Fair Start Scotland - year 4: annual report

Highlights the progress that our national employment support service Fair Start Scotland has made in its fourth year of delivery. It draws from evaluation research, provider and participant feedback to show the impact the service had on individuals and communities throughout 2021/2022.

1. Introduction

Devolved Employment Services in Scotland

Whilst we continue to face economic challenges and a cost of living crisis, the Scottish Government continues to prioritise investment in employability and training to help the economy recover and deliver better outcomes for people who want help to find and remain in work.

We know that for a successful recovery we must work to eradicate structural barriers in the labour market, a key priority within the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), published in March 2022.

In order to tackle those barriers, we are delivering person-centred, tailored services to those further from the labour market through a combination of locally designed services through No One Left Behind and our national employment service, Fair Start Scotland.

No One Left Behind is our approach to transforming employment support in Scotland. It has a crucial role in achieving our vision as outlined in NSET and in supporting parents to increase their income from employment, as set out in Best Start, Bright Futures. The No One Left Behind approach aims to place people of all ages at the centre of design and delivery of employability services. It promotes a strengthened partnership approach where government works together with public, private and third sector organisations to identify local needs and make informed, evidence-based decisions, flexing these to meet emerging labour market demands.

Fair Start Scotland

Fair Start Scotland has been delivering employability support across Scotland since its launch in April 2018. The service was designed in response to "Creating a Fairer Scotland: A new future for employability support in Scotland" consultation and aims to support people towards and into work, through personalised, one-to-one support, tailored to an individual's circumstances, treating them with fairness, dignity and respect.

Continuous improvement activities undertaken in Year 4 have focused on enhancing engagement with under-represented groups, developing better support for participants with more complex needs, identifying local 'test and learn' opportunities and developing our delivery model in response to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

It is more important than ever to prioritise delivery of a quality service to Fair Start Scotland participants in their journey towards finding and sustaining fair work. We remain committed to ensuring that the service reflects participants' individual needs and support requirements.

Labour Market: Year 4 April 2021 – March 2022

Scotland's labour market performed relatively well during the fourth year of Fair Start Scotland delivery. Spring 2021 marked the reopening of the economy following a national lockdown that was introduced in early January 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of employment and unemployment compared well against historical trends.

Real Time Information published by HMRCii shows the number of payrolled employees in Scotland increased by around 89,000 (3.8%) between April 2021 and March 2022. Since November 2021 onwards, the number of payrolled employees in Scotland has been above pre-COVID levels. Scotland's claimant count rate (which measures the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits) fell from 6.6% to 4.1%iii between April 2021 and March 2022, a reduction of 79,000 claimantsiv. Employer demand for staff was strong throughout the year, with vacancies datav showing that the number of vacancies in Scotland were consistently above February 2020 (pre-COVID) levels from May 2021 onwards. However, labour shortages presented a significant challenge for many employers who reported difficulties filling their job openings.

Despite the recovery of our labour market and the strong demand for staff, inequality in outcomes persists for particular groups. Many groups face heightened challenges and barriers to obtaining and sustaining work including disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, but also women, lone parents and people from minority ethnic groups.

Fair Start Scotland is an integral part of the employability support landscape in Scotland and aims to support people to overcome barriers through person-centred tailored support, enabling them to access and sustain fair employment.

Purpose of Report

This report highlights the progress Fair Start Scotland has made in its fourth year and provides an insight into the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging economic and cost crisis challenges. The report also details how Fair Start Scotland responded to these challenges via continuous improvement activities and service delivery changes.

The report draws on a range of sources including internal evaluation research, analysis of management information, quarterly devolved employment statistics, demographic and background characteristics of Year 4 participants and information from the contracted Service Providers who deliver Fair Start Scotland, including first hand experiences of the participants themselves.

Many of the findings outlined are taken from the "Insights into participants' experiences of Fair Start Scotland Year 4" reports, published on the Scottish Government website. The Scottish Government also publishes quarterly statistics on the performance of Fair Start Scotland. These can all found on the Scottish Government Publications website.

Case Study

Mahmoud's Story

Mahmoud was referred to Fair Start Scotland through a Local Authority resettlement team.

As a Syrian refugee, he had complex language barriers. He had very limited English and required interpreters when he first joined the service.

Mahmoud had been out of work for over three years, came from a no job household and had a family with three young children.

Intensive employability support was put in place and the appointments were worked around the times of his English language lessons.

Mahmoud had over twenty years' experience in construction but no transferable qualifications. He had no CV and was supported to develop one. As part of the service Mahmoud was signposted to a debt adviser and received financial support as he had rent arrears and required support to reduce his debts.

Vocational profiling identified local employers in construction. The Fair Start Scotland Service Provider's Employer Engagement team was able to identify a job opportunity and set up a two-week work trial to assess Mahmoud's experience. Mahmoud was supported in the work trial by having Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) provided and transitional financial support. The work trial led to a full-time job.

Mahmoud has now been in employment since October 2021. He is doing well, enjoying his job and his English is improving. He received 12 months in-work support from the Fair Start Scotland Service Provider in the form of monthly meetings supported by the local authority Resettlement team.

Mahmoud did not have a UK driving licence and could not afford to get one when he was out of work. Now that he is in employment, he has been able to secure his driving licence and is in the process of buying his first car in the UK. The family are looking forward to exploring Scotland using the new family transport.

"Fair Start Scotland has really helped me, before joining the service I knew what I wanted to achieve but because my English was not good I struggled to find a job. After joining the service, it felt different as I could see that they understood my potential and by setting up interpreter support, this helped me a lot to explain my skills and everything I had achieved in Syria.

I want to thank them for all the support I have received and their patience over the past year. I want to keep proving to people in my family wrong who thought I could not make it this far due to my language barrier. I am still working on my English, I understand English better and again I owe thanks to the service for taking the time to help me understand. I look forward to seeing what the future holds and the next big project." Mahmoud


Email: employabilityreporting@gov.scot

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