in some cases meant that young people had to borrow money.
  • Whether it makes clients feel (a) more confident about starting a job and (b) more confident about their employment prospects - Feedback from successful applicants illustrated that benefit could be spent on items which would boost the confidence of young people. Anxiety reduction in the short-term was a widely reported positive outcome of JSP. However, while young people agreed that the employment they secured had made them more confident about their employment prospects, this was not a direct result of receiving JSP.
  • Whether it helps clients to sustain employment- In the research interviews, two successful applicants expressed the view that JSP had helped them to sustain (as well as obtain) their new job. However, these were exceptional cases. Stakeholders felt that while JSP helps young people transition to employment, sustaining a job involves wider factors that are not covered by the payment.

Further details are included in the sections below for each research objective. These include direct evidence from young people successfully applying for JSP and accounts of successful applications from stakeholders.

How JSP is spent

In the information on JSP, guidance and suggestions are made on how the fund can be spent by young people. According to the Scottish Government website:[19]

'You could use it for things like:

  • travel costs, such as a bus or train pass
  • lunches
  • new clothes or a uniform
  • childcare

You'll get this money in one payment. If you need to, you can spend it on things that might cost more, like a travel pass.'

At the same time, there are no stipulations on how young people spend JSP. Therefore, there is also no administrative data to capture spend of JSP. Within this research, interviews with 26 successful applicants provided details on how JSP was spent. Table 3.1 shows their spend relating to categories of items. Clothes and transport costs were the most frequent reported spend.

Stakeholders who had referred young people to JSP cited some examples of spend of their clients including:

  • Equipment for work
  • Uniforms or work-suitable clothing
  • General household costs
  • Paying bills until first pay arrives
  • Travel costs
Table 3.1: JSP spend recalled by successful applicants
Type of item Young people mentioning Examples given included
Clothes 16 Clothes and shoes suitable for working environment- including office wear, uniforms, safety clothing for building sites
Travel tickets 14 Travel passes
Food 7 Food for their lunches, food for family
General bills 5 Own bills, and bills of parents when living at home
Savings 4 Put into bank account for unexpected expenses
Settling debt 3 Paying back money borrowed from friends and family, paying credit card debt
Childcare costs 3 Upfront payments
Leisure 3 Day out with children, trip to visit relatives, dinner out with partner
Car costs 3 Fuel, costs for MOT
Work equipment 2 Computer equipment, furniture to work from home
Children 1 Toys for children

How JSP helps meeting costs associated with taking up new jobs

This section discusses evidence on whether JSP helps to meet costs associated with starting a new job and enables clients to take-up employment offers.

All young people – including parents awarded the higher payment rate - were complimentary about the level of the benefit and how it had helped them cover costs. All successful applicants talked in positive terms about the amount of money they received. They used adjectives including 'fair', 'helpful', 'amazing'. One young person explained how £250 had helped her meet her costs:

"Especially because we had just got cut from our benefits, we weren't getting housing benefit or Universal credit anymore. My partner was out of a job, so we didn't have a stable income. So I went from UC onto a college bursary, so that really did help. When we came off the benefits we didn't have the stability. All the money was going onto bills. And even going into Glasgow, where the office was, to pick up my laptop to start the new job for instance, I didn't have money to do that. So JSP helped me pay for that.…I felt that amount was more than enough for my circumstances at the time. I felt that that was, that helped me out definitely."

(Successful applicant)

However, reflections revealed that whilst JSP does make a positive contribution to costs, it may not be enough to meet every individual's needs. For example, one young parent had received the higher payment and was very positive about the amount. However, they revealed it could not cover the upfront childcare costs for them to start working:

"So, the majority of the payment went towards the childcare and we set up a payment plan to pay the rest of the up-front childcare cost. And for the likes of travel and uniform, then that just went on the credit card so I had to get myself into a bit of debt. It was quite daunting. I'd never really been in much debt before and having been unemployed, it's not what you want to do before you start a new job in case it doesn't work out…Well to cover the full month of childcare and the travel, that would have been £1300. That would have covered everything, like, that would have been the ideal. …Oh it was a huge relief. That came up with about a third of the money I needed and it made it a lot more manageable. Like, I wouldn't have been able to get all that on credit."

(Successful applicant)

Stakeholder interviews highlighted the financial challenges associated with starting employment. They felt that any alleviation of the challenges faced by young people during that period, through JSP, could improve aspects of their lives, in the short-term. One stakeholder gave an illustration of JSP helping a young person and their family:

"We had a participant, more recently, he had applied for it. He lived with his dad and brother, so they are fighting fire every day. All the family were on benefits. He has managed to get himself a job, we've supported him into employment. We were able to support him to apply for JSP. And as much as we could provide him with some support, with JSP he was able to buy safety boots, the jacket that you would wear with the bar in the arm [security job]. And meant he could use some of the money to get him going. It took about 2.5 weeks to get through, but it was good."

(Skills and Employability)

Stakeholders also discussed the level of the benefit, and whether that amount could have an impact on recipients' circumstances. This point was also reflected the testimony of successful applicants, that is to say they spoke positively about the payment amount but felt it may not be high enough to meet every individuals' needs.

"Why it's that figure, I have no idea. Some financial analysis in a government department, I don't know. I think that's a fair old chunk of money. If you've got that and a travel pass and some clothing and you might be due some Universal credit it's a fair chunk. Could we do more, of course if there's the money. But I think any financial incentive for people to start work and get a leg up is good. So, if you are 16 £250 might be a lot of money, but if you are 24 not so much. I think if you are sitting on benefits then it's a good chunk of money."

(Skills and Employability)

One stakeholder raised how young people may be getting financial support from different sources and in combination, those could cover costs associated with starting employment. They looked in the round at sources of financial support, including JSP, when supporting young people:

"You may also go the job centre and they might give you something for work clothing on top of that. You might get a travel pass. And I know that the job start payment is looked at that it will help you and pay some bills until you start work. Until you get your first pay. But Job Centre don't need to know, so you could ask for things from both, the JSP and the job centre. For me it's an incentive or a benefit to start work."

(Skills and Employability)

One challenge around supporting the early stages of employment was the timing of the payment. There was consensus from young people and stakeholders that the benefit coming before the first pay cheque was optimal and accordingly, processing times should be as quick as possible. However, this was not always the case. Young people interviewed recalled how long it took to receive JSP from first applying. They reported a range of waiting times - from a few days to around five months.[20]

Several young people who were successful applicants explained how the benefit did not coincide with their point of need, prior to their first pay. One explained how waiting weeks for the payment limited the impact of the benefit, and meant they had to borrow money to cover costs:

"With the waiting point, I just thought seven weeks. I understood they were going through a lot of applications, I understood that. But if I had it in time for me starting I wouldn't have had to try get that financial support off other people. So you can apply for it in 10 minutes but it takes another seven weeks to get it, you know what I mean."

(Successful applicant)

One young person had a four week wait from applying to receiving JSP, coinciding with the wait for their first pay. This had both mental health and financial implications:

"Was a frustrating and a worrying wait. I was very close to the edge financially. Okay, knowing money would come, I knew I would get paid and I was confident I would also get Job Start….every day I was watching the money get lower and lower and just holding out until then….I had to push rent back for a few days actually. But my landlord was okay with that as I hadn't asked before."

(Successful applicant)

One stakeholder reiterated how important it was for young people to receive JSP before their first pay cheque, using an example of a young person their organisation had supported to apply:

"Once they managed to apply, the time waiting for the payment took its time. So, you really need it in that small period of time- around when you start. Because that's when you want to be able to say, 'have I got the right footwear, and something that's warm for construction. It's all sorts of weather.' So it's that timeframe."

(Skills and Employability)

Even though JSP had not met all upfront costs associated with starting a new job, job related income was explained in terms of a boost to their living standards. One young person summed up how ongoing costs were subsequently addressed by their salary:

"I can say that since I got my job, the gas hasn't been off once, there's always food in the cupboards, I don't worry about that, and having the independence of having my own money to put into my own future or even to just spend it on myself, that's really nice."

(Successful applicant)

How JSP impacts confidence

This section covers the following research objectives:

  • Whether JSP makes clients feel more confident about starting a job, and reduces anxiety during the transition to employment
  • Whether JSP makes clients feel more confident/less anxious about their future (medium- and long-term) employment prospects

Feedback from successful applicants illustrated that JSP could be spent on items which would boost their confidence. Many of the successful young people interviewed had spent at least part of the payment on work wear or work uniforms (see Table 3.1). They associated appropriate clothing for work with feeling confident, as one young person explained:

"First impressions are everything, and I didn't want to walk up the jobs in some skinny jeans. Even though other people did, that's their choice. I always like to dress smart to give a good first impression. And not only did I give a good impression, but I felt confident and smart. And it helped me feel that I could do that job properly."

(Successful applicant)

Anxiety reduction in the short-term was a widely reported positive outcome of JSP. Most young people made the connection between receiving JSP and their wellbeing, for example:

"I think it is really incredible, that it's open to you spending it. It feels like it's rewarding you for doing a good job for getting a job. And sometimes that's what some people need. Because I know it's incredibly difficult to get a job. And it makes them feel less scared about getting a job, if you can get that to help you."

(Successful applicant)

Young people spoke of their desire to feel accepted by others and not stand out to their colleagues for their lack of experience, their age or their appearance. One remarked:

"The Job Start Payment helps a lot, it really cuts down on a lot of stress. I felt a lot more confident knowing that I didn't have to buy the uniform with no way to pay for it. That was where a lot of the anxiety was; it said you needed a dressy shirt but I just didn't have any."

(Successful applicant)

Young people felt reassured by having JSP in their bank account and more financially secure when it arrived. One interviewee put this simply:

"Money always makes you feel more confident."

(Successful applicant)

Young people had also gained confidence from being in employment itself. One young person with experience of homelessness shared:

"Getting that job and starting fresh, it's made such a difference. I'm more motivated to spend time with my friends, I have my own space, and because I've enjoyed my job so much, I'm actually working towards a promotion."

(Successful applicant)

Young people related a growth in their confidence to the nature of their work and interaction with colleagues, for example:

"There's been a growth in my confidence - I'm dealing with customer service so I'm forced to interact with people. Which I enjoy again now, but it was a struggle at first. Interacting with colleagues - it is good because I've not really been interacting before with anyone outside my parents and my partner. And now I have colleagues and speak to them and socialise a bit more again."

(Successful applicant)

Young people also agreed that employment secured had made them more confident about their medium and long-term employment prospects. However, this potential impact was attributed to the job secured rather than to receipt of JSP.

How JSP helps sustain employment

The next research objective was to determine whether JSP helps clients to sustain employment. Evidence is limited on whether JSP can help young people sustain employment, but there were a couple of examples which demonstrated how it might help in this way. For example, while they were exceptional cases, a couple of young people interviewed associated JSP with not only taking up work, but remaining in a job:

"[I] wouldn't have been able to work there for that long if I hadn't got it to be honest. Because I would have started off in debt to pay for my travel and food and bills before getting my salary."

(Successful applicant)

Within the cohort of successful applicants interviewed there was a mix of experiences. The majority had sustained employment; of these seven young people were working for different employers than at the time of claiming JSP and fourteen were still working for the same employer. Three young people taking part in the research had secured work but were out of work and not in education or training at the time of their interview.

Stakeholders were positive about JSP helping people at a financial crunch point. However, they were conscious of wider costs associated with working and sustaining employment.

"It's a grant that will help somebody, but it's not of an adequate amount that it would completely take away the problems that people have [sustaining employment]. Because of that, it would need to be substantially more to do that, but it does go some way towards acting as a bit of a buffer."

(Skills and Employability)

3.4 JSP Improving other aspects of clients' lives

The purpose of research Aim 1b was to determine whether JSP improves other aspects of clients' lives, such as health and well-being, social opportunities (for example social networks), and lifestyle choices.

For each objective relating to Research Aim 1b, the main findings show:

  • Whether it helps clients build and/or sustain social networks – Although not directly attributable to receiving JSP, young people interviewed did reference improvements to their social networks as a result of taking up employment.
  • Whether it empowers clients and allows them to participate more fully in society and whether it broadens clients' lifestyle choices- JSP was not directly associated in interviews with broadening lifestyle choices, nor empowering them to participate more in society. However, many young people explained the contrast between claiming benefits and being in the workplace.Young people associated working with financial independence, building networks and developing their skills.
  • Whether it impacts the health and well-being of clients' families (including children, where relevant) during and after their transition to employment- Successful applicants provided accounts of JSP making a difference not only to themselves, but other family members. For example, young parents putting the payment towards, childcare costs, toys and activities for children. Young people in low-income households explained how JSP had gone towards shared household bills. This applied to young people with children, and also to young people living with or caring for adult family members.

More details are included in the sections below for each research objective. These include direct evidence from young people successfully applying for JSP and accounts of successful applications from stakeholders.

JSP helping build and sustain social networks

This research objective was designed to establish whether JSP helps clients build and/or sustain social networks. Young people interviewed did reference improvements to their social networks as a result of taking up employment. This impact could be indirectly attributable to JSP, in cases where young people felt JSP helped them take up employment.

On one hand, evidence from the interviews did not support that JSP itself helped young people build or sustain social networks. On the other hand, young people interviewed explained how being employed expanded their social networks. This did not relate to starting the job, but staying in a job and bonding with colleagues over time, as one described:

"In my current job I really like the friendly environment, I've made a lot of friends."

(Successful Applicant)

Young people talked about meeting new people and making friends through work. Often this was contrasted to time during the pandemic, not working and only seeing close family and possibly friends when restrictions allowed.

One young person explained the culture of their new workplace, including how they made reasonable adjustments for their hearing impairment and employed them on a permanent basis after their Kickstart scheme:[21]

"A lot of benefits from this employment. I would say I've matured a lot in this job. And my mental health is a lot better due to the support we get in here. We are a small business, and a family owned business, it's not my family, but a family. And we are really close knit and family run on here. So I've got a tonne of support. I've made so many new friends and I've allowed myself to grow."

(Successful applicant)

JSP changing participation in society and lifestyle choices

JSP was not directly associated in interviews with broadening lifestyle choices, nor empowering them to participate more in society. However, many young people explained the contrast between claiming benefits and being in the workplace.

In interviews, young parents explained how they juggled caring for children with paid work, seeing work in positive terms, as per the following examples:

"It's made me feel a lot more independent. I've got a working wage now rather than just having to be on benefits. And I feel a lot better in myself, I'm not just having to look after kids all the time. I feel a lot better in myself. Because I'm working part time I still do get some Universal Credit but wage-wise, because I get Universal Credit half-way through the month and my wages at the end, it really helps smooth things out."

(Successful applicant)

"I was on Universal Credit and I've got 2 young kids – it was absolutely not enough to get by. It got us out of poverty and created better living circumstances for me and my children. It [the new job] had such significant knock-on effects that, the wages aren't that great, but it's a lot better than being on UC. It meant that my kids can start eating better, go back to the youth club. My childminder is worth her weight in gold; she's an amazing support not just to my kids but for me. She's expanded my whole support network."

(Successful applicant)

There were two of examples from young people on how securing work had widened possibilities in their lives. One young person described how her employer was helping them to pursue qualifications in conjunction with their role:

"I'm now doing a course for a diploma. I'm essentially just doing really great. And actually I'm not doing the job, which I hadn't realised at the time, but now I realise this is the job I want to do long-term, so working more in digital marketing. So I've developing my career now."

(Successful applicant)

JSP impacting health and well-being of clients' families

The purpose of this research objective was to establish whether JSP impacts the health and well-being of clients' families (including children, where relevant) during and after their transition to employment. Successful applicants provided accounts of JSP making a difference not only to themselves, but other family members. For example, young people in low-income households explained how JSP had gone towards shared household bills (see Table 3.1). This applied to young people with children, and also to young people living with or caring for adult family members.

Where the benefit was paid quickly, young parents with upfront childcare costs had utilised the benefit for this purpose. One parent directly linked JSP to nursery care:

"Yeah it helped my little girl get into nursery which is great. She's a Covid baby so I feel really guilty, she's not been around a lot of other children so it's great to see her make friends and thrive."

(Successful applicant)

Parents also gave examples of using JSP to pay for days out for their children before they started work, and for games to amuse them whilst they were working. They also framed the money they spent on themselves in terms of being able not to 'feel guilty' for not spending on their children.

One young person explained how they used the payment, coinciding with easing of pandemic restrictions:

"I actually spent it on a train ticket to see my mum, who I hadn't see in months. Because I was on Universal Credit I couldn't afford the ticket before then. I went to see her, and I took my partner out for dinner. Because we hadn't done that at all. So I really saw it as a reward and spent it on two things that I hadn't had the money to do before then, as a treat for starting my job really. So obviously there were things coming out my account that month, bills for necessities. But I put that money aside to spend time with people and enjoy that."

(Successful applicant)

3.5 Possible factors which inhibit or enable take-up of JSP, and reasons for rejected applications

The second research aim was to examine possible factors which inhibit or enable take-up of JSP amongst young people who are eligible for the benefit, and to explore reasons for rejected applications. As explained earlier in the report, (a) take-up refers to the extent to which eligible people claim the benefits they are eligible for, and (b) rejected applications relate to cases where claims are denied because the applicant has either not met the eligibility criteria or failed to provide supporting evidence that they meet the eligibility criteria.

Main findings are as follows:

  • Reasons why young people who are eligible for JSP may be not applying – the findings highlighted a number of factors which may explain why some eligible young people do not apply for JSP.
  • o The findings indicate that awareness of JSP might be low amongst 16-24 year olds in Scotland.
  • o Employability and third sector stakeholders felt that knowledge and experience of JSP was low within their organisations, and they could do more to signpost and promote the benefit to young people. However, some also felt they needed more training and better promotional materials on JSP to do this effectively.
  • o Stakeholders raised how the details asked for in the application form, particularly giving details of a new employer, were anxiety-inducing, and may be putting off young people from applying for JSP.
  • o Social Security staff, wider stakeholders and young people raised how the variable length of processing times could be discouraging for young people eligible for the benefit.
  • Reasons for rejected JSP applications - The research uncovered a number of issues relating to denied applications. These related to eligibility criteria and complications with the application process.
  • o The most common reasons for application denials are a failure to meet the following eligibility criteria prior to the job offer: (a) being in receipt of a qualifying benefit for at least 6 months, and (b) being out of work for at least 6 months. Social Security Scotland staff indicated that they had to apply these rules stringently when processing applications (i.e. to the exact date).
  • o Stakeholders said a key issue with the above eligibility rules is that young people are often encouraged by work coaches to take up short, paid work placements, which can break up otherwise lengthy periods of unemployment, and which subsequently lead to a JSP denial. Stakeholders felt strongly that this was a negative feature of JSP.
  • o Social Security Scotland staff explained that applicants aged 16-17 were less likely to be on a qualifying benefit, and from their experience this was the main reason for denials amongst this age-group.
  • o The JSP application form was described as straightforward by applicants and stakeholders. However, Social Security Scotland staff expressed the view that the level of supporting evidence required was excessive for a one-off payment – it was speculated that this could be a factor in young people dropping out of the process after submitting the initial form, leading to denials.
  • o Social Security Scotland staff explained that JSP applicants must state the date they were offered the job on their application form, and this date must be confirmed in writing by their new employer. They described how this process led to complications and denials, and expressed frustration that they could not use other forms of evidence (for example job contracts) to validate JSP claims.
  • o Social Security Scotland staff also said that they could only contact young people via phone or letter to obtain supporting evidence after the initial JSP application is made. They felt these communication channels were not effective to reach young people. In interviews, some young people pointed out that they could not answer phones when they were at work.
  • o Stakeholders who work with unemployed young people expressed the view that information on JSP (for example on eligibility criteria) is confusing, and may be leading ineligible young people to apply – contributing to higher application denial rates.

Reasons why eligible young people do not apply for JSP

As explained previously in this report, take-up of JSP had been lower than anticipated by the Scottish Government – suggesting that some eligible young people have not applied for or received the benefit. One of the main objectives of this research was to explore reasons for this outcome.

Awareness of JSP amongst young people

The research findings indicate that low awareness is a reason why some eligible young people do not apply for JSP. As stated at the outset of this report, a survey was conducted with Young Scot members across Scotland. Its primary aim was to recruit participants for the qualitative research. However, the survey also established general awareness of JSP amongst young people. As shown in Table 3.2, one-fifth of survey respondents had heard of the benefit.

Table 3.2: Knowledge levels in Young Scot promoted survey
Did you know that some young people can receive money from the Scottish Government to help with the costs of starting a new job? n %
Yes 47 30
No 112 70
Have you heard of Job Start Payment? n %
Yes 32 20
No 127 80

Source: Survey promoted by Young Scot, n=159.

Reflecting the survey findings, young people interviewed generally felt that there was a lack of awareness of JSP amongst their peers. One successful applicant, made aware of JSP by a charity, explained how they thought people might not know about the benefit unless told by a professional.

"I would say not a lot of people know about it unless someone's told you. I don't think young people know about it just cos there's not much information about it. You might if you've got someone like [charity/welfare rights advice organisation] telling you about it, they'll obviously tell you about it. But if you're by yourself without any support, I don't think you'd know about it."

(Successful applicant)

Knowledge and awareness of JSP amongst professionals who support young people

The findings suggest that signposting by professionals is an important factor in whether JSP is taken-up by young people. Indeed, in the interviews, most successful applicants said they found out about JSP via referrals by professional organisations, including employers and the Job Centre (see Table 3.3).

Table 3.3: Ways successful applicants had heard about JSP
Sources of knowledge of JSP Number of successful applicants
Job Centre 13
Friend or family member 5
Employer 4
Employability and third sector 4
Social Security Scotland 2
Social media advert 1

Note: 3 young people had heard about JSP from more than one source

Young people gave examples in their interviews of professionals supporting them to apply. One strong example was from a young person experiencing homelessness helped with their application by their housing support worker:

"She asked if I'd applied for my Job Start Grant and I was like 'What are you talking about?' So she came down and over a cup of tea she kind of explained it all to me and was like, you're starting a job, you know, you're going to be working from home, you're going to need supplies and between when you get your job to your first wage, that's a month where you're not going to have those things."

(Successful applicant)

Stakeholders from employability groups and charity organisations recognised that their knowledge of JSP, and processes to signpost to young people, were one route to help address numbers of eligible non-claimants. Staff in Social Security Scotland were commended for reaching out to their organisations to raise awareness. One stakeholder gave examples of Social Security Scotland making visits to premises, presentations at team meetings and joint social media and media work to promote JSP. Others referred to promotional materials on JSP.

However, stakeholders highlighted factors which they felt could be limiting JSP referrals, and therefore affecting overall take-up of JSP. These primarily related to a lack of knowledge about the benefit. Some participants said that their own knowledge could have been better, and felt they needed more preparation time and better materials to advise young people about JSP effectively. One specifically felt that Social Security Scotland's promotional materials could be improved:

"We got some formal information in the benefit through from Social Security Scotland . And it was based on the eligibility and the process. We just wouldn't talk to a young person like that."

(Skills and Employability)

Additionally, all stakeholders felt that knowledge of JSP within their organisations could be improved. Related issues were mentioned by participants, such as:

  • A lack of discussion of JSP within professional networks
  • The feeling that knowledge was 'patchy' within employability support organisations
  • Personal experience of supporting young people to apply for JSP being lower than expected amongst their colleagues
  • No data from their organisations to track referrals made versus successful applications made
  • The feeling that Covid-19 pandemic diverted the attention and resources of their organisations away from JSP
  • Perceptions that knowledge of JSP was low amongst employers.

In addition to a lack of knowledge of the benefit, interviews highlighted other factors that may have reduced signposting to JSP. For example, stakeholders working directly with young people emphasised that it took time to build up trust and relationships with individuals. This meant they were not always fully aware of young peoples' circumstances, and therefore might not realise when they are eligible for JSP:

"They're maybe not comfortable to start the conversation with you. And even you do pick it up with them, they may not want to say they are struggling and ask for a voucher."

(Skills and Employability)

Stakeholders also discussed high denial rates for JSP applications. These, coupled with a general lack of certainty over JSP eligibility criteria, meant that they were cautious about signposting young people to JSP.

"You look at it and you think I don't know if you are eligible or not. And we don't want to refer them to something they might not be eligible for…. We want to be confident referring that they are eligible, rather than a vague signposting."

(Skills and Employability)

"When we meet with them and they are going to apply for it we go through the eligibility with a fine-tooth comb with them, as we don't want them to apply and then be unsuccessful."

(Skills and Employability)

Anxiety due to the information required

According to stakeholders, young people might be put off from applying altogether when they see that they need to fill out details such as employer details, or to back up their claim with evidence from the employer.

"The only thing is if they are applying for a job and you have to put the employers details. And they are thinking 'oh my goodness they are going to be asking questions about me' and it's actually not, it's just confirming that they have started. So it's about how we reiterate that to the participant. Sometimes maybe that's why they find it difficult because they are thinking, 'what are they going to do here?', 'what are they asking?' and I guess that comes down to how we relay that to the applicant."

(Skills and Employability)

Indeed, young people included in this research reported feeling awkward and anxious about seeking evidence from their employer.

"It was a really awkward experience having to ask for proof, I felt like I was being unreasonable and was questioned why I needed it."

(Successful applicant)

"So I think I was new, and my first kind of official job for a proper company, you know a big company. And I was nervous to talk to my manager. Even I know she is good, but she is a busy person…. I'm grateful for the money, but it really wasn't an easy process. Even during that time I thought sometimes 'just leave it'. It seemed too much anxiety to get the money. I felt like it's not a very big amount and I felt like they had picked me out for further investigation for no good reason. Yes I know they are supporting us, they are trying to help us. But I'm an open person, and I felt there was something wrong. If they want us to prove anything then why don't they have a standard form that is completed by the manager with the information needed and that's that, end of story. But they wanted one thing, and then needed more, and needed more. It was a hassle for my manager. Even if they need to contact the employer, they should have a separate relationship and not involve us in that in a way that we are being put in an awkward situation. And so we don't feel any pressure. I felt like I was under pressure."

(Successful applicant)

Given these quotes are from successful applicants, they may indicate a wider barrier to young people making initial applications and following through with providing evidence from their employers at the request of Social Security Scotland.

Reasons for rejected JSP applications

Of all processed applications from 17 August 2020 to 31 March 2022, 53% were denied.[22] In the research interviews, stakeholders aware of these statistics expressed disappointment and dismay, and framed the decline of JSP applications as being:

1. A setback for young people which could knock their confidence.

2. A reputational risk for Social Security Scotland and Scottish Government.

A key objective of this research was to explore reasons for the high level of JSP application denials. The relevant findings are presented in this section. They can be broken into the following categories: (a) denials due to eligibility criteria, and (b) denials associated with the application process.

Denials due to eligibility criteria: six months out of paid work and on benefits

An investigation of management information by Social Security Scotland revealed that the most common reasons for application denials was a failure to meet one or both of the following eligibility criteria:[22]

  • Being in receipt of a qualifying benefit for at least six months prior to finding employment.
  • Being out of work for at least 6 months prior to finding employment.

In focus groups, Social Security Scotland staff who processed JSP applications confirmed that these were the most common reasons for denials. Their discussions also flagged the stringency with which they had to apply both of these eligibility rules, and that many cases could not pass eligibility tests because the dates were close, but not eligible. Staff also expressed:

"You've seen applications you've had to deny because someone has fallen short by literally one day."

(Social Security Scotland)

According to Social Security Scotland staff and other stakeholders, a key issue with these criteria is that young people are often encouraged to take up short-term, paid work placements, which can break up otherwise lengthy periods of unemployment. These were described as being a 'stepping stone' to full employment. However, because they technically count as 'paid work' they could render the young person ineligible for JSP, and lead to an application denial. All stakeholders felt strongly that this was a negative feature of the benefit, and unfair on young people.

"I had one, as a denial that stuck with me. They were a poll worker during the election, their work coach said 'yes go for that', good experience, something to talk about that on their CV. So they had worked one day. And because of that, when they got their job offer, and when they applied to us for JSP they were ineligible. The experience had helped them get that job, and then we knocked them back with the benefit. They had only got £50 for that poll work."

(Social Security Scotland)

"I think the disqualification for short term jobs and trial shifts is very harmful. […] Work tasters and talent tasters gets them exposed to the world of work. And we have examples of them being offered work through these, and that being cut short through no fault of their own and could see that as a real penalising measure."

(Skills and Employability)

"I guess it could potentially affect them claiming Job Start Payment when they secure a job […]. That's tricky to consider when you are trying to do the best for your clients. They would benefit from both of course, but one [short-term paid work] could then later cancel the other [JSP] out."

(Skills and Employability)

Stakeholders also flagged that short-term work placements usually do not impact other benefits. For example, one explained that work coaches could get permission from the Job Centre that paid placements would not impact a young person's Universal Credit.

In addition to issues with work placements, stakeholders raised other concerns around the fact that JSP applicants need to be out of paid work and on qualifying benefits for six months. One highlighted the issue of people moving between benefits. They said that, through no fault of the young person, this could create a gap in their receipt of benefits which could render them ineligible for JSP.

"I would say the continuous benefit receipt can cause problems, mainly because people are switching back and forwards. When somebody's child reaches 5, they have to move from IS [Income Support] to UC, and there can be quite a gap there getting from one to the other, and with the UC 5- week wait, their entitlement starts when they're accepted and it's up and running."

(Skills and Employability)

Another view was that the need to be on qualifying benefits for six months was excessive. One participant was critical of the current rules, and felt that they could – inadvertently - encourage people to stay on benefits longer if they cannot meet the costs of starting a job. Social Security Scotland staff also expressed the view that the rule was excessive.

"It doesn't send the right message for us around having to be on Universal Credit for six months before you would get help to start a job. If [the young person is] on UC and only on [it] for two months, and then if the financial barriers is too high and they can't get the payment they might be put off [applying for a job]. And for me there are subliminal messages around dependency there."

(Skills and Employability)

"For other benefits just receipt at the time they apply. For continuous and one-off payments too. When they apply, we don't look back in time. It's based on circumstances on date of application. But in this one we have to go further back and look at their lives for the last six months."

(Social Security Scotland)

Denials due to eligibility criteria: age range of applicants

To be eligible for JSP, applicants must be aged 16-24 (or 16-25 if they are applying as a care leaver). In the interviews and focus groups, age eligibility was discussed by both Social Security Scotland staff and other stakeholders. They particularly focused on denial rates amongst 16 and 17 year olds.

From 17 August 2020- 31 December 2021 81% of processed JSP applications made by 16 and 17 year olds were denied – considerably higher than the average denial rate of 53%. Social Security Scotland staff contended that, ultimately, 16 and 17 year olds are less likely to have been on a qualifying benefit for 6 months at the time of job offer - and that this was the main factor in higher denial rates for this age group.[23]

"Technically we can provide support to people who are between 16 and 18. Functionally it's very rare that we are able to pay anyone who is that age. Because one of the criteria is that they have to [be on a] qualifying benefit. And most young people aren't."

(Social Security Scotland)

Employability stakeholders explained how existing employability initiatives for 16 and 17 year olds meant they were unlikely to be on a qualifying benefit for JSP. However, they generally felt that these young people still needed financial help when starting a job. Several suggested having different eligibility criteria for the youngest age group which corresponded more to the education and training opportunities they were taking up.

"There's a lot of 16 year olds that would go straight into training at some point, so not that period of unemployment. It's two fold because we are pushing for 100% positive destination and there is the 'no one left behind' initiatives. So there's a lot in place, so very few 16 year olds that would be eligible. But they can still need the money when they start a new job."

(Skills and Employability)

"Young people who leave school and go through employability fund training […] are not unemployed, or claiming. But neither are they earning a major wage. They earn £55 a week on a training scheme. Which is not a lot of money. […] And for those young people that are lucky enough to go onto employment that money would go a long way to help them too."

(Skills and Employability)

A third sector stakeholder highlighted that, in their experience, 16 and 17 year olds often do not claim benefits they are entitled to, and require support to do this. Therefore, it is possible that some denied JSP applicants (or non-applicants) in this age group would have been eligible at the point of being offered a job, if they had claimed benefits early enough.

"We do get people in the younger ends that aren't claiming benefits and that's one thing we are trying to do is to help them claim benefits. But they won't have been on benefits six months by the time they find work. They might have only just registered. So, in that time they might have had a job or college and then not quite claimed. They might have been eligible all the way along for the qualifying benefit, but not claimed it."

(Third Sector)

Given their experience supporting employment uptake by people of different ages, some stakeholders commented on the upper age limit of JSP. One participant felt that this could be extended, particularly to cater for single parents who often to transition into employment when they are older – and require financial assistance to do so.

"It's only when parents are slightly older that they're then moving into work. Up to 25, they could be looking after young children and not available for work. So we see quite a lot of parents that move into work for the first time between 25-30, and they can have the same problems as people below 25. So for single parents, who are maybe looking after disabled child, and it's only when they're moving into school that their caring needs can be reduced enough that they can consider going into part-time work."

(Skills and Employability)

Denials due to eligibility criteria: working 12 hours per week and the JSP reclaim period

Stakeholders also discussed the JSP eligibility rule that the job being offered must involve working at least twelve hours a week, averaged over a four week period. The findings suggest that, compared to other eligibility criteria, this rule does not lead to many denials or related issues. Social Security Scotland staff explained that young people do not need to provide formal evidence of working hours, illustrating that some eligibility criteria require less supporting evidence than others.

"We just overlook that to be honest. Unless at the time of applying they say less than twelve hours [then] it's a straight denial."

(Social Security Scotland)

"Even though part of eligibility criteria is twelve and above hours, we could just go by their word, we don't take evidence of that. I don't think that is preventing people being awarded that criteria condition."

(Social Security Scotland)

The consensus from stakeholders who support young people was that most of their clients taking up employment would meet this criteria. One explained that if a young person was combining working and claiming Universal Credit they would likely be working around 16 hours in a week, which came over the twelve hour minimum. Therefore, stakeholders did not regard the working hours criteria as an explanation for high denial levels.

Another JSP eligibility rule is that - if a claimant has received JSP before, they can only apply again if their previous application was more than two years ago. Given that the benefit is relatively new, stakeholders did not focus on this rule as a reason for denial rates. However, they felt it should be revised in the post-pandemic environment and emphasised how fluctuations in the job market did not correspond to a rigid model.

"I do think they should be able to apply again without having to wait two years. I think that's fair because there has been such a shift in employment over Covid, and I think that's going to get worse over the next year, especially in the hospitality industry where a lot of people have lost their jobs."

(Skills and Employability)

"I think some of the criteria could be reflected on. There's lots of opportunities for training and support. And sometimes work is very fluctuating for young people and it maybe isn't full-time or long-term."

(Skills and Employability)

One young person we interviewed explained these fluctuations in practice:

"The only thing I think would be better is if you can get it more often. Cos I think it's every two years at the moment. I was in my other job for five years, and then I've changed jobs three times in two years. And I wouldn't usually expect to, but in the current climate I feel like a lot of people have moved around more than they usually would do."

(Successful applicant)

Denials associated with the application process: the application form

According to the JSP Official Statistics report, 'Applicants can choose to provide supporting evidence when making an application by post or through online document upload. If an applicant does not provide all the evidence required for an application, they will be contacted by a client advisor and asked to provide this.' [14].

In the focus groups and interviews, participants were asked questions about the JSP application process. Some of the discussion focused on the initial application form. Completing the online form was viewed in positive terms by applicants and stakeholders. Those supporting young people directly explained that applying was relatively straightforward, if they were prepared with the young person's supporting information:

"I've helped participants myself, three within the last six months which I must say is very simple […] Once you do it more than once it's quite simple. And we can sit and support them with it."

(Skills and Employability)

Denials associated with the application process: challenges young people face getting supporting evidence

Whilst the initial application form is generally viewed in positive terms, the research findings highlight that the next stage of the application process - the provision of supporting evidence for those who do not submit it with the initial form - can be challenging for both applicants and Social Security Scotland staff. This is important, because failure to provide the required supporting evidence can lead to an application being denied.

The JSP application form explains what supporting evidence applicants must provide:[24]

  • Confirmation of job offer from the employer, including key details such as the name of the applicant, the name of the employer, and the date of job offer
  • Confirmation of time in care for applicants who are care leavers and wish to have their application considered against the less stringent eligibility criteria
  • Confirmation of being the main person looking after a child, for parents or carers who wish to be considered for the higher rate of payment.

In focus groups, Social Security Scotland staff expressed the opinion that the level of supporting evidence required for JSP is too much for a relatively small, one-off payment. It was suggested by one participant that young people are liable to drop out of the process after submitting the initial form, thereby leading to a denial.

"I think you get a job offer, you send that in, we should be able to pay them that. It's only paid out every two years max. I don't understand why there is the rigmarole, especially when some of these clients are so young and don't have a lot of experience in life. They'll just give up and think it's not worth the hassle. So it does seem over the top to me, the amount of evidence they need to apply. Certainly compared to other benefits, and given the award amount is small. It's not even a continuous benefit."

(Social Security Scotland)

The testimony of young people reflects the above comments. Most interviews (with both successful and unsuccessful applicants) contained references to submitting evidence, and this was described in terms ranging from an extra task to an extremely stressful step. One young person had their JSP application denied because their employer failed to provide them with the evidence they needed.

The employer offered to give me a contract and that's it – but then the manager actually quit before they did and the new manager refused to provide this.

"All I had was a Whatsapp message asking me to start tomorrow and they [Social Security Scotland] wouldn't accept the screenshot. When I talked to [Social Security Scotland] staff about this I was told I needed to have my name, the position, and contact details of my manager as evidence and I couldn't get this so ultimately couldn't provide evidence of getting a job. It was absolutely infuriating."

(Unsuccessful applicant)

An employability stakeholder echoed the view that it was not always easy for young people to get evidence from employers. They also explained how, depending on the nature or size of the employer, it can be challenging to get written confirmation of job offers which contain the required level of detail.

"Might be it's not always as easy as you would hope to get a job offer confirmation from an employer. We sometimes find that a bit of a challenge. And I don't know what level of accuracy they are looking for. In their guidance they say they would accept an email from the employer, but then does it have to have company name, clients name, what exactly would it need? It might come from a Hotmail address or what not if it is a smaller company. So that form of job offer and the communication varies depending on the size of the company and the sector, it's not in the control of the young person."

(Skills and Employability)

Care leavers who took part in interviews shared their experiences of getting confirmation of care leaver status. This process was described as challenging and even traumatic. One of these participants, who applied twice unsuccessfully (the second time specifically on the basis of being a care leaver) explained that their evidence of being a care leaver was deemed not to cover a sufficient period of time. Their testimony is shared below, along with the experience of another care leaver.

"[After the initial denied application] I got back to them at the job start and told them that I was a care leaver. They asked me to submit evidence of that, which is fair enough….Then a couple of weeks later I got a phone call from someone from Job Start Payment. They told me that I 'did not have the care experience that they were looking for'. I remember their exact words. They were very nice on the phone and I was in shock to be honest. They said that I wasn't subject to a supervision order when I was of the age 16 years. And that was that. So I was just left thinking, I was in care, I spent time getting evidence together. I had to think back to that period of my life, and even reconnect with agencies and think through what happened to me. And then nothing came of it. They didn't know my back story and what I had gone through as a child. It was like they had just found a reason not to give me the payment. Like the first time it was one day off the six months and the second time it was a few months not subject to a supervision order overlapping my 16th birthday. If there are criteria around these things they should say. I don't really understand the logic either."

(Unsuccessful applicant)

"So being a care leaver means I can apply sooner than other people. But I've not been In contact with social services since I was 18 so about 7 years ago. I didn't have a great experience with social services when I was a kid so it was quite traumatic having to get back in touch with them, and the communication with them wasn't great. It kept going back and forth to get what I needed from them."

(Successful applicant)

Denials associated with the application process: challenges obtaining evidence with proof of job offer

As explained above, the confirmation of job offer must give the date when the applicant was offered the job. Furthermore, this date must correspond with the date of job offer the applicant put on their application form, in order for an application to be approved. The findings indicate that this rule can be the cause of failed attempts to evidence JSP claims. Social Security Scotland staff said that - in their experience - applicants often provide a job start date instead of a job offer date on the application form. It was speculated by one participant that this was linked with the name of the benefit.

"Firstly, it's confusing from the start as it's Job Start Payment, but we need the evidence of offer…Often when they fill in the application they will put their job start date because that's the name of the benefit, and it's what they think of, the date on their contract."

(Social Security Scotland)

Staff also explained that a date of job offer can be difficult to pin down and/or validate in some cases. Firstly, when a job is offered verbally with no written evidence. Secondly, when a job offered both verbally and in writing, on separate dates. When the latter happens, and if the young person puts the verbal offer date on the application form, staff said they are not allowed to accept the written document as confirmation - because the two dates do not match.

"They could have been offered it verbally one day after their interview say, and then the employer emails to formally offer the job another day. The client puts the verbal offer date, so then the evidence for the formal offer is useless to us as it doesn't prove their job offer date as per the date they put in their application form. This is an operational decision from what we can make out, not in regulations."

(Social Security Scotland)

In general, Social Security Scotland staff expressed frustration that they had to apply this rule strictly, and could not use other information as confirmation of job offer. This would include a job contract (which does not include a job offer date) or data they can access themselves from HMRC.

"If we are lucky they can provide their contract, but then the dates don't match as [it is] offered later. And then we can't piece together the initial email and the contract. We can't smush them together and say, we have enough evidence on balance."

(Social Security Scotland)

"We can see their income live, we pull that information straight from HMRC. We can see that they are working for the company, we can see if they were out of work before that. But they [applicants] haven't provided that proof, [the HMRC data] it's in our system, so that doesn't count."

(Social Security Scotland)

Denials associated with the application process: challenges contacting young people to obtain supporting evidence

Social Security Scotland staff also expressed frustration that JSP applicants are not required to provide evidence at the time they submit initial application form, citing difficulties contacting young people to obtain the necessary information. They felt this was compounded because they could not contact applicants by methods other than phone:

"It's the only benefit that we don't require them to upload evidence to make the application. It says it at the very start, what we will need from them. We can't process everything straight away if they haven't uploaded any evidence. And then often we can't get hold of them by phone…There's […] a gap in many applications at the time of submission."

(Social Security Scotland)

"We don't have text functionality. We can't email. So we really need to bring our communications into the twenty first century. Phone or letters that's it. There's certain automatic text messages, but we can't send anything, even to flag we are going to phone them. People just ignore phone if they don't recognise the number, or they're working, so they can't answer it anyway."

(Social Security Scotland)

Young people fed back that the processes of communicating via phone calls without warning made following up on anything outstanding from their applications difficult. A few successful and unsuccessful applicants pointed out that in a new job you often cannot have your phone on or take a call during working hours unless agreed with a line manager.

Denials associated with the application process: clarity of information on about JSP

In the research interviews, stakeholders who work with young people said that, in their view, information provided about JSP by Social Security Scotland was unclear. Specifically, this was surrounding the required supporting evidence for claims, and the eligibility criteria. Their contention was that if they found this information unclear, then young people would certainly find it confusing, and this could be a factor in people submitting ineligible claims.

It is important to remember that not all young people applying have English as their first language. One young person explained how they needed help to apply:

"So [my support worker] helped me on the form because growing up I used sign language. So the sign language to English back the way, it's actually quite hard. So I had to get her to help me just with the wording of the questions just as a comprehension, check on my end."

(Successful Applicant)

Misunderstandings with questions and terminology used towards applying can happen and this could be contributing to high denial rates. The testimony of an applicant with severe dyslexia illustrates how information about JSP, including eligibility, can be misconstrued by young people – and lead to application denials. They had unsuccessfully applied for JSP as they had not taken up employment and were not eligible. When interviewed, they were still under the impression that JSP was to help with the costs for looking to start work, rather than costs to start work. They had hoped to receive JSP to help them buy a computer with a screen reader and help in their job searches and applications:

All the [job] applications were different and hard for me to work out and write things. I struggle with that. I was making me very stressed filling in applications.

"I felt really bad about myself because I find it so difficult. Some things I just don't know how to do myself. And I need help with them, when it's writing. And I didn't have that really."

(Unsuccessful applicant)

Another unsuccessful applicant explained how they really wanted JSP to pay for upfront costs for starting work. However, they could see clearly that they did not fulfil this criteria when they applied and were not surprised with their denial. There is no further evidence to support how common this experience is, but it is a possibility that some young people apply for JSP in the hope that their failure to meet certain eligibility criteria would be overlooked.

I thought the eligibility was quite clear and I applied even though I didn't fit all criteria.

"I didn't fit the length of time on the benefit – I had only been getting Universal Credit for a little over five months and thought they might look at it on a case-by-case basis."

(Unsuccessful applicant)

3.6 Suggestions to improve JSP and increase take-up of the benefit

In the interviews and focus groups, young people and stakeholders were asked if they had any suggestions which they felt might improve JSP and increase the number of eligible people applying for the benefit. Their feedback is summarised below.

Improving awareness of JSP amongst young people

With regards to raising awareness directly with potential applicants, young people felt that more could be done to promote the JSP on social media. They also suggested promoting the benefit on job search sites so that people looking for work would see adverts at a relevant time.

Stakeholders suggested further promotions of JSP via (a) a collaborative re-launch of JSP to increase media promotion and public awareness, and (b) support organisations (e.g. employability and skills groups) re-posting social media marketing campaigns by Scottish Government. Stakeholders also mentioned that the benefit should be marketed on the basis that young people can choose how they would like to spend the payment. Notably, this is something successful applicants said they particularly welcomed about JSP.

Other suggestions from stakeholders to increase awareness and take-up of JSP included the following:

  • Making JSP signposting a requirement within new contracts such as Fair Start Scotland employment support service[25] and the Young Person's Guarantee[26].
  • Using the potential of data sharing agreements and intelligent automation so that young people could receive the benefit without applying. A JSP applicant also felt that there must be a way that young people could receive the benefit without applying.

Improving awareness of JSP amongst support organisations and employers

As highlighted by the research findings, professionals who support unemployed young people have a key role in signposting to JSP and assisting with applications for the benefit. However, the findings also indicate that knowledge and experience of JSP could be improved within support organisations. To address this, stakeholders suggested the following measures:

  • Social Security Scotland should engage in further promotions of the benefit (e.g. at forums for employability and third sector organisations) and provide more guidance on advising young people to apply. They felt this would lead to snowballing of information within organisations, and more awareness of JSP reaching frontline delivery staff.
  • Improving sharing and learning from data (held by organisations who assist young people) around JSP referrals they have made, and their experiences of supporting young people to apply for the benefit.

Stakeholders also felt checks should be made that Job Centre staff are signposting young people to the benefit and not denying young people in Scotland access to UK wide support schemes such as the Flexible Support Fund[27] as a result of applying for JSP. However, it should be noted that findings from interviews with young people show that many had actually found out about JSP via the Job Centre, and there was no evidence that claiming JSP was affecting the ability of their work coaches to utilise specific Department of Work and Pensions funding pots. Indeed, a couple of successful JSP applicants explained how they also received support from Department of Work and Pensions in the form of vouchers to help with starting their new jobs.

The findings presented in this report show that some young people find out about JSP via their new employers. Young people suggested that more could be done to increase knowledge of JSP amongst employers, particularly to make the process of collecting supporting evidence easier. Stakeholders also suggested that Social Security Scotland should raise awareness about JSP with groups of employers in different sectors, and that employability and skills agencies should raise awareness about the benefit with individual employers.

Simplifying the application process for both applicants and Social Security Scotland staff who process claims

Young people felt that the information provided to applicants on the supporting evidence required for JSP claims (e.g. to prove care leaver status) should be made clearer, and said that there should be examples of supporting information and templates for anything they should be asking for from employers. They also suggested that (a) there should be a way for applicants to check the progress of their applications, and (b) Social Security Scotland should contact them by email for supporting evidence, rather than by phone or letter.

Based on their experience processing applications, Social Security Scotland staff also gave a number of suggestions to improve the application process, including:

  • Creating clearer guidance of eligibility to help applicants and staff processing claims, including more guidance around processing claims from applicants who become self-employed
  • To ensure eligible young people do not have their applications denied, staff should be able to use discretion when processing supporting evidence – for example, by being able to use a range of documents or information to validate claims (e.g. job contracts or HMRC data)
  • Allowing JSP assessors to adjust job offer dates in the systems and add notes for any changes they have manually made based upon their cross checking
  • Instead of contacting applicants via three phone calls and letters to obtain the necessary supporting evidence, text and email communications should also be used.



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