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.

4. Mobilisation and pre-launch

This chapter of the report sets out the aims of FSS, and focuses on communications and engagement during the set-up and mobilisation period, as well as the procurement process involved. 

The findings reported are mostly derived from the Rocket Science stakeholder review work and are grouped together into the key themes emerging from across all the Service Providers and partners who gave their views. 

4.1 Communications and engagement 

During the six month mobilisation period ahead of service launch on 3 April 2018, the Scottish Government led an extensive programme of communication and engagements with JCP Managers and Work Coaches, as well as frequent engagement with Service Providers, as they put in place the required staffing and infrastructure. There were specific meetings with each Service Provider that focused on the ethos of FSS and how it differed from previous programmes, in terms of the values and principles established by the Scottish Government to guide its design and delivery. In the mobilisation period the Scottish Government and some of the Service Providers were still delivering transitional services Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland. Whilst allowing for the building of relationships there may have been a dual focus for those organisations in preparing for FSS while also still delivering transitional services.

The Scottish Government also held Ministerial roundtable events that ran across all contract lot areas during the period January – March 2018, bringing together local partners including Service Providers, delivery partners, supply chain partners, JCP/DWP, Local Authorities, SDS and others representing the local employability delivery landscape, to encourage better partnerships at a local level and building on the November 2017 Employability Summit which focused on FSS partnership approach. 

There was regular review and dialogue with the commissioner during mobilisation and regular tweaking and revising of processes – in terms of scope change and Key Delivery Indicator evidence requirements. This involved well managed iterations.
- Lead Provider

A soft launch for early referrals to FSS was implemented by Scottish Government in mid March 2018, towards the end of the mobilisation period. The soft launch allowed SG and JCP to test the IT systems which support referrals, and FSS Service Providers the opportunity to embed their internal processes and customer journey applications, making adjustments as required. The soft launch was widely seen as valuable, providing opportunities to test and refine approaches and systems, and develop the new working relationships needed between Service Provider front line staff and JCP Work Coaches.

Service Providers considered the ‘Test and Learn’ approach used in the mobilisation stage as important in easing the introduction of a major new programme across Scotland, and there was general agreement that the approach and the nature of the relationship developed during the mobilisation phase had been collaborative:

It went from being directive to being more collaborative – taking on board everyone’s feedback before they came back. This meant there was a delay as it went through policy and procurement, but it helped with ensuring improvements.
- Lead Provider

It has been the best, most organised implementation process I have experienced. A strong collegiate approach by SG, very structured – some may say too many meetings – but great to have regular contact.
- Lead Provider

While there were a number of comments which were very positive about the collegiate approach during the mobilisation stage, there was a feeling from some Service Providers that, despite the engagement with providers and stakeholders, the Scottish Government could have gone further with their innovative approach to procurement and overall design.

The process was very consultative, but when it came to the final bit [we felt that] SG became quite risk averse. 
- Lead Provider

There was evidence of a lot of learning on all sides, some of which was related to the scale and scope of a new kind of employability programme, and to thinking through the kinds of information that would be needed to manage it effectively:

The commissioner did not realise that scope changes can take 4 weeks – or up to 3 months if it involved IT
- Lead Provider

A small number of interviewees mentioned the challenges of prioritising actions against a background of operational mobilisation, new aims and guidance and regular requests from the commissioner. There was a general recognition that all parties were working to challenging deadlines and that there were a variety of assurance processes that needed to be completed to ensure that the service went live on time. 

Also central to mobilisation was the briefing of JCP Work Coaches through a Scotland-wide roadshow starting in January 2018. This involved an extensive programme of direct meetings between Scottish Government staff, Service Providers and JCP Work Coaches and Team Leaders, which succeeded in engaging with around 1,500 Work Coaches across Scotland. This was widely regarded by all involved as well designed, appreciated and effective. The engagements were seen as open and interactive with a ready exchange of views and questions and a readiness to identify and seek to respond to practical issues. 

All the communication went well, we were determined to get it right this time, having learnt a lot from Work First and Work Able[14].
- JCP/DWP staff

It was a good opportunity to set up links at an early stage. There was still a lot to be sorted out at that stage but it was good to meet face to face. 
- JCP/DWP staff

The Work Coaches really engaged, and asked any questions they liked.
- SG staff

The Scottish Government’s work with Jobcentre Plus had a positive impact. 
- Lead Provider

The Rocket Science surveys were able to give insight into how frontline staff felt about the early stages. Around two thirds (66%) of the frontline Service Provider staff surveyed agreed with the statement "I have felt well informed about the implementation of FSS throughout the early delivery stage”, with 98% agreeing that they felt committed to helping make FSS a success. 

These positive feelings were also echoed in the Rocket Science survey of JCP Work Coaches, with 91% agreeing that they had felt well informed throughout the early delivery stage, and all agreeing that they were committed to making FSS a success. 

Some of the contract areas were affected by the full service roll out of Universal Credit during the mobilisation phase and these areas were omitted from the roadshow. The roll out required JCP Work Coaches to be taken off their front line roles for six weeks of training, and these roles needed to be backfilled by staff from other areas. Service Providers and JCP recognised that this may have compromised the ability of their staff to build working relationships during this time. 

In some of the more remote rural areas there was a sense that roadshow presenters (made up of SG, DWP and Service Provider staff) were perhaps unaware of the local geography and the practical issues that JCP Work Coaches and Service Provider staff might face. It was also felt by some Service Providers and JCP staff that, at the time of the engagements, there were not yet answers to some of the practical issues raised. However, they were seen as a useful opportunity to raise these practical issues with SG staff who could ensure that they were fed back into the process of translating policy into practice.

4.2 Procurement 

There was near universal recognition by Service Providers of how positive and constructive the procurement process had been.

The Scottish Government is one of the best commissioners we have worked with – they were quite proactive in engagement and quite specific in their requirements. 
- Lead Provider

 This is unlike our previous funder/Provider relationships – this feels much more human. It feels like we are in the same boat.
- Lead Provider

However, despite early constructive engagement, and a full description of the customer journey in the procurement documentation, a few Service Providers felt that the procurement process had ended up in practice reflecting a more traditional policy approach than they had initially expected.

The procurement focus was quite old school – it focused more on referral and attraction of customers rather than on the full participant journey and retention.
- Lead Provider

Scottish Government were open about the challenges of their desire to develop an innovative and responsive new Scottish approach, which was set against their lack of experience in developing and delivering operational employability services at the scale of FSS

What worked well?

  • The length and use of the six month mobilisation period and the detailed briefing of JCP staff (Work Coaches and team leaders) and Service Providers
  • The flexible and responsive approach to issues that arose during the mobilisation phase and early delivery
  • The mobilisation process was widely considered to have been thorough and well managed
  • There was an effective communication strategy throughtout the mobilisation phase and in particular, an appreciation of the extensive and open engagement with JCP Work Coaches
  • The six month mobilisation period was considered to be an appropriate length and the soft launch in mid-March was also appreciated, allowing early testing of approaches and systems

What could be improved?

  • A few Service Providers felt that the procurement process had ended up, in practice, reflecting a more traditional policy approach than was originally expected.

What are we doing?

  • The Scottish Government is moving towards more bespoke local solutions in the employability field as set out in No One Left Behind[15].
  • As part of No One Left Behind, work is under way to reform the employability system with a view to ensuring that user needs are the starting point for how services work and how different partners work together. Most areas have joint partnership groups that discuss employability issues but there is more for all parties to consider in making processes more effective and evidence based. 
  • Ensuring more time is spent on pre market engagement, including more engagement with stakeholders to develop future service offers, based on greater levels of collaboration.


Email: Kirstie.Corbett@gov.scot

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