4. Summary and Next Steps
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 changed life for everyone and has certainly had a lasting impact on the delivery of employability services such as FSS.
All those involved in delivering FSS services have had to move quickly to adapt to the changing rounds of lockdown restrictions, and to the longer term impacts on our economy. We have introduced new ways of delivering and promoting FSS services and have maintained our Service Provider capacity, all to ensure that we can continue to support existing and new participants.
Despite the various challenges faced by participants and Service Providers during our third year of delivery, the service has supported over 10,000 people, 4,170 of whom had moved into work by end June 2021.
While we recognise that not everyone will gain employment through FSS, the Year 3 Evaluation findings clearly demonstrate that the service is a positive intervention that treats people with dignity and respect, and continues to have a positive effect on those who chose to participate.
The economic evaluation has confirmed that FSS performed well in achieving value for money and an overall net benefit to society. It succeeded in helping some participants find sustainable jobs while upholding its values and principles of dignity and respect to individuals. By taking into account the impact of FSS on the broader society and economy, including public finance savings, improved quality of life, and income redistribution, the results indicate that for every £1 spent on the service, the estimated benefit was £3.60 to society, £1.60 to public finances, and £2.60 to FSS participants.
While this is clearly a welcome conclusion, the economic analysis also shows that this positive benefit in fact arises from FSS having supported more participants with fewer barriers, and therefore lower costs than originally anticipated. It also reinforces the wider evaluation finding that FSS did not reach as many people with disabilities and health conditions as it set out to do. However, the evidence suggests that, when compared to other programmes such as the Work and Health Programme, FSS has reached a larger share of unemployed people, and that the jobs achieved by FSS participants are more stable.
Over the last three years we have listened and responded to the evaluation findings and direct feedback from participants, Service Providers and partners. The cumulative evidence to date shows that the demographic profile of participants has changed over time, and they are now more likely to be younger and closer to the labour market, with fewer barriers to overcome. This must to some extent reflect the impacts of COVID-19 on our labour market. However, we recognise that there is still work to be done in making FSS services accessible and effective for all who need them, and this remains a priority for us throughout the extension period.
Our continuous improvement activity has, and will continue to focus on enhancing our reach to and engagement with groups that are under-represented and those who could be better supported by our services. We will also continue to review and flex the FSS delivery model to ensure that we maintain the successful initiatives introduced this year, as well as developing new approaches to encourage participant engagement, identify employment opportunities and provide improved specialist support for those who need it. We will also share this learning with our local government, private and third sector partners, to make sure that it is reflected in the development of future devolved employment services as part of our implementation of No One Left Behind.
In developing No One Left Behind, our shared vision for the future of employability in Scotland, the voice of service users has been critical to shaping the products that will ultimately guide delivery in local areas. Through our Lived Experience Panels, we have been working to co-produce a Customer Charter that sets out clearly what users should expect from No One Left Behind services. These Charter commitments, along with learning from FSS evaluations and delivery and wider partner and stakeholder input, are also shaping our collaborative development of Service Standards and a Shared Measurement Framework.
Our intention is to build upon the evidence and learning from our delivery of FSS, rather than look to “re-invent the wheel". For example, the user research work carried out as part of No One Left Behind work streams highlighted common themes with FSS evaluations, such as the significance of a trusted and supportive key worker and the importance of on-going support even after finding employment.
Learning from what works in FSS delivery, and looking for ways to embed this in the products developed to support No One Left Behind will be crucial to our longer term aim of better aligning and integrating employability support.