Fair Start Scotland evaluation report 1: implementation and early delivery review

This Fair Start Scotland (FSS) evaluation report covers evaluation findings and data analysis relating to the implementation and early delivery of FSS employment support services in the first 6 months of delivery.

2. Introduction

2.1 Purpose of this report

This is the first FSS evaluation report published by the Scottish Government. The report covers evaluation findings and data analysis relating to the implementation and early delivery of FSS employment support services in the first six months of delivery, from mobilisation preparations, through the launch in April 2018, to 30 September 2018.

This report presents information from four different data sources: 

  • Externally commissioned research by Rocket Science UK Ltd, including: 
    • interviews with SG delivery and policy leads (six interviews), FSS Service Provider senior staff (twelve interviews), and DWP/JCP senior staff (eight interviews); 
    • online surveys with Service Provider front line staff (171 responses) and JCP Work Coaches (90 responses). 
  • Scottish Government analysis of FSS Service Provider management information; and
  • A series of ten focus groups with FSS participants, conducted by Scottish Government analysts; 

Further information about the evaluation methods used to gather the findings reported here can be found in Appendix 4.

2.2 Background

In early 2019, unemployment rates for Scotland (3.2%) and the rest of the UK (3.8%) reached record lows, and the Scottish and UK economies have largely recovered from the 2008-09 recession. However, there remains significant uncertainty around the potential impacts of EU exit. SG has designed a new employability service at, and for, this time of low unemployment, which focuses on those seeking work who are further from the labour market. 

Recent forecasts suggest that leaving the EU without a deal could lead to a sharp rise in unemployment in Scotland.[4] In these circumstances, the target groups for FSS may remain appropriate (i.e. those who need the most help to find work and who, without help, are unlikely to find sustainable work) but the opportunities for employment could shrink significantly. 

The evaluation and ongoing performance management and monitoring of FSS services over the coming three years are designed to provide both the real-time and longer-term impact evidence required to continuously improve current service delivery and develop services fit for the future.

FSS is the Scottish Government’s first fully devolved national employment support service. The Scottish Government had taken on employability powers in 2017 and exercised those powers through transitional services WFS and WAS. The learning from those services and the overriding principles of dignity and respect were taken forward in FSS.

On 4 October 2017 the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP, announced the award of Contracts up to £96 million to deliver FSS, with provision due to be delivered by a mixed economy of public, private and third sector suppliers, in nine Contract Areas across Scotland. There is more detailed information on the FSS Service Providers and contract areas in Appendix 2.

Launched on 3 April 2018, FSS aims to support at least 38,000 people, including those facing barriers to entering the labour market. The key focus for the service is to provide tailored and personalised support for all those who participate. 

Key elements of the service are:

  • Participation will be entirely voluntary;
  • All participants can expect to receive in-depth action planning to ensure the support they receive is tailored for them and suits their individual needs and circumstances;
  • The service will offer pre-work support of 12-18 months;
  • The service will offer high quality in-work support for up to 12 months;
  • Those who require specialist support to help them find work can expect to receive it;
  • There will be national standards to ensure everyone is supported consistently across the nine geographic contract areas across Scotland;
  • For disabled customers who require intensive support, Supported Employment and Individual Placement and Support will be available.

The FSS service delivery model is based on evidence of what works in employability support and was developed in consultation with delivery partners, employability providers and the Scottish public[5]

Scottish Ministers have committed to a “test and learn” approach to the long-term development and continuous improvement of devolved employability services and both the FSS service design and evaluation reflect this approach. The FSS evaluation plan will report annually on the process, outcomes and impact of service delivery, capturing the experiences of all those involved in FSS delivery and participation. 

For further information on the overall FSS evaluation plan, see Appendix 3.


Email: Kirstie.Corbett@gov.scot

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