Evaluation of Scottish transitional employment services: interim report August 2018

How programme design impacted the quality of delivery and customers’ experience of Work First and Work Able Scotland services in the first 6 months after launch.


Scope of the Evaluation

In September 2017 Cambridge Policy Consultants and IFF Research were commissioned by the Scottish Government Fair Work Employability and Skills Directorate, along with delivery partner Skills Development Scotland ( SDS), to undertake a process and outcome evaluation of the Work First Scotland ( WFS) and Work Able Scotland ( WAS) transitional employment support services.

The aim of the evaluation is to provide a robust, independent evaluation of the delivery process and outcomes of both WFS and WAS. More specifically, the evaluation focuses on the following research questions:

  • How well has the service delivery process worked across both services?
  • What difference does the service make to customer outcomes?
  • What do high quality services look and feel like for customers?
  • What difference does the service make to employers?
  • How are these services ( WFS and WAS) different from previous employability support?

This phase 1 report covers findings from the process evaluation and phase 1 customer survey. Monitoring data from both programmes covered the period from 1 April 2017 to 31 October 2017. This data was used to assess the progress of both programmes and draw a sample of participants for the survey. While the seven months' data is adequate to draw a participant sample, it should be recognised that WFS would notionally have just one month's cohort who could have completed their maximum period of six months on programme, and the first cohort of WAS participants would have some five months left to reach their full entitlement of pre-work support. For this reason, this first phase of the evaluation has focused on how programme design has impacted on the quality of delivery and participants' views on the support. A final report covering the outcome evaluation will be available by end of March 2019.

Overview of transitional employment support services

Powers over certain employability services were devolved to Scotland on 1 April 2017 under the Scotland Act 2016 for disabled people and those who are at risk of long-term unemployment. These client groups were previously served by the Department for Work and Pension's Work Choice and Work Programme schemes.

Devolution under the Scotland Act 2016 provides the opportunity to develop a distinctively Scottish approach to employment support for disabled people and those who are at risk of long-term unemployment. The approach involves:

  • A strong focus on those who need specialist support
  • A flexible and tailored 'whole person' approach to supporting those who require help to enter work
  • Effective and appropriate opportunities for the Customer to exercise choice and control
  • A clear focus on job entries and progression to non-supported employment
  • To help Customers who are at risk of losing their job due to a change in their health condition

SG originally planned to take some time to consult on the design and development of a new programme Fair Start Scotland that would commence operations in April 2018. However, in the UK Government's Autumn Statement of November 2015, the UK Government announced introduction of a new Work and Health Programme in England and Wales after current Work Programme and Work Choice contracts ended, to provide specialist support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities and those unemployed for over 2 years. However, this meant a material change to the point at which unemployed people would become eligible for devolved Scottish services from 12 months unemployed to 24 months unemployed. It meant that disadvantaged benefit claimants in Scotland risked being without significant employability support for 12 months at a time when the UK Government had extended the contracts of Work Programme and Work Choice providers elsewhere.

The Scottish Government decided to ensure continuity of support by contracting with the existing Work Choice providers in the four contract package areas ( CPAs) in Scotland but adjusting the design of the service, within the confines of procurement rules, to better reflect their new approach. A second programme, Work Able Scotland, was proposed to address the specific needs of people suffering from long-term health conditions [4] .

In additon to offering a continuity of support, in many respects, the Transitional Employment Services were a test and learn for some aspects of Scottish Government's approach to the design of support for people without work. This includes the management of such services and developing effective operational partnerships with key agencies such as DWP and JCP and the provider community.

Scottish Government Transitional Employment Services commenced on 3 April 2017 and originally planned to accept referrals to December 2017. This was subsequently extended to 9 March 2018 with support remaining in place until 30 April 2019. Fair Start Scotland, Scottish Government's fully devolved programme of employment support launched on 1 April 2018. The transitional services comprise:

  • The Work First Scotland ( WFS) Programme - a voluntary programme of employment support for those with a disability. The programme is delivered by three contracted service providers; Momentum, Remploy and The Shaw Trust.
  • The Work Able Scotland ( WAS) Programme - a voluntary programme of employment support for those with a health condition claiming Employment Support Allowance. The programme is delivered by three contracted service providers; Progress Scotland, The Wise Group and Remploy.

The specific aims of the programmes are aligned to the principles and values set out in Creating a Fairer Scotland: A new future for employability support in Scotland. These are to:

  • Deliver high quality employment support to those with a disability ( WFS) and those with a health condition claiming Employment Support Allowance ( WAS) who want and need help to enter the labour market
  • Support customers into sustainable jobs through the provision of high quality, flexible and responsive employment support
  • Create a strong platform for the delivery of the full service (Fair Start Scotland) from April 2018, including testing new approaches
  • Work in partnership with stakeholders to establish support that achieves high quality outcomes

Both WFS and WAS were delivered across four CPAs across Scotland. The spatial areas for the CPAs reflected the Work Choice contract extension and so WAS opted to work to an equivalent geography.

Table 1.1 Contract Package Areas

Contract Package Area

Geographic area

WFS Providers

WAS Providers


Highlands, Islands, Clyde Coast and Grampian


Progress Scotland


Forth Valley, Fife and Tayside

Remploy & Shaw Trust

The Wise Group


Glasgow, Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire

Remploy & Shaw Trust

The Wise Group


Edinburgh, Lothians & Borders, Ayrshire, Dumfries, Galloway and Inverclyde

Remploy & Shaw Trust


WFS offers 12 months of support to disabled customers split equally between up to six months pre-employment support and six months of in-work support. In certain circumstances the pre-employment stage can be extended by up to a further two months but the period of in-work support is consequently reduced to stay within the total of 12 months. This was designed to ensure that service provision did not run on too long after the scheduled start of FSS.

Up to 3,300 clients were expected to start the WFS service. Payment to providers is based on customer outcomes, with half payable as a service fee to provide a guaranteed monthly payment towards service costs. A further 25% is payable should the customer secure employment of more than 16 hours for a continuous period of 13 weeks. The final 25% is paid when the customer has been in unsupported work for 26 of 30 weeks after leaving the programme [5] .

WAS provided support for up to 1,500 customers with a long-term health condition that lasted for a total of 12 months with pre-employment support and in-work support as required. This is the first national programme to focus on a relatively diverse group who face complex and multiple barriers to employment and might be expected to be further away from the labour market.

Providers receive a service fee of 38% of the total when the customer starts WAS and a further 25%) job outcome payment for customers who achieve six weeks continuous employment at 16 hours or more a week. The remaining outcome payment is due when customers remain in employment at the level for 26 weeks out of 30.

Key messages from the employability literature

We have undertaken a brief literature review of what is a very large area of research interest. This has been undertaken to provide some background context to the findings of this evaluation, to outline the challenges involved in working with this customer group. More specifically the review sets in context:

  • the scale and nature of the target customer groups for WFS and WAS and their current level of participation in the labour market; and
  • the evidence on what works in supporting disabled people and those with long-term health conditions back into work.

The full literature review is presented in Appendix 2. A summary of the main findings is outlined below:

  • The customer group is significant and growing, particularly so in deprived areas
  • Needs are becoming more complex, especially for older age groups who more often have multiple health conditions
  • Those aged over 55-64 may see the onset of these conditions as reason to retire from the labour market, especially if they have fewer educational qualifications
  • Trusted, intensive support employability linked to specialist services do make a difference to employment outcomes
  • Evidence is more mixed but suggest longer-term support may be required to help sustain participation in employment
  • The quality of employment may also play a role in supporting improved quality of life for people living with conditions
  • Early intervention is key to supporting those who do acquire health conditions while they are in work to prevent them leaving the labour force


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