Publication - Corporate report

Fair Start Scotland: annual report - year 2

This report highlights the progress that our national employment support service Fair Start Scotland has made in its second year of delivery. It draws from evaluation evidence and provider and participant feedback to show the impact the service had on individuals and communities throughout 2019 to 2020.

36 page PDF

934.2 kB

36 page PDF

934.2 kB

Fair Start Scotland: annual report - year 2
3. Experience of services

36 page PDF

934.2 kB

3. Experience of services

3.1: Participants

The following section outlines how Fair Start Scotland continued to achieve its aims in Year 2 of the service.

In setting out its key principles, the Scottish Government made clear that it wanted to take a different approach to previous employability services and in Year 2, participants continue to be very positive about the support they have received.

Voluntary approach

95% of participants were aware the service was voluntaryiv

The Scottish Government believes employability services should be voluntary and should support people without threat of benefit sanctions. Evidence from Years 1 & 2 suggests that people welcome the voluntary nature of the service. Participants believe the voluntary nature of the service lends itself to "a more relaxed environment" in which they receive support, and that "not feeling pressured" helped them to engage more effectively in the service.

I've loved the Fair Start Scotland service; the one-to-one aspect was great. The team took a real interest in my wellbeing and understood finding the right job was important. I'm really happy with where I am now and could not have done it without their faith in me. They gave me the courage to succeed."

Dignity and Respect

91% of participants felt that they were treated with dignity and respectiv

Similar to the case study findings in Year 1, participants from Year 2 described the approach of their key workers as caring, respectful, kind and supportive. With over 90% of participants in both Year 1 & 2 feeling that that they were treated with dignity and respect, it is clear that Fair Start Scotland's values and principles continue to be embedded within all aspects of the service.

Person-centred approach

80% of participants felt that the support they received took account of their individual needs and circumstances, and that they had choices about the support they receivediv

Individualised action plans continue to be the starting point for a participant's time on Fair Start Scotland. Developed in collaboration with their key worker, these recognise a person's skills, attributes and previous experience, while identifying their needs and future goals at all stages of their journey.

Reflecting on what they liked about Fair Start Scotland, participants from Year 2 favoured the non-traditional approach to employability interventions (including a broader range of health-related and other types of support), re-emphasising the need for a holistic approach to the delivery of employability services.

I hadn't worked for over 12 months. I came to Fair Start Scotland looking for help in January 2020 with no self-esteem and quite a lot of support needs. My advisor was great, she obviously really cares about people and did so many things for me. From housing, benefits, debt, organising my routine and helping me believe in myself. I couldn't and wouldn't have been able to do this without her help."

Pre-work support

Participants were positive about the effectiveness of the pre-employment support they received. Around four fifths of respondents felt support was useful, ranging from 82% for specialist support for a mental health condition, to 94% for help with addictions.

In line with the Scottish Government's "test and learn" approach, we pledged to continue to flex and refine the service to meet the needs of all participants. Based on feedback received from service providers, Year 2 saw a number of improvements to the way the service is delivered including:

  • an extension to the initial assessment period that participants undertake with their key workers, from 8 weeks to 12 weeks. This extra time allows key workers to more effectively identify their participants' needs, and better tailor the level of support required.
  • introducing more flexibility in the way Service Providers are able to engage with participants, supporting them to remain on the service whilst their health or current circumstances are proving challenging, and therefore reduce the volume of early leavers.
  • allowing extended time for disengaged participants to re-engage with the service, allowing them to address any significant barriers and preventing premature exits from the service.

Participants previously committed to 3 hours per week face to face contact which could be made up of a range of activities. Participant and Service Provider feedback in Year 1 suggested that this could be challenging, especially in more rural areas of the country. To address this, requirements were eased to allow for these 3 hours of activities to be carried out in a way the best suited the individual. This has already had a positive impact in reducing the number of participants disengaging from the service in rural areas.

Towards the end of Year 2, flexibilities to the delivery model were introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring participants continued to receive support during the crisis. Service Providers can now engage and support participants regularly through telephone and video calls while restrictions prevent face to face contact.

As part of continuous improvement activities, further analysis will be undertaken to identify the actions required to support our long-term aim of reducing the number of participants who choose to disengage (leave the service early).

Case Study

Muir's Story (Ayr)

Muir joined Fair Start Scotland to help him find a job that suited his skills. He had been out of work for a long period and suffered from anxiety, which meant that getting out and being around people was difficult and stressful for him. He was also a carer for his parents. Muir had a good work history and is well educated but his anxiety stopped him from going for the jobs he wanted.

Muir met with his key worker who recognised his anxiety, so arranged to have one-to-one meetings with him until he was comfortable being in a group setting. She introduced him to the health and wellbeing team, as well as a tutor, who was able to focus on his self-confidence. Gradually Muir started to gain confidence and attended workshops in smaller groups, while continuing to manage his anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on his progress, it made him feel very low and unmotivated. Muir was contacted by his tutor to see if he had access to IT equipment to try and get him involved in virtual workshops. To begin with, Muir was only comfortable speaking with his tutor on a one-to-one basis using his iPad and phone, but he gradually began joining the small group sessions where other participants were in a similar position. During the calls, his tutor instilled a bit of fun such as quizzes to get the participants engaged. The social aspect of the calls has helped Muir become more confident speaking in a group and he now looks forward to the group sessions.

These sessions helped Muir grow his confidence to the point where he is now actively job searching, however the lockdown has made it difficult for him to find the right job. Fair Start Scotland continues to support him with his anxiety, as well as focusing on his key skills. Muir is starting to build up his network and make new friends, and will continue to attend these sessions as he applies for jobs.

In-Work Support

At least 4 in 5 participants found each type of in-work support they received useful, ranging from 83% for a monthly workplace review with their employer, to 92% for developing an in-work support plan.

Fair Start Scotland continues to offer in-work support for up to 12 months, tailored to suit each participant's needs. A strong relationship with the key worker is essential to ensuring participants sustain employment, identifying issues as they arise and providing additional support when needed.

Participants described the importance of the in-work support provided in helping them to sustain their job, such as practical support with specialist equipment, and in an advocacy-type role, such as liaising with their employer when they felt they needed more support. Participants, many of whom had been out of work for a significant period of time, appreciated this on-going support to help them address any issues that could affect their ability to sustain their employment.

Case Study

Chelsea's Story (Renfrewshire)

Chelsea joined Fair Start Scotland in August 2019. While Chelsea has no recognised learning difficulty, she does have difficulties with literacy, numeracy and memory and had been out of work for over two years. She was desperate to work and was proactive in handing out her CV, but wasn't sure how to talk to potential employers. Chelsea was assigned a key worker who worked with her to update her CV and establish her job goals. Chelsea started to search for jobs independently and was able to identify the roles she wanted to apply for. With her key worker's support she secured a role with Renfrewshire Council as a leisure assistant, in October 2019.

Chelsea's job was very varied and her key worker realised that Chelsea would need further in-work support if she was to remain and progress in the role. For example, part of the job was to cover reception and answer phone calls, but Chelsea did not know how to use the phones. As part of the in-work support offered on Fair Start Scotland, the employer engagement team, in collaboration with Renfrewshire Council provided the additional training Chelsea needed, along with a job check list so she was could tick off her duties. With this support Chelsea's confidence improved and she was able to ask for help when it was needed. Chelsea also learned how to read floor plans, allowing her to take on additional tasks such as setting up rooms for events, and she has gone on to flourish in this role.

Through her hard work and with the support provided by both her key worker and her employer, Chelsea has now sustained her employment for over a year.


  • We have built on the lessons learned in Year 1 to refine the service, ensuring participants continue to receive the best support possible.
  • The second year of delivery has demonstrated that the key principles of Fair Start Scotland continue to be delivered and are valued by participants.
  • People receiving support from Fair Start Scotland are positive about their experiences.
  • People understand that Fair Start Scotland is voluntary and it is well recognised, and welcomed, that dignity and respect are key features of the service.

Next Steps

  • In collaboration with Service Providers, the Scottish Government will continue to drive continuous improvement activities to review and improve upon both pre and in-work support activities, ensuring that they meet the needs of all participants.
  • We will continue to work alongside all partners during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure participants receive high quality services tailored to their own individual needs.
  • We will continue to actively seek out and learn from the lived experience of FSS participants and other service users to further develop and improve employment support services across Scotland.

3.2: Partnerships

Partnership working continues to be a vital element of the success of Fair Start Scotland. Strengthening existing relationships and building new ones is key to ensuring a wider range of support and opportunities are available for participants.

Year 2 has seen significant progress in collaborative working with local partners to extend the visibility of the service. The includes the launch of several eligibility pilots in Year 2, made possible through the Scottish Government and The Department for Work and Pension's (DWP) joint continuous improvement plan. It is clear however, that further work is needed to integrate with other employability provision. A key theme that emerged from Service Provider feedback and the evaluation was around the crowded nature of the current employability landscape, potentially causing confusion for individuals and referring organisations.

The Department for Work and Pensions

(55%) of participants in Year 2 were referred on to Fair Start Scotland by Jobcentre Plusviii

DWP continues to play a lead role as the main source for referrals to Fair Start Scotland through the network of work coaches within Jobcentre Plus (JCP) offices. JCP remain crucial to the success of Fair Start Scotland, and are predominantly the first point of contact that most potential participants will have on the service. The strong, enduring relationship and processes built and agreed between Scottish Government and DWP allows individuals to safely self-refer to the service without fear of failing to comply with benefit guidelines.

Relationships have further strengthened throughout Year 2 of the service, at both a national and local level, with Service Providers engaging more effectively with their local JCP partners. One of the ways this has been achieved is through the establishment and use of shared locations between JCP and Service Providers. This has allowed for more effective communications between organisations and facilitated the use of strategies like warm handovers[2], improving the participants overall experience of the service.

Fair Start Scotland Service Providers have worked out of our Jobcentre at least 1 day each week. They met with customers in the local office, avoiding the need for further travel and improving attendance rates. JCP Staff appreciated the regular contact and were able to discuss potential referrals prior to being made. This had a positive effect on the number of participants who started on the service."

Jobcentre Plus Manager

In partnership with DWP, a series of simplified eligibility pilots were launched in summer 2019, aimed at supporting people who face the greatest disadvantage in our communities. Seven Jobcentre Plus locations were selected, based in areas with a high level of deprivation. The pilot meant that anyone in receipt of a working age benefit who lived in one of these areas was eligible for the service from day one of unemployment, rather than having to wait until they had been unemployed for six months. The pilot was originally agreed for three months, and early in 2020 it was agreed that it would run indefinitely across the existing pilot locations, whilst also being extended to a further delivery area.

Another pilot which commenced in 2019, aimed to provide support to minority ethnic woman in the Glasgow area – a demographic group identified in Year 1 with particularly low starts on the service. Taking on board feedback from specialist organisations experienced in supporting minority ethnic women, the pilot proved to be successful. While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the predominantly group-based activities offered, we continue to monitor how participants are progressing within their employability journey, and provide ongoing support.

These pilots have already had a positive impact on the numbers of participants starting on the service from different equalities groups and, given their success, the Scottish Government continues to work in partnership with JCP to extend the eligibility criteria further. This will ensure an early intervention is available to those who need it most, by providing 'day one' access to intensive support for lone parents, minority ethnic groups and refugees.

Community Benefits

All Service Providers continue to individually support the Fair Work agenda through their own working practices. Many have increased the number of Living Wage accredited employers they engage with since Year 1, and continue to seek out new relationships. Some Service Providers host regional Living Wage events to engage with potential new employers, using it as an opportunity to promote the service while discussing the benefits of becoming an accredited employer.

Service Providers also remain committed to supporting and promoting the development of the Scottish Business Pledge, with an increased number of supply chain partners signing this pledge in Year 2. Service Providers continue to work within each element of the pledge, taking them into account through their own recruitment.

Case Study

Susannah's Story

Susannah had been made redundant and was struggling to get back into employment. She did not know where to start looking. She was interested in a career change but unclear what she could do.

Susannah was introduced to her key worker who was keen to find out more about her skills and experience, so that she could offer her the right level of support. After working together to develop a new CV, Susannah was raring to go. She demonstrated excellent determination, motivation and was keen to get back to work. Her previous role in Merchandising for a large fashion brand meant she had transferrable skills that would help expand her job opportunities. Susannah expressed interest in a compliance role vacancy within the Service Provider supporting delivery of Fair Start Scotland.

With support from her key worker, Susannah was able to prepare for the interview and was successful in getting the job. She demonstrated a brilliant work ethic within the compliance role, and her manner with everyone who came in the office did not go unnoticed. She was soon promoted to key worker. The team knew she would thrive in this role, as it involved meeting participants and supporting them back to work. Susannah has now been in her new role for over a year.

Providers continue to play an active role in communities, collaborating with local charities and utilising staff volunteer days. In the early stages of the current COVID-19 pandemic, some Service Providers encouraged staff to utilise volunteer days by collecting shopping, medication and working with local Food Banks.

Third party referral organisations

45% of referrals in Year 2 have come from outwith JCPviii

Third party referrals have become an increasingly important feature of the service, with the percentage increasing from 14% in Year 1 to 45% in Year 2.

Providers have prioritised establishing alternative sources of referrals, and much of their success in Year 2 was achieved through an increased presence on social media platforms. Others promoted the service successfully through open days in their offices, where participants could attend and learn about the service without feeling any pressure to make a decision on the day to take up the offer of support.

Collaborative working between Providers and local communities also improved throughout Year 2, with further links made in embedding Fair Start Scotland in local services. Engaging with organisations such as the NHS, housing associations, education and community justice services provides a routeway for people who may not be JCP customers, but would benefit from the support provided on Fair Start Scotland.

Year 2 has also seen a substantial increase in the volume of people referred who then choose to join the service. Through analysis undertaken by Service Providers and feedback from disengaged participants and early leavers, we have a better understanding of the reasons why people disengage from the service. We have used this learning in partnership with JCP to drive an increase in more appropriate referrals throughout Year 2.

While the majority of referrals continue to come from JCP, third party referrals are essential in reaching and supporting as many people as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a significant impact on referrals to the service, with JCP referrals temporarily stopped at the end of Year 2 to respond to the increase in universal credit claims.

Looking forward, Providers will continue to prioritise developing further partnerships within local communities, to ensure third party referrals continue to increase moving into Year 3.

Local Authorities

Local Authorities play an essential role in supporting individuals to move towards and into employment, working to overcome a range of individual needs. While there is still further work to do, the last year has seen significant steps taken to align with other employability services. The Scottish and Local Government Partnership Working Agreement on Employabilityix recognises the collective commitment and collaborative leadership required across all partners to deliver the culture change needed in how we design, deliver and fund services at a local level.

Following discussions with the Scottish Local Authorities Economic Development Group (SLAED), Scottish Government officials carried out a partnership exercise in October 2019. The purpose of this was to gain a general understanding of Fair Start Scotland Service Provider engagement with Local Authorities across the local employability landscape.

Findings from the exercise have been used to develop the next steps needed to strengthen the partnership, have articulated the role and value of both spheres of government in contributing to the delivery of local level employability services and have raised the profile of best practice in employment support.

It has also provided an evidence base at a local level which will assist Scottish and Local Government and Service Providers in their future partnership working, information sharing and in better integration and alignment of employability services.


65% of those joining Fair Start Scotland reported having a long-term health conditioniv

As in Year 1, mental health conditions were the most commonly reported health condition in Year 2, representing 34% of all participants with a health condition.

In response to the prevalence of mental health issues, Service Providers in Fraserburgh ran a successful pilot in collaboration with JCP. The pilot brought in specialist support providers to encourage potential participants with significant mental health barriers to develop healthier lifestyles. As a high volume of people joined Fair Start Scotland after these sessions, the pilot was replicated in several other areas.

I am feeling very positive about my life at the moment thanks to Fair Start Scotland. I feel it's made a difference talking with someone that understands my mental health and how I feel, and at the same time I have someone to talk to without judgement."

Evidence from this year's evaluation research suggests that significant health conditions can have an impact on participants' sustained engagement with the service. Analysis of data on early leavers showed that participants whose daily activities were limited 'a lot' by a long-term health condition were more likely to leave the service early (57% left early) than those whose activities were not limited by their condition (45% left early). Analysis of job outcomes data for participants with disabilities also shows that they are less likely to both start and sustain work than participants who did not report having a disability.[3]

We recognise that for some people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, the prospect of sustainable work may not be a realistic option. However, for those participants where work is still a possibility, steps have been taken to ensure their time on the service can be fully utilised. Participants now have the ability to request that their support is "paused" if there are changes to their health or personal circumstances. This allows them the time and space to address these issues without it impacting on their full entitlement of pre-employment support.

Case Study

Fiona's Story (Kilmarnock)

Fiona joined Fair Start Scotland after seeing the service advertised through her local Service Provider on Facebook. She had an excellent work history but her main barrier was her mental health condition. Previous employers showed a lack of acceptance and understanding of this, and she had very low self-esteem and confidence, which deterred her from applying for new jobs.

When Fiona booked her first meeting, she became extremely nervous and in the end did not have the courage to attend. The Service Provider's engagement consultant assured her that she wouldn't be pressured to do anything she was not ready for. As a result, Fiona booked a second appointment and was introduced to her key worker who made her feel at ease and comfortable with the meeting.

Fiona's key worker made sure her appointments would tie in with the recovery model that she was currently working through with the community mental health team. Fiona became anxious as time went on, however her key worker recognised this and slowed down her support to a pace Fiona was more comfortable with. After working through the recovery model, Fiona was supported to work on techniques to improve her social skills, self-confidence and coping mechanisms, including mindfulness tasks to make her feel at ease. Fiona's key worker set her small goals such as going out on daily walks, which helped her sleep better and lift her mood, and eventually she began to feel ready to apply for new jobs.

With the help of her key worker, Fiona applied for a role with the NHS, through Sensee - a working from home initiative. She was successful in the interview and offered the role. The job offer worked wonders for Fiona's confidence and made her believe in herself again. Fiona told her key worker that before joining Fair Start Scotland she would not have been able to be handle situations confidently, and convey her needs to her employer. Fiona feels that the role provides a great work-life balance for her and she is enjoying the routine and structure. Fiona's anxiety means she still needs a lot of reassurance, but she gets this through the in-work support she continues to receive as part of the service.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS)

44 participants were receiving IPS support on Fair Start Scotland as of 31 March 2020x

IPS remains an important part of the employment support landscape for people with severe and enduring mental health issues in Scotland. For those with mental health problems, being employed can be an important step to recovery, improving self-esteem, confidence and reducing psychological distress.

Service Providers have experienced challenges in establishing IPS as a core part of the Fair Start Scotland offer in many areas. The main areas of successful delivery tended to be those where relationships with local Community Mental Health teams were already well established. This further highlights the importance of building effective partnerships with other local support agencies.

Following commitments in last year's Annual Report and the A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: employment action plan, an independent review of IPS was commissioned in the summer of 2020. A series of fidelity and readiness reviews were carried out in all Fair Start Scotland Lots, along with an assessment of the impact of rurality on IPS outcomes. The findings of this review will be published in late 2020, giving a clear view of the service participants currently receive, and recommendations to improve delivery of the IPS model going forward.

Case Study

Chris' Story

Chris has been unemployed for six years and is now receiving IPS support from Fair Start Scotland. Chris said: "I have had various roles in the past in different sectors including Waste Management, Forklift Driving and Machine Operations, but I have found it difficult to sustain in these roles with my ongoing poor mental health." Chris has been diagnosed with autism and also has depression, anxiety and a learning disability, which impact on his moods and his ability to work in new environments.

Chris was referred to the service through his Occupational Health Therapist, who accompanied him on his first few meetings until he felt comfortable attending himself. Chris carried out vocational profiling with the support of his health therapist, which allowed them to better identify his needs and understand his barriers. The IPS specialist said: "I did a series of further interviews with more in-depth questions, using a fishbone diagram to discuss barriers as I found Chris really liked the visual aspect to this. It allowed us to tackle one barrier at a time". Chris said: "So far, Fair Start Scotland has been a great help with my general development, but with a real focus on getting me into employment. I was able to identify my barriers to employment at a very early stage before drafting and agreeing an action plan." He continued: "There are small achievable goals in my development that we look at periodically which can be tailored at any time to suit my needs. We have focused on confidence, interview skills, CV and covering letters as well as completing job applications. Something I have never been able to do before."

Chris said: "I would like to obtain meaningful employment in a job that I enjoy and can see myself developing, with the opportunity of gaining more qualifications. I see this as a way of gaining my own independence including my own home, car and family in the future." Chris and his IPS specialist have agreed they are both happy with progress so far, with the next steps being to proactively engage with employers.

Supported Employment

635 participants were receiving SE support on Fair Start Scotland as of 31 March 2020vi

For those participants who would benefit from Supported Employment, Fair Start Scotland continues to offer the opportunity to access this tailored individual pre-employment support, which is consistent with the principles and practices of the 5 stage model described in the Supported Employment Framework for Scotland.

During Year 2, the Scottish Government undertook an internal review to understand how the Supported Employment element of Fair Start Scotland was working in practice, and where improvements could be made.

Whilst there were examples of participants benefiting from the Supported Employment offered and delivered, it was evident that improvements could be made.

Broadly this included areas such as:

ensuring all Service Provider staff involved in the delivery of Supported Employment are appropriately trained;

reviewing how the concept of Supported Employment is explained to participants and the benefits the model provides when appropriate to that individual's needs; and

ensuring all elements of the Supported Employment model are delivered as per the framework.

Following the review, we undertook a consultation with each Service Provider to discuss the findings and to develop a Supported Employment Improvement Plan outlining areas for development.

Scottish Ministers are currently considering a further independent review of how Supported Employment is delivered through Fair Start Scotland, with findings and recommendations expected in summer 2021.

Criminal Justice

An essential part of rehabilitation for people with convictions is being afforded the same opportunities as anyone else to re-start their lives and gain sustainable employment.

As one of the under-represented demographic groups in Year 1, people with convictions were included in the simplified eligibility pilots launched in early 2020, allowing 'day one' access to the service. This proved to be successful, particularly in the Moray area, where the main source of referrals came through community justice routes.

A Fair Start Scotland participant with a serious criminal conviction, carrying a range of restrictions and barriers secured a job through the team's employability support.

The participant said:

I was referred to the Fair Start Service as I have a criminal record that poses a very major hurdle to gaining employment (a vital part of rehabilitation). This barrier is so significant that most employers simply reject any application without further consideration.

I count myself very lucky to have become involved with Fair Start Scotland. The team provided support and encouragement that has given me much greater motivation than I ever had, particularly after multiple rejection letters. The most vital part of this process for me has been their well-developed contacts with employers in the area, as it is only through this personal referral approach that we have found an employer willing to take me on. I now have the great opportunity to develop my skills and self-confidence working for a very well respected local employer. I would stress that no other agency provide this service in any effective way so the Fair Start Service is vital in this regard. After only a matter of months, I have gone from unemployed to a full-time post."


  • Through the inherent flexibility underpinning the service, Providers continue to work with a range of delivery partners to understand participant needs and provide a unique and tailored service.
  • Improved relationships between partners continue to have a positive impact on the service, with key successes in Year 2 attributed to collaborative working.
  • The holistic approach to employability services significantly improves people's health and wellbeing, as well as supporting them into employment.

Next Steps

  • The Scottish Government will respond to the Individual Placement and Support review, with a view to implementing recommendations and improving the quality of service participants receive.
  • The Scottish Government will continue to consider and implement changes to the eligibility conditions for the service, allowing support to a wider range of disadvantaged groups.
  • The Scottish Government will continue to work collaboratively with Local Authorities to work towards closer alignment and flexibility of services.
  • The Scottish Government will consider commissioning an independent review of Supported Employment, with a view to supporting and implementing recommendations for future delivery of the model.

3.3: Employers

Building and maintaining successful relationships with employers has remained a key element of the Scottish Government's ambition to deliver and promote Fair Work principles over the last year. Guidance on policies such as the Scottish Living Wage, the Scottish Business Pledge, Modern Apprenticeships and Disability Confident are available

to Service Providers to help educate, support and guide employers in corporate social responsibility. This focus has also contributed to supporting wider ambitions such as tackling the Gender Pay Gap and Child Poverty by moving participants into sustainable jobs, while ensuring there is a flexibility of approach in response to their individual needs.

Case Study

Jane's Story (Falkirk)

Jane is a single parent who had her daughter while still at school and so missed most of her exams. She was very quiet and lacked confidence. She was open to various types of work but didn't have any work experience. Her priority was trying to find something within school hours.

Jane's key worker arranged for her to do some volunteering at a local cafe and slowly, with their support, her confidence started to grow. The key worker visited her at the cafe on a weekly basis, praising her achievements and offering support and encouragement.

Jane really wanted to get into employment, as she wanted her daughter growing up seeing her mum going to work.

An opportunity became available at a local nursing home for a Domestic Assistant. An interview was arranged and whilst they loved Jane's personality, they were concerned about her lack of experience. It was agreed that Jane would do a couple of trial shifts and as a result the employer was delighted with her and offered her the job.

Jane has now been in employment for 6 months, and continues to be supported through Fair Start Scotland's in-work support element.

Jane really enjoys her job and the hours are perfect as they are 9am-2pm so fit in with school. Jane has been open that she did not think that this would be possible prior to starting Fair Start Scotland.

How Fair Start Scotland is supporting fair and sustainable employment

Building effective relationships between Fair Start Scotland Service Providers and both local Small-Medium Enterprises/Employers (SMEs) and large employers remains key to achieving sustainable employment that meets the needs of participants, employers and the local labour market. Service Providers have achieved this by liaising with employers to offer a flexible approach to working and, where relevant providing work experience, on the job placements and training interventions to help participants gain invaluable experience.

During Year 2, Service Providers and employers worked together to develop a series of specific routeways for various employment sectors including hospitality, retail and security. This enabled participants to gain an insight into an employment sector where they may not have previous experience, and to understand the skills required. It also gives participants and employers the chance to meet in a supported and relaxed environment.

Results from the latest evaluation suggest that 6% of participants who were in work when surveyed[4] were self-employed. Advice and guidance on self-employment is offered by Service Providers to participants interested in starting their own business.

A Fair Start Scotland Service Provider delivered a care sector specific routeway to facilitate opportunities for Mainstay Trust Ltd and Real Life Options. This led to 10 participants successfully placed in work within the care sector.

A Participant said:

The support from Fair Start Scotland and Mainstay has been absolutely amazing. After working in Retail for 27 years and being made redundant, I had no idea where I was going to find a job. However, within one month of being referred to the service, my key worker suggested I attend a Care Sector Specific Routeway facilitated by the Trainer which I found to be interesting as I had never thought about going into Care before. I was then introduced to the Employer Relationship Manager who agreed to arrange an interview for me with one of her employers, Mainstay Trust. This all happened very quickly, and I was delighted to be offered a full-time contract as a Support Worker. What made this even better was that I started the job with the same people I had been on the Routeway with who were also offered jobs and this made the whole process much easier knowing we were all starting the induction of our new roles at the same time."

Mainstay Trust said:

Working with Fair Start Scotland has been a really good experience which we would like to continue going forward."

Public sector ambitions

Fair Start Scotland plays a key role in reaching the Scottish Government ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap by 2038. Following the publication of A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Employment Action Plan (Dec 2018), the Scottish Government demonstrated its commitment to this by launching its Recruitment and Retention Plan for disabled people, committing to making Scottish Government an exemplar in the employment and support of disabled workers, and to ensure that by 2025 at least 25% of new recruits are disabled. Support for new and existing workers is also being enhanced through a single point of contact for workplace adjustments which will be fully embedded by April 2021.

Further details of ongoing and planned work was set out in the Employment Action Plan Progress Report published in March 2020. It includes undertaking a review of Individual Placement Support (IPS); delivering a Public Social Partnership (PSP), led by The Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE) to support employers in relation to disabled workers; supporting unemployed disabled parents in poverty by boosting the funding allocated to local government for the Parental Employability Support Fund (PESF); and establishing, for the first time, a Scottish Access to Work Stakeholder forum so that disabled people in Scotland have a formal mechanism through which to help shape the programme's delivery.

The Scottish Government will also deliver hands-on campaign work to support employers to recruit and sustain the employment of disabled workers. Disabled people and young people are also more likely to work in industries that have been negatively impacted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore different policy areas across government are currently working together to ensure that young disabled people are included in all economic responses to the pandemic. This includes the development of the Young Person's Guarantee to give all young people access to work, training or education, with a share of the £60 million investment to focus specifically on tackling inequalities. There has also been significant investment in recruiting and retaining Apprentices, including additional funding for the Scottish Government's Adopt an Apprentice programme[5].

It is also essential that our Armed Forces Community, including spouses and partners recognise their skills and can easily translate these when moving into civilian life, so that employers can understand and appreciate these skills when they are recruiting. As part of the Recruitment and Retention Plan, a Veterans Employability Strategic Group was established to drive forward work on veterans' employability, bringing key players together to really look at how we remove barriers to veterans accessing a full range of employment opportunities. The group has been refreshed this year with two co-chairs and the development of a new purpose and vision. A veteran's portal on brings together a range of useful information for job seekers. As one of a range of Scottish Government supported employability initiatives, eligible veterans are able to access and benefit from early Fair Start Scotland support, to recognise the range of transferrable skills gained within service and tailoring this individual support for employment opportunities and civilian life.

Public Sector Opportunities

During Year 2 there have been opportunities for Fair Start Scotland Service Providers in Glasgow and Tayside and representatives from Social Security Scotland (SSS) to work closely together to support those who experience labour market inequalities. This was achieved by hosting joint Information workshops for Fair Start Scotland participants, offering advice on applying for vacancies and working within SSS.

The Scottish Government have also worked with Service Providers to recruit Fair Start Scotland participants for fixed term employment opportunities within the Scottish Government.

Employer Feedback

Fair Start Scotland Service Providers have worked consistently over the last year to further develop their relationships with local, national and global employers.

One such example is Diageo. The global drinks company were keen to consider individuals with severe mental and physical health conditions for employment, and were offering internships for the right individual, with salaries approaching £27,000.

Diageo delivered several presentations, along with on-site tours to attract the right individuals and give those interested a good understanding of what to expect. The Service Providers also supported those going forward to interview with full interview prep.

Case Study

Mirjana's Story

Mirjana was a Fair Start Scotland Participant who joined the Scottish Government in February 2020 on a fixed term contract within the Scottish Government's Employability Division.

"My key worker informed me about the vacancy with The Scottish Government as soon as they knew about it. They invited me to fill out the application on their premises and assigned an advisor who supported me during the process of applying. They even provided WiFi, refreshments and a laptop for me to use.

I was successful in my application and through the in-work support provided on the service, my key worker continues to call and email me to make sure everything is all right and that I am happy with the job".

Diageo had initially planned to offer roles to two participants, but after several rounds of interviews they agreed to offer four full-time career opportunities to successful participants, some of whom faced multiple barriers such as Autism, Asperger's and physical disabilities. This was testament to the hard work and dedication of all involved, giving opportunities to those who may not have been able to secure the roles without support.

In March 2020 three of the participants started their Internships at the bottling hall based at Shieldhall, and a fourth participant joined the Diageo team at the Port Dundas site, having secured a full-time permanent position working within the Supply Chain.

Quote from Diageo:

It has been a fantastic journey so far & we are really keen to continue to partner with Fair Start Scotland to scope out what is possible for the year ahead."

Diageo Operations Manager


Having secured a customer service contract we needed to recruit from around Ayrshire and had a very short timeline in which to do so. I contacted our local Fair Start Scotland Service Provider and she and her colleagues were outstanding. From the initial contact we were delighted with their communication style. They advised regularly on progression and gave robust and accurate background information.

I was very comfortable and confident that they would provide the number of staff that we had requested on time, and they did! Not only that, they also supported the candidates above and beyond; providing help with clothes, expenses and the candidates health and wellbeing was of the utmost importance. Delighted with the service, we requested another group and had the same fabulous experience as before. Most of our staff that we have from Fair Start Scotland are still with us. I would have no hesitation in using the service in the future and would encourage others to do the same. The time saved within our business allowed us to continue with our day job, during this difficult time."

HR Director, BPO

As a Homecare Service Provider in the communities of North and South Lanarkshire, All New Beginnings Ltd require a company that we can use to meet the growing recruitment needs of the business. Fair Start Scotland fulfils that need by supplying potential staff that have been screened prior to interview and have the necessary training attributes that a Homecare Service Provider would be looking for. The benefits to having a service like this supplying candidates is exactly what the company needs, it saves time so that we can focus on getting quality care out into the communities. Our relationship with Fair Start Scotland, although in its infancy is already blossoming and we at All New Beginnings see a long and fruitful partnership ahead."

Company Director, All New Beginnings Ltd

I have had a total of 6 successful candidates from Fair Start, most of whom are still employed with us, I have and would recommend Fair Start to all of my colleagues and business in the industry."

Cleaning Manager,
Large Facilities Management Employer

There was also a strong focus on employer feedback in the evaluation activity planned for Year 2. Unfortunately this was cancelled when Scotland entered COVID-19 related lockdown in March 2020. We are working with the evaluation research contractors to find safe ways to reschedule this element of the evaluation and hope to provide further evidence in next year's report.


  • Fair Start Scotland has already helped to support over 6,000 people into work with over 70% of Participants who started a job sustaining their employment for at least 3 months..
  • The Scottish Government has worked in collaboration with Service Providers to support Fair Start Scotland Participants through its own recruitment processes and will continue to do so where further opportunities are available.
  • The Scottish Government continues to work with Fair Start Scotland Service Providers to deliver Fair Work ambitions, as well as supporting participants into good and sustainable employment.

Next Steps

  • With the development of new UK employability programmes such as Kickstart, the Scottish Government will align with DWP to work in partnership to ensure Fair Start Scotland participants continue to receive the appropriate and individual level of support they require.
  • Through ongoing continuous improvement activity, the Scottish Government will review the Fair Start Scotland delivery model in response to the impacts of COVID-19 and further changes to the labour market.
  • In collaboration with Service Providers, the Scottish Government will take action to understand the changes to the labour market and to identify new sectors and skill requirements to support participants.