Job Start Payment: evaluation

This report considers evidence from qualitative research with Job Start Payment (JSP) recipients, stakeholders and Social Security Scotland staff alongside management information to provide learning about the implementation and impact of JSP.


The purpose of the interim evaluation was to:

1. Evaluate the extent to which Job Start Payment has met its policy outcomes.

2. Assess the potential contribution of Job Start Payment to the Scottish Government's strategic aims for employment of young people.

3. Discuss implications for future policy development.

The first two of these has been achieved by reviewing the available evidence on Job Start Payment, drawn from different sources (primarily bespoke commissioned research carried out by Diffley Partnership and Official Statistics). As discussed above, Job Start Payment has made good progress towards its short-term outcomes, and some positive steps are being made to its medium-term outcomes, albeit not directly as a result of the payment. Based on this progress, it is reasonable to assume that the policy is also contributing towards the government's long-term aims. However, as discussed in the previous chapter, due to the targeted nature of the support provided by Job Start Payment, it can only be expected to have a modest impact in these areas relative to other government interventions which are designed to assist unemployed young people.

Despite these positive developments, the evaluation has also highlights some areas where Job Start Payment has struggled to meet its stated outcomes, which may need to be addressed to achieve better outcomes for recipients. These are outlined below.

Policy implications for Job Start Payment

The following implications have been drawn from the commissioned research report by Diffley Partnership, which is available in the full in Annex B. However, they also take into account the wider evidence from Official Statistics which has been presented throughout this report. They are as follows:

1. It may be helpful to increase awareness of Job Start Payment amongst (a) young people, and (b) stakeholder organisations who support unemployed young people.

Low awareness of Job Start Payment could mean some eligible young people are not applying for the benefit. Indeed, the qualitative findings indicate that recipients do not commonly hear about the benefit via media advertising. Additionally, while stakeholders recognise that they have a crucial role in signposting the benefit to recipients, they sense there is a general lack of awareness and knowledge of Job Start Payment within their organisations and professional networks – and also amongst employers. As such, it may be helpful to raise more awareness of Job Start Payment amongst eligible young people. This could involve further promotional work and increased engagement with stakeholder organisations – including employers - to ensure young people are being signposted to the benefit.

2. It could be helpful to (a) clarify the eligibility rules for Job Start Payment, and (b) review whether changes are needed to eligibility rules.

The evaluation evidence indicates that the Job Start Payment eligibility criteria are unclear, and could be a factor in why ineligible young people make applications. It is also possible that young people make claims despite knowing they are ineligible for the benefit, hoping their ineligibility will be overlooked (albeit there is only limited evidence for this happening). As such, clarifying eligibility rules could reduce the amount of denied applications. Further steps may also be needed to reduce the number of claims by ineligible applicants.

Stakeholders also have concerns about eligibility rules. They highlight that young people who have been unemployed for long periods are encouraged to take up short, paid placements which can make them ineligible for Job Start Payment – but do not affect their other benefits. Additionally, they highlight that 16-17 year olds are particualrly unlikely to be on a qualifying benefit, but (in their view) still need assistance with costs when starting a new job. As such, revisions to eligibility rules could make Job Start Payment available for more young people who would benefit from this assistance.

3. Reviewing and changing procedures around the provision of supporting evidence could make this process simpler for applicants and Social Security Scotland staff processing claims.[22]

The evaluation highlights that the process of obtaining supporting evidence (e.g. from employers or social services) causes issues for applicants and Social Security Scotland staff, and contributes to denial rates. For example:

  • Young people report that obtaining evidence can be challenging and stressful. They are also not always clear about the level of detail that is required in supporting documents.
  • Staff processing applications have to rigidly apply procedures when processing claims – e.g. they cannot validate applications if they are given supporting documents (e.g. job contracts) which do not contain details such as the date of job offer, or if the job offer date in supporting evidence does not match the one stated on the initial application form.
  • Staff also say it is difficult to reach young people via telephone or letter to obtain supporting evidence, and feel it would be better if they could also use email or texts.

These issues could mean that eligible young people have their claims denied, thereby reducing the overall take-up of Job Start Payment. Additionally, anxiety about getting evidence from employers may put some eligible people off from applying altogether. As such, it may be helpful to review the supporting evidence aspect of the application process, to see if it can be simplified for both applicants and staff processing claims.

4. Steps to expedite application processing times could be helpful to consider.

The evaluation has shown that Job Start Payment application processing times have increased each quarter since the benefit was introduced. Applicants say that long waits for decisions can be stressful, and that in some cases they do not receive the payment at the point of need - i.e. before their first pay check. As such, it may be helpful to review the application decision-making process to see if it can be expedited.

5. It might be helpful to review the rate of payment for parents.

Job Start Payment helps young people to transition into employment, and is generally welcomed by recipients. However, the evaluation shows that parents can face high childcare costs when starting a new job, which – in spite of receiving a higher rate of Job Start Payment – can leave them with considerable outstanding overheads to meet. As such, it may be helpful to review the rate of payment awarded to parents.

6. More data is required to fully evaluate progress towards Job Start Payment outcomes.

It has been touched on throughout this report that there is currently a lack of data to fully evaluate the medium-term outcomes of Job Start Payment, and assess its contribution to longer-term government aims (e.g. increased youth employment). For example, there is only a limited amount of evidence to suggest that Job Start Payment helps young people to sustain employment - and stakeholders feel the payment cannot achieve this outcome. However, the true impact of Job Start Payment on whether young people can sustain employment cannot be assessed with the available evidence. This is similar for other policy outcomes, such as the benefit's impact on recipients' social networks and overall lifestyle. Continued efforts should therefore be made to obtain data to fully evaluate the progress of Job Start Payment ahead of future evaluations.



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