This report is the final in a short series exploring findings from the evaluation of Transition Employment Services in Scotland (TES). These services enabled the Scottish Government to develop and learn from delivering employability services ahead of the launch of Fair Start Scotland in April 2018.
The aim of the evaluation is to provide a robust, independent evaluation of the delivery process and outcomes of Work First Scotland (WFS) and Work Able Scotland (WAS), collectively known as transitional employment support (TES) services.
More specifically, the evaluation focusses on the following research questions:
- How well has the service delivery process worked across both services?
- What do high quality services look and feel like for customers?
- What difference does the service make to customer outcomes?
- What difference does the service make to employers?
- How are these services (WFS and WAS) different from previous employability support?
The evaluation was designed in two phases. Phase 1 (December 2017 to March 2018) focused on how Providers had implemented their services, the extent to which this met customer needs and whether this made a difference to their outcomes. The Phase 1 evaluation report was published in August 2018.
Phase 2 of the evaluation, (December 2018 to March 2019) focuses on the employment impacts of WFS and WAS. Fieldwork for this phase included a customer telephone survey of 591 customers (n=417 for WFS and n=174 for WAS) which was drawn from the same sample as the Phase 1 survey, case studies with 20 customers, case studies with 17 employers and four comparative workshops with 47 people who would have been eligible for the services but had not participated in either.
This executive summary draws on the findings of both phases of the evaluation and sets these in the context of the future direction of Scottish employability delivery as set out in No One Left Behind.
Service impacts on customers
WFS customer employment rates
- Forty-one per cent were in work in wave 2, an increase from 30% in wave 1. This suggests that Providers were progressively able to improve their outcomes througout the service delivery.
WFS customer views
- Most WFS customers had positive attitudes to the employability support they received, and two-thirds felt that the support was tailored to their needs (although this fell to just over half for those aged 55 and over).
- As a result of this support customers reported an improved ability to find work, with 69% better able to identify suitable jobs, and 70% reporting a greater capacity to learn new skills.
- Customers were also positive about job search and on-going support with 55% feeling it helped a great deal in moving into work and 49% feeling the in-work support helped a great deal. This reflects the findings in Phase 1 that developing a relationship with a single employment advisor through regular meetings was key to the ethos of the service.
- WFS customers in Phase 2 also report that they are more motivated and positive about work and more confident about disclosing their health condition to employers and fewer felt that working would harm their health. This was reflected in a more positive outlook in general – over two thirds (67%) felt that they were more positive or hopeful about the future and 60% agreed that their personal and job ambitions had increased.
- Of those who were in work at the time of interview, 85% agreed that they felt more motivated, 79% agreed that their financial situation had improved and 76% felt that they were more confident talking to their employer about their support needs.
- Some two-thirds reported that their health condition had improved and fewer were concerned that working could make their health condition worse.
WAS customer employment rates
- Similar proportions of customers were in work at wave 1 (13%) and wave 2 (16%). Around four fifths of customers were not working at both wave 1 (83%) and wave 2 (81%).
WAS customer views
- WAS customers were positive regarding the support they received with more than 6 in 10 reporting that it was tailored to their needs. Fifty-six per cent of those in work felt that the advice and support had helped them 'a great deal' to move into work.
- However 21% felt it had 'not helped' them at all, albeit this is from a small sample size.
- Thirty-nine per cent of customers were either working or could return to work (at the point of interview) if there were a job available. However, 35% felt that their health condition or disability ruled out work. Other responses reflect the higher health needs of WAS customers and the concerns they have about how this might effect their chances of gaining employment. Only a quarter of WAS customers said that they knew of jobs that could accommodate their health needs and almost two-thirds were worried that employers would not employ them because of their health condition. More than half were anxious about working and half were concerned that working would worsen their health.
- It is important to recognise that these concerns do not necessarily impact on WAS customers' desire to work, with 82% of customers reporting that they would like to return to work in the future to some or a great extent. Proportionately fewer WAS customers in wave 2 felt that work could be harmful to their health compared to the wave 1 responses and more customers felt confident disclosing their condition to employers.
- Case study customers with greater health needs were less positive about the support provided or did not start either service because of their health condition.
Working with employers
- The majority of 17 case study employers, whilst not specifically recognising the WFS and WAS services, had long-standing relationships with the service Providers and valued their understanding of employers' requirements.
- A key reason for this was that employers were generally very impressed with the motivation and preparedness of customers at interview. This was reported to be better than many other sources of similar recruits.
- While the potential problems of disclosing an existing long-term health condition to an employer are widely reported, the case study employers responded positively to individuals telling them about their condition at interview. This is something that they believe exists across their workforce/ recruitment pool.
- Employers valued and drew upon a range of pre-employment support offered by Providers, including interview preparation, job matching, background checks, health and safety training and advice on managing health conditions.
- Improved communications between employers and Providers has strengthened throughout service delivery and this has enabled Providers to develop a better understanding of employers' induction and training procedures so that they can better prepare customers.
Lessons for employability service delivery models
- Provide a flexible offer with few hard timescales. Moving into work within 18 months may seem too quick for some potential customers. Greater flexibility in delivery – to be able to 'stop the clock' when customers need to take more time to access support, should also be considered, although it should be noted that participants who left the service due to health conditions could return at the discretion of the Provider.
- Provision of specialist support and more integration and alignment with other services, in particular education and health services, will be vitally important for future employability services. The prevalence of mental health conditions among the potential client group for employment services suggests that much more effective inter-working with mainstream health services will be necessary.
- Providing other forms of specialist support will need to draw on partnerships. Contracting out such services as part of a provider supply chain has not delivered sufficient provision or allowed these services a sustainable funding model. Whatever the delivery models adopted for employment services, some consideration should be given to funding such services centrally, with much less reliance on performance related payments, so that they can build capacity and skills and provide services to all employability service Providers.
- Phase 1 findings highlighted that where a customer had built their confidence and improved their CV and interview technique, but still did not secure a job offer, Providers had few alternative approaches within WFS and WAS. Future employability services should consider what other types of support may be more appropriate in terms of vocational training and work practice to help improve the attractiveness of their CV in the labour market.
- There is evidence from the employer case studies that employers can play a wider role in supporting a more diverse workforce. Further thought should be given to how employers can work with employability serivces to support individuals in their journeys into and towards work.
- Employers' attitudes towards employing disabled people or those with health conditions appears to be improving, but more needs to be done. The Scottish Government has already recognised the need to raise employer engagement as part of their action plan to close the disability employment gap.
- Develop further quantitative and qualititative measures to assess the quality of employment destinations. Currently the information on the employment destinations for WFS and WAS is limited. Many are part-time and anecdotally are paid at or just above minimum wage levels. While part-time employment suits the circumstances of some, there were many in the case studies and workshops who would prefer full time employment to help with the high costs of accomodation, travel to work and childcare.
- Securing appropriate and immediate support to prevent people falling out of work will be a significant challenge. Convincing this group to participate in future employability services will require a more substantive offer of support to address this lived experience. This is an issue for those with physical disabilities but appears to be a much bigger challenge for those with mental health conditions.