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.

3. Experience of Services

3.1: Participants

Fair Start Scotland continues to build on the key principles we know are important to people; that employability support should be voluntary and not linked to payment of benefits, flexible, centred around the needs of the individual and that people should be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

During Year 4, COVID-19 restrictions gradually reduced; however, the pandemic continued to have an impact on the way Fair Start Scotland was delivered and how participants wanted to engage with employability services.

Following the immediate and successful transition to a flexible form of delivery during Year 3, which included virtual support via telephone and online engagement, Service Providers moved to deliver a hybrid model of support in Year 4 as a standard method of delivery. This incorporated both virtual and face-to-face engagement, where restrictions allowed. Whilst we still required the same level of service delivery to be adhered to e.g. weekly contact with participants, both pre-employment and in-work, this level of flexibility ensured that the individual needs of participants continued to be served, particularly for those affected by health issues who did not feel ready to return to face-to-face engagement, or those who had previously found it difficult to attend support meetings in person (e.g. due to childcare demands or because of rural transport issues).

Person-Centred Approach

"Fair Start Scotland helped me build my confidence and self-belief. Now that I am working again, I have a newfound sense of freedom and achievement which has also helped me with my everyday life." Fair Start Scotland Participant

To better reflect the current labour market context during 2021/22, in response to participant feedback from the Year 3 Evaluation, and because of the changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic we continued to work with Service Providers to implement various continuous improvement activities to better tailor services to individual needs.

These activities included:

  • reducing the eligibility criteria for "length of time unemployed" from 24 to 12 months meaning participants could get quicker access to Fair Start Scotland support
  • allowing a "right of return" to previous Fair Start Scotland participants who had disengaged from the service, but still required support to access work
  • continuing to allow participants to "pause" their engagement for personal or health reasons.

The decision to reduce the eligibility criteria for "length of unemployed" from 24 months to 12 months reflected the marked shift in the patterns of participation from Years 1 and 2, in comparison to Year 3. Participants in Year 3 were far more likely to have been unemployed for 6 months or less before starting on the service and the proportion of people long term unemployed (for 24 months or more) accessing services dropped considerably (by 20 percentage points). In Year 4 however, the proportion of people long term unemployed (for 24 months or more) increased by 33 percentage points, highlighting the shift within the labour market and the heightened challenges to participants entering employment.

The latter two of these changes reflect participant feedback that due to personal circumstances and health reasons, participants may have previously had to leave the service early, without an opportunity to return. These changes have ensured that support is available to people, when they feel they are ready to engage again to progress towards and into fair and sustainable work.

With 52% of Fair Start Scotland participants leaving the service early, reducing the early leaver rate and gaining a better understanding of why participants disengage continue to be a priority and we will continue to progress these activities in Year 5. It is important to note that while people can disengage from the service for health or personal reasons, people have also left the service to move on to other positive destinations, such as education or training.

Case Study

Participants Right of Return

Of the 12,532 starts to the service in Year 4, 2,450 were participants who had previously been on the service before. Findings from the Insights into participants' experiences of Fair Start Scotland Year 4 highlights the reasons from those participants surveyed as to why they chose to re-join Fair Start Scotland. The most commonly reported reason was that they needed more support to help finding a job, mentioned by 36% of respondents. Requiring support to find a new job after the previous job came to an end was the next most common reported reason (20%). In addition, 18% of survey participants cited either mental health or physical health related reasons as not being able to participate in Fair Start Scotland in the past and now wanting to re-join. The end of COVID-19 restrictions was mentioned by 13% of respondents as a reason for re-joining.

"I felt there was better support for people this time around than last time I joined. I felt there was a better understanding of the barriers I was experiencing when I was looking for employment". Fair Start Scotland Participant

In Year 4, 635 job starts were achieved by participants who had previously been on Fair Start Scotland.

This change to the delivery model has had a positive impact on people who had previously been unable to access the support that they once again needed. Working with those who return to the service following disengagement allows us to develop an understanding of any differences between the participants experiences whilst on the service, and respond in the form of continuous improvement activity.

The Principles of Fair Start Scotland


Participation on Fair Start Scotland is entirely voluntary and people retain the right to leave at any time without the threat of benefit sanctions. The Year 3 Evaluation Report highlighted that, 90% of participants knew the service was voluntary.

Dignity and Respect

The Year 3 Evaluation Report showed that 95% of participants felt that they were treated with dignity and respect. As Fair Start Scotland progresses in its fifth year of delivery, the evidence from the first four years clearly shows that treating people with dignity and respect remains a key principle that is embedded throughout the service.

"I would definitely recommend Fair Start Scotland to everyone who is in my position if they are struggling to find work. The members of staff I have worked with and spoke to have been very friendly, helpful and understanding. They are very supportive. There is no pressure in looking for work. The courses I have done so far have helped me to gain confidence, build myself up to look for volunteering work to help me to get back to work." Fair Start Scotland Participant

Pre-Work Support

Utilising the hybrid model implemented in Year 4, Service Providers ensured that participants continued to receive support tailored to their individual needs. For some Fair Start Scotland participants, a return to face-to-face delivery, where appropriate for that individual, was welcomed. For those who were anxious or reluctant to leave their home, Service Providers continued to support them virtually whilst continuing to provide reassurance about the benefits of both face-to-face and community interaction.

Case Study

A parent who was struggling with financial and mental health issues was provided with support which included a financial advisor to help them manage their money and support using local foodbanks for their family. The participant shared their experience of Fair Start Scotland:

"Fair Start Scotland has been an incredible support to me. I want to thank everyone who has been involved at this early stage of the service to review my financial status and whilst there is more to do, I feel much more in control. I am starting an employability course next and I am really excited to be part of it." Fair Start Scotland Participant

During Year 4 of delivery, Service Providers recognised the increased demand for support with non-work related barriers to employment. Mental health, housing and debt were all increasingly prominent challenges as a result of the economic climate and COVID-19. To address this, Service Providers introduced a variety of internal and external interventions to their pre-employment support to provide additional guidance and advice as required. This included participant walking and cycling groups, nature walks, cooking classes, alternative therapy sessions, liaising with local food poverty support organisations and fuel/energy advice.

Case Study

A single parent with joined the service was struggling with various housing issues in her private let. Her flat was damp which was impacting both her own health and that of her young child. As she had no family in Scotland that could help, her Fair Start Scotland Key Worker was her main source of support. Recognising the barriers in place before the participant would be able to contemplate seeking sustainable employment, the participant's Key Worker helped her secure better accommodation, took her to a shop for decorating materials, sourced free furniture and successfully applied to the Service Provider's internal charity for a payment of £100 to help with her moving costs. The participant also received a fuel top-up voucher and a high street shopping voucher to help get her settled in her new home.

Referrals to specialist partners continue to be made to support participants with poor mental health; however, in some delivery areas Key Workers undertook training to become Mental Health First Aiders to support both participants and their own colleagues.

Service Providers have also continued to combat digital exclusion and support participants to improve their IT skills and increase access to IT equipment. Participants were provided with Chromebooks and data allowance through Connecting Scotland and supported through the initial set up by Key Workers who also provided ongoing IT support where required.

While this helped participants to engage with their keyworker if they were unable to attend face-to-face appointments, it also gave participants the opportunity to access other forms of online support, e.g. by sourcing cheaper energy providers and using online comparison sites, food shopping and accessing vouchers. It also allowed participants to access social media to combat loneliness and isolation, remaining in contact with family and friends and accessing support networks for peer support across communities.

Case Study

During Year 4, a Fair Start Scotland Service Provider worked in partnership with their local Jobcentre Plus offices to deliver a six-week English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) programme to participants where language was a barrier to employment.

The six-week programme included teaching English to help with everyday conversations e.g. asking for directions, understanding street signs and comparing Scottish dialects based on geography. They also conducted walk and talk groups, visited local attractions and coffee shops, providing more informal settings to continue practicing English. The programme also focused on job related tasks such as completing CV's, navigating online job vacancy websites and answering interview questions.

Participant Feedback

"I think the course has made a great impact in my life. We did a lot of activities including reading, writing and discussing. I liked going out with the group and visiting historic and religious places."

"Thank you for teaching English and writing. I am happy to be here. I know I need my English to improve my life and my family's life"

"I really enjoyed the time speaking together. I just wanted to thank you. I will continue to study and look for a job. I also want to go to college."

It is anticipated that further courses will be carried out in Year 5, which will also include provision for Ukrainian Displaced Persons.

In-Work Support

77% of individuals from a recent participant survey stated that they found in-work support usefulix

"Fair Start Scotland has changed my life for the better by helping me find work. Now that I am working full-time, this has relieved the financial burden on my husband. We can now treat our four kids without worrying about making ends meet or being left short at the end of the month". Fair Start Scotland Participant

The in-work support offer helps Fair Start Scotland participants to sustain employment and subsequently increase their overall household income. In-work support continues to be an increasingly vital part of the Fair Start Scotland delivery offer. Given the economic challenges, it is important that Key Workers effectively convey that a participant will be better off in work. While these types of calculations are carried out at the beginning of a person's time on service, they are also undertaken after gaining employment and throughout their in-work support period.

40% of participants indicated that their income increased since they started a job.x

Two fifths (40%) of survey participants indicated that their income increased since they started a job (as either a result of increased hourly rate (25%), increase in hours worked (13%), pay rise (7%) or other factors including a combination of the above factors (5%).xi

Similar to the pre-employment support offer, the range of support offered has adapted to meet current prevailing issues, such as financial and housing concerns.

Case Study

A participant joined Fair Start Scotland after losing their job due to COVID-19. Following support received whilst on the service, they were successful in obtaining a job as a Track and Trace Officer. During one of the in-work Support calls, the participant explained their anxieties in terms of some debt issues, most of their salary was being used to pay the outstanding debt. The key worker supported the participant to contact the company they were in debt with, who proposed an agreeable payment plan which relieved the participants' anxiety.

The most common types of in-work support provided, based on the "Insights into participants experiences of Fair Start Scotland" include a dedicated key worker, one–to-one regular appointments, payment to cover travel costs in the first weeks of starting a job and payment to help buy work clothes.

The Scottish Government and Service Providers continue to work closely together to ensure that the in-work support offer is effective for participants in the wake of the current cost crisis, incorporating all types of support required.

"It feels great to finally have job security and not have to worry about finding work and paying the bills. I really appreciate all the ongoing support from my in-work support advisor, they have been very supportive and made me feel at ease, if I need anything, or have any worries, I know they will pick up the phone." Fair Start Scotland Service Participant

Health and Disability

63% of those joining Fair Start Scotland reported having a long-term health condition.

44% of those joining Fair Start Scotland were disabled.xii

Overall, the most common type of long-term health condition reported was mental health (34%). Between year 1 and 2 there was a 5 percentage point increase in people reporting a mental health condition among those joining Fair Start Scotland, increasing from 31% to 36%. This remained at 36% in year 3, but decreased to 34% in year 4.xiii

Case Study

Let's Walk and Talk Group

In direct response to the mental health and wellbeing issues being reported by participants during and post lockdown, a Fair Start Scotland Service Provider set up a Let's Walk and Talk Group. These group sessions have been very popular with participants.

"The group are encouraged to meet on a regular basis, have a chat, and visit local landmarks, providing an educational experience as well as being a great chance to socially interact with new people and improve confidence and social skills. This group has drawn additional participants onto Fair Start Scotland, as feedback indicates that they would not have joined the service if this group had not been available as part of our support offer. It also greatly benefits our participants, giving them the chance to giving them the chance to find out more about Scotland and improving their understanding of the Scottish dialect.

"Since the beginning of the group, 290 participants have taken part." Fair Start Scotland Service Provider

"When I first phoned my local Fair Start Scotland Service Provider, I was really nervous and unsure of my potential. However, my key worker put me at ease straight away. They made me feel like my disability was only a part of me and not ME. They made me see that I am as able and capable as anyone and it is because of them that I have inevitably found my dream job; now 6 months in, helping others see their own potential". Fair Start Scotland Participant

Fair Start Scotland continues to play a key role in our ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap by 2038, as set out in A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Employment Action Plan (2018). Continuing implementation of the plan, we commissioned independent reviews of both Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and Supported Employment in Scotland, in order to better understand the current delivery landscape and outcomes being achieved, including within Fair Start Scotland, and to identify best practice as well as any areas for further improvement.

During Year 4 we also commissioned a DPO (Disabled People's Organisation) delivery contract which was awarded to a consortium led by Inclusion Scotland, and supported by Glasgow Disability Alliance and Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living, to help enable provision of better support to disabled people during their time on the service. Drawing on disabled people's lived experience and underpinned by the social model of disability, this contract aims to support employability providers and employers to develop their disability equality capability and knowledge across all stages of the employment process, including in-work support. This work will conclude later in 2022, with key learning helping to shape further improvements to wider employability provision in Scotland.

Case Study

Deepa lost his sight at the age of 33 due to a brain tumour. He found himself struggling badly with his mental health and for around two years he isolated himself from friends and family, feeling he had nothing to live for.

Deepa joined Fair Start Scotland in January 2022 following some work with disabled peoples organisations and charities where he drew on others' experience of coping with a life-changing event, and explored how he could continue to live a full and active life. From this it was clear that he wanted to be in a job as soon as possible. He attended various appointments with his adviser and talked through his aspirations and difficulties he was facing in finding employment.

Deepa lives with his wife who was not always able to support him in attending appointments. To assist, the Key Worker met with him in the community and offered support when also attending interviews.

Deepa was also provided with information on a selection of Disability Confident Employers and the vacancies available. Contact was also made with employers to find out more about how Deepa could be best supported in work.

In between job searching appointments Deepa attended clinical support with the Service Provider's partner provider of Occupational Health, Safety and Return to Work Services. He found this support really beneficial to improvements he was able to make to his mental health.

Deepa received a job offer from Social Security Scotland as a Client Adviser. He will require support in the office when he starts work including a buddy to help him navigate around the office until he learns the layout. As he still has issues in terms of trusting people to support him getting around, his Key Worker will be spending time with him in his new job within the office until he feels safe and builds trust with his buddy. This will allow Deepa to feel less anxious and ultimately enable greater independence. To allow the Key Worker to better understand and provide in-work support to him, the Key Worker is learning more about the workplace systems that he will be using.

Supported Employment (SE)

435 participants received Supported Employment through Fair Start Scotland in Year 4xiv

The Scottish Government believes that the Supported Employment approach plays an important part in helping those who would otherwise struggle to gain employment in the open labour market. It can also make a contribution to our ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap in Scotland, and will be more important than ever as part of our COVID-19 recovery efforts, given many of those facing barriers pre-pandemic have experienced further disadvantage.

An external Supported Employment review, carried out by Social Finance, was published in September 2022. Its recommendations will help inform the next stage of development of No One Left Behind, including provision of more specialist employment support services.

In response to the Fair Start Scotland Evaluation Reports and findings from the Supported Employment review, we have already begun continuous improvement activities to strengthen the Supported Employment offer to participants. This includes external specialist training that was commissioned on disability awareness. The training was delivered to Scottish Government staff, Service Providers and employers to help provide an understanding of the particular needs of disabled participants.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS)

9 participants received IPS support on Fair Start Scotland during Year 4xv

IPS is a part of the Scottish employment support landscape for people who are affected by severe and enduring mental ill health.

Following the external IPS review undertaken in Year 3, the Scottish Government took action to strengthen the IPS model within Fair Start Scotland through collaborative working with partner organisations (e.g. health providers) who play a pivotal role in providing support to participants requiring IPS.

In addition, we commissioned and facilitated our Service Providers to undertake The National Institute of Disability Management and Research fast track training course to drive improvements within the Fair Start Scotland IPS offer. The course was also attended by NHS staff to support partnership building. To date, 14 of the 15 attendees who have undertaken the course have successfully passed the Certified Disability Management Professional exam and have gained their Professional Registration Certificate. Fidelity Reviews will be undertaken within each of the Service Provider areas following completion of the training. Through attendance on the course, professional relationships have developed and, as a result, Service Providers are now engaging with Community Mental Health teams in their respective areas and have been invited to attend the Scottish IPS Peer Support Group. Training will continue in Year 5 to ensure all Service Providers have the opportunity to attend.

The Scottish Government will respond to the findings of the Individual Placement and Support review which will be published early in 2023 with a view to improving the overall quality of specialist support services as part of our future plans for employment provision in Scotland.

Case Study

Angela saw an advert for Fair Start Scotland whilst she was at the hospital. She is a lone parent to 3 children aged 3, 8 and 15 years old and suffers from PTSD as a result of childhood trauma.

Her days consisted of staying in the house with the curtains closed whilst the kids were at school which impacted on her mental health and wellbeing.

She is now been working with Fair Start Scotland for 2 months and, with a lot of encouragement and support from her Key Worker, has just completed an Institute of Operational Safety and Health (IOSH) Course at College. She has signed up for Anxiety Management and Wellbeing Workshops and is attending the Literacy Café at the local high school, where she has had the opportunity to connect with other parents

With additional support from her Key Worker she has spoken with her GP in an effort to access additional appropriate support.

On Angela's behalf, her Key Worker made a referral to The Carers Trust and she now has a support worker who is investigating what support they can offer for her and her children (one of the children has Autism and the other two are being assessed for additional support needs and behavioural issues). Angela was also referred to the Citizens Advice Bureau where she is getting help to put a case together to get a larger house so that her children can have their own bedrooms.

Angela also received a Chromebook through Connecting Scotland, a Scottish Government initiative to support people in Scotland to get online. She is using the laptop to create a journal and this is helping her greatly.

With the support of her Key Worker, Angela has progressed to the point where she can leave the house and has started socialising through a literacy group in her local area. It is early days but there is so much potential for Angela for the future and she cannot believe all the support that she has had through Fair Start Scotland.

Case Study

Duo Day

A Fair Start Scotland Service Provider became involved with Duo Day which is a European Initiative, promoted by the Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE). Duo Day brings together disabled people, supported employment agencies and local employers to promote equal employment opportunities. One of the highlights of the day was Fraser, a Fair Start Scotland participant, being offered a permanent job.

Fraser has a learning disability which he manages with the support of his mother. Fraser was assessed for additional support needs at school. He finds it challenging to speak up for himself and relies heavily on his mother for day-to-day living tasks such as managing his money, cooking and cleaning.

Fraser required a lot of help with his communication skills but due to the support from his Key Worker and the assistance from an employer solutions consultant, he started to build good relationships and learn how to communicate more effectively about the type of job he wanted.

The Key Worker spent a lot of time with Fraser, arranging training and job interviews and taking extra time when explaining things to Fraser. Fraser took part in different workshops both with the Fair Start Scotland key worker and the Health and Wellbeing team. These included confidence building, interview skills and job clinics. The workshops really helped Fraser to improve his professional and interpersonal skills and made him a stronger candidate in the job market.

Fraser was chosen as the participant to take part in the Duo Day initiative. With Fraser's agreement, Premier Inn were informed about Fraser's learning disability and asked to make reasonable adjustments for him, so that he would feel comfortable when attending their premises. Fraser met the team and shadowed different roles within the company during Duo Day including bar staff, housekeeping and reception.

Fraser was so impressive at Duo Day that the employer offered him a part-time job and he started work shortly thereafter. Fraser is incredibly happy with his achievement and finding this job will have a great impact on his life.

Participant Insights – Focus Group Research

During the summer of 2022, the Scottish Government undertook a series of focus groups with Fair Start Scotland participants.

The aim of these groups was to develop a better understanding of participants experience of Fair Start Scotland and the impact that the service had. The research focused on participants who were minority ethnic and those who had a disability or long term health condition.

The research highlighted that although in the first instance the majority of participants main motivation for joining was help finding a job, for others, it was the overall package of support that Fair Start Scotland could provide which encouraged them to join, This included for example helping to build confidence, which was often highlighted as a significant barrier to finding work. The voluntary nature of the service also continues to be seen as an important factor as to why some participants join.

"Because it's voluntary, it doesn't feel forced. I think that's one of the factors [for wanting to join]."

It was also evident that Fair Start Scotland Key Workers played an important factor in participants progression though the service. When asked about dignity and respect in relation to Fair Start Scotland, participants shared examples of positive experiences working with their key worker and discussed how Key Workers would actively listen, show interest and acknowledge and ensure specific needs were met.

"When you come here you feel comfortable. Everybody is polite and respects the customer. It's very important."

I'm dyslexic, so the moment they found out I was dyslexic it was like do you need things done different? Do you need this, do you need that? They're always equipped for my needs and basically I've been taught like everybody else."

"When I came here I saw they have the prayer mat at the corner. I was like, oh my gosh, I like this place. So it's made to respect everyone that comes in here."

Participants considered dignity and respect to be demonstrated through feeling welcomed by the service and their perception of being treated equally irrespective of any personal characteristics such as disability, religion or minority ethnic status.

Participants also discussed the variety of support offered as part of the service. Discussions largely focused on experiences of attending courses and group activities that covered various topics, such as employability skills, IT skills, confidence building and mental health support.

"I think that's why group discussions are important because a lot of people I think they have a lack of confidence because their personal circumstances, whatever that may be. For my case it would have been a drug addiction for long term. So you put people in that group and they can open up and feel comfortable opening up"

"When I first came here I had absolutely no confidence at all. And what I found that the workshops were invaluable for building up your personal worth, because I had none. And speaking in groups was something that I wasn't able to do for a long time. So bit by bit, they knew that I couldn't work right there and then."

Participants' experiences were largely positive, and this form of feedback is invaluable; allowing us to identify areas for improvement in line with our test and learn approach. As we progress through Year 5 we continue to adapt the service to better reflect the specific needs of individuals.


  • We continue to listen to and reflect on participants needs and flex the Fair Start Scotland delivery model as needed, moving to a hybrid method of support that meets the needs of participants as well as allowing previous participants the right to return if they still require support.
  • Service Providers proactively adapted to the changes in the type of support that participants required due to the economic climate and the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • We continue to consider lessons learned from previous years of Fair Start Scotland delivery, flexing the model to ensure that employment provision serves the specific needs of individuals.

Next Steps

  • The Scottish Government will respond to the findings of the Individual Placement and Support review in 2023, with a view to improving the overall quality and consistency of specialist support services as part of our future plans for employment provision in Scotland.
  • We will continue to seek to develop a better understanding of why participants leave Fair Start Scotland early and will use feedback from those who have restarted the service to help us do this.
  • The Scottish Government will continue to actively seek out and learn from the lived experience of participants via Disabled People's Organisations to further develop and improve employment support services across Scotland.

3.2: Partnerships

Collaboration with a wide range of partners continues to be a key component to Fair Start Scotland's success. Following the ease of restrictions, it was important that existing relationships were re-established and strengthened while new partner relationships were developed to ensure that the reach of Fair Start Scotland was extended and accessible to all who needed support.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

73% of participants in Year 4 were referred to Fair Start Scotland by Jobcentre Plus (JCP)xvi

The Scottish Government continued to engage with DWP to ensure that as we exited lockdown, Fair Start Scotland remained visible and reflective of participants' needs.

Service Provider Key Workers were once again able to visit Jobcentre Plus offices, and began to re-engage with Jobcentre staff, promoting the Fair Start Scotland offer, undertaking "warm handovers" where appropriate and presenting information sessions for potential participants. In addition, some Service Providers held weekly engagement days within Jobcentre Plus offices, allowing both new and existing JCP Work Coaches and potential participants the opportunity to ask any questions they had about the service.

With the introduction of DWP contracted employability services such as Kickstart and JETS (Job Entry Targeted Support) in response to COVID-19, Service Provider engagement with JCP was an important element of ensuring that participants were referred to the service most appropriate for their needs.

We worked closely with DWP to ensure that their staff remained informed of the Fair Start Scotland hybrid model where participants can choose whether to be supported face-to-face or remotely. This allowed JCP staff to accurately share the service offer with those potential participants who would benefit from support.

We also engaged with DWP to support the Adult Social Care Industry as part of a consortium to support both care sector employers and unemployed individuals in filling jobs within the sector.

In agreement with DWP, we took the decision to reduce the eligibility criteria for "length of unemployed" from 24 months to 12 months to reflect the changing labour market conditions.

The Scottish Government and DWP also worked together with the Scottish Prison Service and Local Authority representatives to develop an employability support offer to prisoners pre- and post-liberation in four prisons across the Scottish Prison network (Addiewell, Grampian, Greenock and Polmont). The project set out to review individuals with convictions level of awareness of Fair Start Scotland, pre- and post-liberation, and to identify areas to enhance and strengthen the support offered.

Activities undertaken to date for this project include the organisation of in person engagement between Service Provider and Prison staff to help develop relationships, liaising with the Education department within the prison and showcasing Fair Start Scotland at organised staff training events.

Criminal Justice

To support the Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service Pilot and to enhance the capability of Service Providers, ensuring that they were fully equipped to support participants with previous convictions on their employability journey, we commissioned training from Disclosure Scotland.

The training was delivered to Key Workers, Partnership and Employer Engagement Managers and in-work support staff. The training included all aspects of disclosure and practical tools for Service Providers to use in supporting these participants to understand how and when to disclose previous convictions. Disclosure Scotland also delivered an additional training course to Service Providers around Rehabilitation and Management of Offenders and how it may be applied.

A participant who was struggling to find employment due to a previous criminal conviction secured a role as an on-site building electrician,

"Thank you for understanding and seeing past my conviction and giving me the support and help that I didn't feel I was getting before speaking to you. You have gone above and beyond for me and I am very grateful for your time and help that has allowed me to accept this job that will help me get my life back." Fair Start Scotland Participant

Third Party Referral Organisations

27% of referrals in Year 4 have come from outwith JCP.xvii

Service Providers have continued to develop productive relationships with various organisations both nationally and within their local communities, to form effective referral pipelines to the service. Although the percentage share of referrals reduced in Year 4 in comparison to the percentage of referrals generated in Year 3, this is reflective of the period in Year 3 where DWP had understandably switched their focus to benefit payments in the early stages of lockdown.

This meant Service Providers were responsible for generating all referrals between late March to June 2020.

As the number of Third Party Organisation referrals reduced in Year 4, Service Providers have developed initiatives and commitments to explore and maximise opportunities to increase the number of these referrals as we progress to Year 5.

Despite restrictions, Service Providers continued to engage with several community partners e.g. Barnado's, Apex, Turning Point and Local Authorities to identify where participants could benefit from support. Service Providers identified that the sharing of marketing materials and outreach support such as coffee mornings were key to ensuring that the service remained visible.

Case Study

Fullarton Hub worked in collaboration with a Fair Start Scotland Service Provider to conduct cooking classes which were delivered digitally, with all food parcels being donated by supermarkets across the area. This aim of this initiative was to assist participants who did not have basic cooking skills to look after their own health and wellbeing on a budget.

"This allowed us to engage with our participants and their families who also joined the classes in a fun and informative way. From this engagement we were able to have a better understanding of our customers' mental health and personal situation and identify what further support may be required". Fair Start Scotland Service Provider

The increase in marketing Fair Start Scotland via Social Media in Year 3 continued to be a key factor in helping Service Providers generate referrals in Year 4; however, some Service Providers found that they had to adjust their social media marketing to reflect the ease of restrictions and to ensure that it focused on what would be relevant to potential participants at that particular time.

During Year 4, the Scottish Government and Fair Start Scotland Service Providers continued to develop and undertake initiatives as set out within Under-Represented Group Action Plans which were introduced in Year 3. The purpose of these plans was to identify and engage with organisations to extend the reach of Fair Start Scotland and develop relationships with new organisations that help to support local communities and individuals with the emerging cost crisis.

Part of our Continuous Improvement action plan focused on enhancing the learning that we undertook in Year 3 to increase our understanding of race equality and how we can effectively engage with minority ethnic community groups and representative organisations.

In April 2022, we commissioned a Scottish Government funded post with CEMVO, a national intermediary organisation and strategic partner of the Scottish Government Equality Unit. The post holder will help Service Providers to support ethnic minority participants on their journey by sharing their knowledge and experiences, to ensure that ethnic minority participants receive the required level of support to help them progress into and sustain employment.

"It's about building relationships based on trust, authenticity and accessibility. I believe the 'one model fits all' approach doesn't work anymore and consideration needs to be given to language barriers, cultural issues and disability access etc. People need to feel comfortable in the way they are engaged with." Padam Singh, Fair Start Scotland, Ethnic Minority Engagement Officer

In conjunction with Service Providers and CEMVO, we will continue to progress this work during Year 5.

Case Study

Women's Support Project

The Scottish Government has continued to work with the Women's Support Project and we are in the early stages of developing and creating a pathway for women to exit commercial sexual exploitation and join a mainstream employability service.

At present there are three test and learn projects underway across Scotland: Edinburgh (working with SACRO); Tayside (working with the Women's Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre); and South Lanarkshire (working closely with the Local Authority).

We continue to establish engagement within these locations and relationships have been developed between Service Providers and the organisations who support the women engaged in sex work. Although there has been some success in Edinburgh with a number of women interested in learning about the support available, it is recognised that this initiative will take time to embed. The relationships formed will be intrinsic to helping us engage with the women, offering support for when they are ready to join Fair Start Scotland.

Local Authorities

We want to have a place-based employability system that tackles inequalities in Scotland's labour market, creating a more responsive, joined up and aligned employability system that helps people of all ages, who face the greatest barriers to progress towards, into and to sustain work.

No One Left Behind is our strategy for placing people at the centre of the design and delivery of employability services. It promotes a strengthened partnership approach where Scottish & Local Government (through the Partnership Agreement for Employability) work together with public, third and privates sector partners to identify local labour market needs and make informed, evidence-based decisions for interventions and support, flexing these to meet emerging labour market demands.

Through the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, we have committed to work to simplify the employability system through No One Left Behind, to develop an all-age offer of support and deliver better outcomes for those most disadvantaged in society. The approach is not about designing new programmes, but instead, reforming the system to be more adaptable and responsive to meet the needs of people and to adapt more quickly to rapidly changing labour markets.

From April 2022 we made further progress in implementation of No One Left Behind. Based on lived experience feedback we continued to simplify the system and transferred funding previously allocated to Employability Fund and Community Jobs Scotland from national to local governance.

Almost 25,000 (24,907) people started receiving support from No One Left Behind in the first three and a quarter years from April 2019 to June 2022.xviii

Local Authorities act as lead accountable bodies for delivery of No One Left Behind, but the role of the Local Employability Partnership (LEPs) has also been strengthened since April 2022, with LEPs tasked with working with a range of partners and service users to ensure strategic planning, implementation and delivery of employment support within their local areas, providing a more inclusive, aligned and integrated service.

We have seen what can be achieved working in the spirit of partnership as we transform employment support in Scotland and we now have the opportunity to move into a space of further development and continuous improvement where we can continue to guide our work to better serve those further from the labour market.

Partnership is at the heart of No One Left Behind, we will continue to collaborate with local government and wider partners including those in the private and third sector to provide assurances that we are making progress in reaching our shared ambition on collective leadership and place-based approaches that prioritise the needs of people and communities.

Community Benefits

Delivering community benefits remained a significant challenge to Service Providers because of lockdowns and local restrictions. Frequent changes to COVID-19 guidance meant it was difficult for Service Providers to plan ahead and commit to activities within their communities.

Despite this, Fair Start Scotland continued to be represented at local events as Service Providers played an active role in supporting their communities. Some examples include:

  • Provision of Christmas presents for children within local communities
  • Fundraising for St Andrew's Hospice, Cash for Kids etc.
  • Sourcing of a cooker to allow for the provision of hot cooked meals for a local community hub
  • Supporting local foodbanks
  • Running fuel poverty advice days in liaison with energy experts.


  • Service Providers have continued to develop and build productive stakeholder relationships with a diverse range of partners. This has been instrumental in helping Fair Start Scotland to respond to the individual needs of our participants because of a changing employability landscape and the impact of COVID-19.
  • The Scottish Government introduced further changes to the eligibility conditions for the service, reflecting labour market conditions and allowing earlier access to employability support.
  • The Scottish Government and Service Providers have continued to take steps to expand the reach of Fair Start Scotland to underrepresented participants. Through the commissioning of the Disabled Persons Organisation and the Fair Start Scotland Ethnic Minority Engagement Officer, we are undertaking tangible activities to increase the knowledge and awareness of frontline staff to ensure that support is accessible and tailored to individual needs.

Next Steps

  • The actions and work undertaken as part of our collaboration with CEMVO and DPOs will provide knowledge and insight into lived experience, ensuring that minority ethnic and disabled participants receive appropriate support to help them progress into and sustain employment.
  • We will continue to engage and share good practice with all stakeholders within the Women's Support Network Project, and work towards developing a pathway that is informed by the women's experience and trusted by all practitioners in this space.
  • Working collaboratively with local employability partnerships as part of local governance measures, we will progress towards closer alignment and flexibility of services to meet the needs of the local community and displaced persons.
  • It is important that Fair Start Scotland is accessible to individuals with convictions pre- and post-liberation. We will ensure this is the case through ongoing engagement with colleagues in the Scottish Prison Service and DWP.
  • We will continue to work closely with DWP to implement key eligibility changes to the service, to reflect the changing employability landscape.

3.3: Employers


The importance of supporting people into fair and sustainable work remains core to the delivery model and to the Scottish Government's ambition to deliver and promote Fair Work Principles. The emerging cost crisis also means that it is essential that Fair Start Scotland continues to support wider ambitions such as tackling child poverty, and reducing the gender pay and disability employment gaps.

With employer demand for staff remaining consistently high from May 2021 onwards and labour shortages being prevalent in various areas, Service Providers had to once again adapt, develop and build new relationships with employers where they identified opportunities for participants. The changing labour market also made finding and sustaining employment that met participants' needs and aspirations challenging within some eligibility groups – including disabled people, those with long-term health conditions, women, lone parents, and people from minority ethnic groups.

In addition to the continuous improvement activities that Service Providers were undertaking in collaboration with Scottish Government to extend the reach of Fair Start Scotland, Service Providers had to develop innovative ways to engage with both participants and employers. As restrictions eased, the majority of employer engagement activities continued to take place remotely.

Case Study

Speed Networking

"We have implemented "Speed Networking". This was started in September 2021 whilst in the middle of very challenging times due to COVID-19 where employers were still reluctant to meet with participants face-to-face. To get our participants in front of our employers in a more efficient way we decided to run Speed Networking where we brought a number of employers into MS Teams and one by one let our participants introduce themselves to the employers in no more than 3 minutes, then the employers have a chance to ask them questions about themselves and their suitability for that organisation. The employer would then contact them for an interview following the session.

"It has been so much fun; the participants are normally quite nervous but because it is only for a few minutes they really enjoy it and are buzzing with confidence once they had done it. The feedback from employers has been great; they really like it as it enables them to meet a good number (around 15 participants each session) within an hour instead of just the usual one person. We have been conducting these sessions monthly". Fair Start Scotland Service Provider

Service Providers once again continued to inform and support employers on policies such as the Scottish Living Wage as well as work in collaboration to support participants whose needs and individual circumstances may have changed as a result of COVID-19. This includes support with alternative shift patterns, start times in line with reduced public transport and child care commitments.

"Numerous employers we have worked with have been continuously trying to recruit drivers within the Health and Social Care sector. After having conversations with employers, we have managed to convince some of our local employers to consider walkers (employees who walk from one client's house to the next), this has resulted in several participants moving into employment based upon transferable skills and the barrier has been removed in terms of them not being able to drive". Fair Start Scotland Service Provider

The changing employability landscape required Service Providers to engage with new employers and sectors where an increase demand for employees was identified. To help participants prepare and develop an understanding of these sectors and show how their transferable skills could be beneficial, some Service Providers delivered sector-based courses that participants could attend which included vacancies in; health and social care, retail, hospitality and security. This enabled participants with no prior experience to gain insight into specific areas of work, different employers and gave them the skills and knowledge to be able to apply for and secure jobs in these sectors.

"Our Sector Routeways offer participants the opportunity to attend an informal information session to hear all about a particular sector and the employers who are recruiting. Participants who are interested will then attend a welcome session and complete a 1–2 week Routeway.

We worked with employers through a dedicated Employer Relationship manager and our training team to design short training courses that would prepare applicants for interview and gave them an in-depth insight into the sector and the employer so that they have as much information as possible and are fully prepared for the employer's role and interview.

We will introduce additional sectors in 2022 such as logistics and manufacturing". Fair Start Scotland Service Provider

Employer Feedback

Service Providers developed relationships with new employers and continued to build on their relationships with existing employers.

Spectrum Service Solutions

"Spectrum Service Solutions began working with Fair Start Scotland in the summer of 2021, and it has been nothing short of a great success. The recruitment initiatives such as the monthly 'Speed Networking' remote meetings and 'Information Sessions' have enabled Spectrum to cast its recruiting net further afield. We enjoy the one-to-one relationships that Fair Start Scotland offers with their employer advisors and their speedy communication always comes with professionalism, patience and with an undertone of dedication in helping their candidates find work. Fair Start Scotland's investment in helping people gain confidence and get the skills required to support them back into employment comes out when it is time for candidates to sit down at their interview in front of employers. Spectrum Service Solutions have many success stories with working with Fair Start Scotland."

CET Tayside

Jan Fairhurst, CET HR Manager:

"As a business, CET has been looking at ways in which we can increase our pool of available talent and offer opportunities to individuals with health conditions who are restricted regarding where they can work due to potential issues with things like transport, as well as the physical building itself. I worked for a Service Provider earlier in my career, so I am aware of the fantastic support they provide to people who are looking for employment and, since CET moved to a 100% homeworking model, this has created significant opportunities for us to further engage with a more diverse workforce."


165 participants who joined Fair Start Scotland in Year 4 started a self-employed job.xix

Self-employment has always been an alternative route of employment for Fair Start Scotland participants. Following the end of the DWP programme, New Enterprise Allowance (NEA), which provided unemployed people with support to start-up their own business, the Scottish Government worked in partnership with DWP to map out alternative support in Scotland. As a result, Service Providers increased their resources to ensure that provision was still available for those who were interested in becoming self-employed.

Public Sector Opportunities

We continued to work in collaboration with Social Security Scotland (SSS) and other areas of the Scottish Government to identify employment opportunities and match the vacancies to those who experience labour market inequalities. Joint recruitment information sessions were held for each vacancy offering advice on applying for Scottish Government jobs. This work continues under the Going Forward into Employment (GFiE) initiative in which Fair Start Scotland was granted an exemption by the Civil Service Commission enabling its participants to apply for civil service employment through a streamlined recruitment process.

Employment opportunities are initially offered for a period of up to two years with the option to convert to a permanent role, subject to a participant's performance and other qualifying requirements. During the 12-month initial employment period, Service Providers will support both the participant and recruiting line manager by offering and delivering in-work support.

During Year 4, Fair Start Scotland supported 59 participants into Civil Service roles which they may not have applied for without support from Service Providers.

A significant number of successful candidates are from our identified priority groups, aligning with the Scottish Government's ambition for its workforce to be more reflective of the communities we serve.

The Scottish Government undertook a recent internal evaluation of GFiE, where we spoke to a number of line managers, recruitment managers and employees, seeking feedback on their experience and how it impacted their lives.

From the responses, we established that 62% of Fair Start Scotland participants would not have considered applying for Civil Service roles prior to this opportunity.

"I didn't think my skills and experience would mean I could get a job with the Civil Service". Fair Start Scotland Participant

"I would not have considered applying for a job in the Civil Service as I did not have the confidence and the job felt out of my league" Fair Start Scotland Participant

"I am very grateful for this opportunity and without GFiE may still be unemployed. It has very much improved my life over the past 6 months" Fair Start Scotland Participant

"I found the experience great. The Fair Start Scotland service is very supportive of the recruitment needs and the level of candidate expectations. It also understood the timescales we were working to". Recruitment Manager for Social Security Scotland

Tackling Child Poverty

The Scottish Government is committed to reducing child poverty to less than 10% by 2030; this requires lifting at least 140,000 children out of poverty in order to meet our statutory targets. We know that fair work can provide a sustainable route out of poverty for many families and our employability policies are expected to play a key role in meeting our ambitions in this area.

We are committed to supporting parents to access, sustain and progress in employment where this is their choice. Best Start, Bright Futures details the actions we will take to enhance our support for parents, including increasing the reach and effectiveness of our services for parents.

Since its launch, Fair Start Scotland has supported 8,348xx people that were parents. In Year 4 (2021-22), 2,947 people (29% of people starting in Year 4) were reported as parents. Of these 2,947:

  • 43% were disabled,
  • 43% were lone parents,
  • 3% were mothers aged under 25,
  • 23% were parents with three or more children
  • 38% had a child aged under 12 months
  • 10% were from a minority ethnic background.

The "Insights into participants' experiences of Fair Start Scotland Year 4" report highlighted that 48% of those who took part in a survey of parents reported that the support they received from the service helped them "a lot" to either start a job or stay in work, with a further 27% reporting that it either helped them "somewhat" or helped "a little". Those surveyed also identified that the following was the most useful in terms of the support they received:

  • Help with CV and job applications, interview process and information and tips on how to apply for a job
  • Regular contact
  • Encouragement and support and help with building confidence
  • Supportive key worker and friendly and understanding staff
  • Knowing there is support if I need it
  • Being understanding about a disability or a health condition
  • Financial support (e.g. with bus fares or with work clothes).

"I joined Fair Start Scotland after being referred by Fife Gingerbread. As I am a lone parent, I had found it difficult to structure my day around childcare and looking for work and when I did search for jobs, I could not see many that fitted around my childcare commitments.

Since coming on to Fair Start Scotland, I have been working with my Employment Advisor to identify local job opportunities that fit around my childcare and I have been working on the online resource that allows me to complete online training and vocational skills training to improve my confidence.

Thank you to Fair Start Scotland for giving me the confidence to get back out there in the job market. I feel so much more confident about finding my next job". Fair Start Scotland Participant


Our support for the Armed Forces Community continues and good progress is being made to ensure that service leavers/veterans have access to the mainstream services available to support them, with a wide range of other voluntary support if required, including assistance to access employment opportunities.

The established Veterans Employability Strategic Group, which has recently expanded its membership to include representatives from employers, continue to work on a veterans' portal and we are developing work with the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework (SCQF) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to ensure veterans' skills and qualifications are aligned and recognised by employers considering recruitment.

Fair Start Scotland continues to support veterans with Service Providers having access to workshops and guidance detailing the transferrable skills that veterans leave service with. Service Providers also provide the support required by veterans within their journey from service life into employment and civilian life.

"Our relationship with Fair Start Scotland is greatly beneficial. Working alongside them means that veterans can be provided with specialised support to get back on their feet and into work." John Alexander, SSAFA (The Armed Forces Charity) Coordinator


  • Overall, there have been 16,485xxi job starts between the launch of Fair Start Scotland and the end of Year 4.
  • We have continued to work with our Service Providers to explore additional employment opportunities to reflect the changing employability landscape, skills shortages and participant employment aspirations.
  • We have continued to promote the GFiE programme within core Scottish Government and other Governmental agencies which resulted in 59 participants being employed in Year 4.
  • We continue to ensure that Fair Start Scotland is accessible and supports those from under-represented groups in response to findings from our Evaluation activity, including those from priority family groups.

Next Steps

  • We will continue to work with our Service Providers to explore additional employment opportunities within a new employability landscape.
  • We will take forward learning from our work with Disabled People's Organisations, which will conclude in 2022, to help to shape further improvements to employability provision in Scotland.


Email: employabilityreporting@gov.scot

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