1. Introduction: Employability services in Scotland
Fair Start Scotland
In 2015, following the independence referendum and subsequent Smith Commission recommendations, the Scottish Government undertook a public consultation to develop a new approach to delivering employment support services. The consultation response 'Creating a Fairer Scotland: A new future for employability support in Scotland' laid the foundation for the employability services the Scottish Government wanted to see implemented, and that are now being delivered through the first fully devolved service, Fair Start Scotland.
Fair Start Scotland launched in April 2018 with the ambition of supporting 38,000 people who want help to move towards, find and stay in work. While the service has performed well in its first two years, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to have a profound impact in achieving this ambition.
The service is delivered across 9 geographical areas, allowing flexible alignment with the specific needs of local labour markets, whilst ensuring a consistent national standard of service delivery.
Fair Start Scotland builds on the principles identified in the consultation, and continues to support the Scottish Government's values and principles of public services by providing:
- a high quality service that maximises delivery
of real and sustained job outcomes for individuals, treating them with fairness, dignity and respect;
- a base from which to redesign employability support as part of a wider programme of alignment and integration, that will seek to join up public employability services; and
- support for those furthest removed from the labour market.
In line with the consultation responses, the following key factors continue to be the driving force behind the service:
- participation is voluntary, and people will not
be driven to take part by fear of benefit sanctions;
- person-centred support which is not based on the type of benefit an individual receives; and
- national service standards providing a high quality service and consistency of delivery across Scotland, meaning that no one is left without the support they need.
In response to the complex challenges faced by people accessing Fair Start Scotland, we have designed the service to take a long-term approach to identifying and overcoming individual barriers, and this is reflected in the length and intensity of pre and in-work support on offer. Eligible participants can access up to 18 months pre-employment support and a further 12 months of support for them and their employer once in work.
Fair Start Scotland's overall ambition is to support people on their journey into sustained employment. This is reflected in the payment model for Service Providers, where they are financially rewarded when they support people to remain in work for 13, 26 and 52 weeks.
Labour market during Year 2
Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Scotland's labour market was performing strongly, achieving both a record low unemployment rate (3.2%, Jan-Mar 2019) and a record high employment rate (75.9%, Feb-Apr 2019) during 2019. For women and young people there were particular successes, as the employment rate for women reached a record high in Feb-Apr 2019 (72.7%)ii and youth unemployment in 2019 fell to its lowest (8.3%)iii since the series began in 2004.
However, the Scottish Government recognise that even when our labour market is performing strongly there are still many who face barriers and challenges to entering work. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to heighten the scale of this challenge, particularly as labour market conditions deteriorate.
The Scottish Government's latest estimate is that unemployment could peak in the final quarter of 2020 at 8.2%iv and is estimated to remain elevated for several years. We have already seen a sharp rise in the Claimant Count (Jobseeker's Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants) since the start of the pandemic, with the number broadly doubling since March, a rise of over 100,000 claimants.
The Scottish Government has developed an economic recovery plan to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is prepared for future economic challenges, including potential labour market fluctuations arising from EU exit.
Reach of Fair Start Scotland
Referrals to the service continue to be made either directly through Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches, through a "third party organisation" such as one of the Fair Start Scotland Service Providers, or through a self-referral route. Year 2 has seen a substantial increase in the number of third party and self-referrals to the service, the majority of which were generated by the Service Providers through increased focus on social media and digital promotion of the service.
During Year 2, several eligibility pilots and marketing campaigns were launched as part of continuous improvement activity, to extend the reach of the service and allow more people to benefit from the support offered. A Fair Start Scotland helpline was also introduced, allowing potential participants an alternative method to learn more about Fair Start Scotland and to be put in touch with the Service Provider who delivers in their local area.
In March 2018, the Scottish Government published No One Left Behind v setting out the vision and articulating our principles for more effective integration and alignment of the range of employability support and services, with all partners collaborating to simplify the current landscape and deliver better outcomes for people facing significant barriers to accessing work.
Purpose of this report
Building on the lessons learned from Year 1, this report highlights the progress Fair Start Scotland has made in its second year of delivery. It demonstrates how Service Providers have adopted new ways of working to support people to get the jobs they want. It outlines the impact of services on participants across Scotland and how this has progressed since the end of Year 1.
It also shows some of the ways that Fair Start Scotland is making a difference in local communities and highlights some of the challenges Service Providers and partners have experienced in supporting people towards and into work.
The report draws on a range of sources including analysis of management information, demographic and background characteristics of Year 2 participants and information from Service Providers who deliver Fair Start Scotland, including first hand experiences of the participants themselves.
Many of the findings outlined are taken from the Fair Start Scotland Evaluation Report 3 – Overview of Year 2 published on the Scottish Government website. The Scottish Government also publishes quarterly statistics on the performance of Fair Start Scotland. These can found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/.
Leigh's Story (South Lanarkshire)
Leigh was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lost both of her parents, all in the same year. This left Leigh feeling as though her life was slipping through her fingers.
Following a positive meeting with South Lanarkshire Council, Leigh was encouraged to approach her local Fair Start Scotland Service Provider to discuss a referral to the service. Mother of two, Leigh said: "It felt like it was bad news on top of bad news. I didn't want to leave the house and felt like I had lost all my independence. It felt good when I found out there were services I could access." She continued: "Although my first day was a hard one, my key worker was great and we built up a brilliant bond." Leigh took the positives from her first meeting and commenced weekly sessions in the Service Provider's office. Following the completion of numerous development courses, Leigh's confidence began to improve. So much so, she started to believe she could find work and make choices about her future. She joined a gym and started swimming to help her with her mental health. She said: "I don't think people appreciate the wonders that these types of activities do for your mental wellbeing. I'm so glad my key worker suggested I take up these hobbies. I started to feel so much better about my future and believed that I would find work again." With renewed positivity, Leigh felt ready start applying for appropriate vacancies. She attended mock interview sessions and performed extremely well.
Leigh applied for a vacancy through her key workers local connections and successfully gained a position as a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant. She said: "I believed I had the attributes to perform well in this position because supporting people has always been a key part of the roles I've had previously. Leigh has now been in work for over 6 months.