Fair Start Scotland in Alloa
This chapter outlines the key features of FSS in Alloa. The Alloa locality services the whole of the Clackmannanshire local authority area. Therefore, in practice, this case study represents findings from Clackmannanshire more broadly. This chapter covers:
- A description of Clackmannanshire including the socio-economic context and labour market
- Analysis of the FSS management and performance data for Clackmannanshire
- A description of the delivery of FSS in Clackmannanshire
- Key lessons we can draw from this case study area
This section provides information about labour market patterns and socioeconomic trends in Alloa and Clackmannanshire, focusing on levels of deprivation, unemployment and skills and education. It also provides descriptions of local-level efforts to increase employability and to revitalise the local economy, as well as common barriers to employment within the local area. The population of Clackmannanshire is around 51,400.
There are high levels of deprivation and unemployment in Clackmannanshire
According to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, parts of Alloa are in the top 5% of most deprived data zones in Scotland, with the most deprived areas being Alloa South and East. Similar levels of deprivation can be seen across Clackmannanshire more generally, with 25% of children in the area living in poverty. High levels of deprivation in Clackmannanshire have had an increasing impact on health outcomes over the last few years, with over 25% of children at risk of being overweight or obese in 2017.
Figure 1: A map of Alloa, colour-coded according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation deciles. The south and east areas of the city are in the most deprived decile [Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2016: Alloa].
Overall, 4.2% of Clackmannanshire’s working-age population claim out-of-work benefits, compared with 3.1% across Scotland. The age group that has the greatest proportion of benefits claimants is 18-24 year olds (8.1% of whom claim benefits, compared to only 4.3% for that age group across Scotland), while the age group that has the lowest proportion of benefits claimants is 16-17 year olds (1.2%, which is double the proportion across Scotland), followed by 50+ (2.5%, which is a similar level to the rest of Scotland).
The majority of people who claim benefits are male (5.3% compared with 3.2% of women). There is no available data through the Office for National Statistics that disaggregates data on unemployment by sex in Clackmannanshire. There is a significant gender pay-gap in Clackmannanshire, with males earning £625.10 per week on average and females earning £409.70. This gap of £215.40 is significantly larger than the average gap in Scotland of £82.70.
On average, residents in Clackmannanshire have lower levels of qualifications compared with Scotland
Clackmannanshire overall has a smaller proportion of people with the highest level of education (NVQ4 and above) than the national level for Scotland (39.8% compared with 44.2%). It has a greater proportion of people with no qualifications (11.7% compared with 9.7% across Scotland). Within the Forth Valley, 41% of employees work in higher level occupations; 32% work in mid-level occupations and 27% work in lower level occupations. However, it is expected that the proportion of people in mid-level occupations will significantly decrease (to 23%), while the proportion of people in lower level occupations will significantly increase (38%), overtaking the number of mid-level jobs.
Transport is a challenge for job seekers and impacts on their ability to participate in support services and travel to and from work
One of the biggest challenges for jobseekers in Clackmannanshire is finding available and affordable public transport. 56% of workers who live in Clackmannanshire commute outside of their local authority, which is the highest in the Forth Valley region. 29% of workers travel to Stirling, 9% to Falkirk, 5% to Fife and 4% to Edinburgh.
However, public transport can be expensive, and some people have neither the knowledge nor confidence to use public transport options. According to interview participants, people with physical and mental health issues are often unwilling to use public transport.
There are several service providers in the region who help people to overcome some of travel barriers through emotional and financial support, including Skills Development Scotland, Jobcentre Plus, Activity Agreements and Clackmannanshire Works.
There is a lack of employment opportunities in Clackmannanshire with challenges associated in accessing employment in nearby areas
Alloa has the second lowest job density in Scotland (the problems began after the decline of industry which caused a reduction in the number and variety of jobs). Interview participants pointed out that not only are there very few jobs, those that are available tend to be entry-level and low-paid. Moreover, many of the jobs, including retail jobs, are only offered as part-time opportunities.
Interviewees also felt that there are few large companies that are willing to commit to providing opportunities and supported employment to people with disabilities. High levels of competition for jobs in the area leaves little opportunity for people who have barriers to employment (such as age, work experience or long-term unemployment) from accessing the labour market.
Shops in the town centre are closing, reducing the number of jobs available. Some of the only large employers left are the supermarkets and the glassworks.
Clackmannanshire Council have introduced a variety of initiatives that have been aimed at increasing local economic growth and the availability of jobs. These have included:
- Investing £400 million in economic development through the creation of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway; Clackmannanshire Bridge; a number of housing and retail developments; and three new secondary schools.
- Renewing the Alloa Town Centre ‘Business Improvement District’
- Investing £2.4 million in the town centre regeneration project, ‘Imagine Alloa’.
- Agreeing to the City Region Deal in 2018, which includes an investment of £90.2 million in Stirling and Clackmannanshire, with an estimated creation of around 5000 jobs over a ten to fifteen-year period.
The labour market in Clackmannanshire is shaped by higher than average levels of unemployment and low job density (0.48 jobs per person, compared with 0.81 across Scotland). While 77.3% of Clackmannanshire’s population is economically active, 4.5% of that group is unemployed (slightly higher than the Scottish average of 4.3%). Overall, 19.8% of households are workless, compared to 18% in Scotland. Clackmannanshire has a higher than average proportion of part-time workers (35.7% compared with 33.9% in Scotland and 32.5% in Great Britain).
The biggest industry in Clackmannanshire is the wholesale and retail trade (including motor vehicle repair), which provides 17.9% of the jobs in the area. The second biggest industry is human health and social work activities (14.3%) and education (12.5%). This pattern is expected to continue through to 2028. The industries that provide the fewest jobs in the area include mining and quarrying (0.1%); electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply (0.2%); and financial and insurance activities (0.5%), most of which match the levels of employment in these industries across Scotland more broadly.
The industries in which the largest expected growth is forecast include construction (11%); professional, scientific and technical roles (9%); and administration and support services (9%). Meanwhile, the industries in which the largest employment decreases are forecast are mining and quarrying (-26%); manufacturing (-14%); and public administration and defence (-11%).
As in many other parts of Scotland, most employers in Clackmannanshire are micro-businesses, employing fewer than ten people (only 5 businesses in the area are large employers with at least 250 employees).
Individuals who are out of work in Clackmannanshire often have complex needs – in particular long periods of unemployment and poor mental health
Many interviewees pointed out that a significant number of people in Alloa suffer from mental health problems and the town does not have enough resources to provide effective services. While Clackmannanshire Council offers services through a Community Access Team (CAT) and the Mental Health Resource Centre, people suffering from mental health conditions face long waiting times for referral and treatment.
There are also many people in Clackmannanshire who have been unemployed for long periods of time because of chronic health difficulties or because they are in chaotic situations. Some interviewees also noted that there were cases of intergenerational worklessness.
Recruitment and exposure to employment opportunities is often informal and through word of mouth, increasing the importance of knowing the right people in order to find employment
Interviewees stated that many jobs are offered on a word-of-mouth basis, so a person’s exposure to these depends on their network. Members of the community who have weak social ties, or mental health conditions that can cause people to struggle with building relationships, are therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to searching for jobs. This is emphasised by comments from a few participants we interviewed who said that FSS had helped them to find out about opportunities at local employers.
The dependency on networks is also a problem for people with previous convictions or who are members of families with a bad reputation in the area because employers may not be willing to take them on. Because the community in Alloa is fairly small, these individual and family reputations can be well known throughout the community. Interviewees felt that this was less of a problem among larger employers such as supermarkets, but that since most of Alloa’s employers are micro-businesses, it remains a significant issue.
There are very few employability providers and providers of specialist services in Clackmannanshire
The Council is the biggest provider, and there is also LifeSkills (who have reduced their Clackmannanshire operations) and CTSI. Stirling and Falkirk have a higher range of providers.
Existing provision includes:
- Jump Start provides basic skills training to young people, with a focus on increasing employability.
- Activity Agreements provide young people with one-to-one support from key workers, with whom they create action plans that focus on employability and skills development.
- Ceteris Business Gateway provides support for people who are considering becoming self-employed.
- Skills Development Scotland provides a range of careers advice services, including services for Modern Apprenticeships and support for people who have been made redundant.
Access to IT for job seekers is challenging
One interviewee pointed out that the closure of local libraries (including libraries in more rural areas) has made it more difficult for people who do not have access to IT equipment at home to search and apply for jobs. People who live outside or on the outskirts of Alloa are at a particular disadvantage, since they have to pay for transport to be able to access IT facilities.
Many older job seekers in the area have limited IT skills, having spent many years working in industries where they were not required. Some people therefore require extensive support with creating CVs and searching and applying for jobs. This is reflected in comments from some of the participants we interviewed, who said that FSS helped to enhance their skills in creating CVs, searching for jobs on the internet and making online applications.
The affordability and availability of childcare is often a barrier to finding and sustaining employment
Interviewees stated that both the affordability and availability of childcare provided a huge barrier to single parents and working families. For some parents and guardians, the need to pick up children from school means that they can only work for limited hours within a tight schedule and they are not able to take on the irregular hours that most jobs in the area (particularly retail jobs) entail. A few participants we interviewed spoke about childcare being a barrier to finding work, including one who said they had been unable to find a job where the working hours would allow them to drop off and collect their child before and after school.
The affordability and availability of formal identification documents can be a barrier to finding and sustaining employment
Several interviewees mentioned that it is often expensive and time-consuming for clients to obtain the formal photo identification that they need to apply for jobs or driving licenses that would enable them to travel to work. An inability to afford driving lessons has also prevented some jobseekers from applying for jobs where this is a requirement.
Management and performance data for FSS
The infographic below draws on the management and performance data collected between April 2018 and March 2019. It covers all FSS participants who are registered with the Alloa Job Centre which services participants from across Clackmannanshire.
115 individuals participated in 2018/19
76% with disability or health condition
40% aged under 35 years
32% aged 35- 49
27% aged 50+
6% Sustained work for 13 weeks
8% of men
3% of women
7% with disability/health condition
1.7% sustained work for 26 weeks
Key trends to note in Alloa and Clackmannanshire are:
- Of the FSS participants whose race and nationality were recorded (n=103), 88.4% were White Scottish, while a further 9.7% were recorded as ‘Other White British’. Only one person’s race was recorded as ‘ethnic minority’.
- 53.9% of all participants were male, while 46.1% were female – compared to 65% male and 35% female across all FSS Lot areas
- 18.3% of all participants were aged 16-24; 21.7% were aged 25-34; 32.2% were aged 35-49 and 27% were aged 50+. Across all FSS lot areas the most common age of participants was 35 to 49 (31% of participants).
- Most participants had a disability or health condition, the vast majority of whom said it affected their ability to work. Of participants whose health status was recorded (n=104), 76% of participants had a disability or some form of health condition – compared to 64% across all FSS lot areas. The most common types of illness were mental health conditions and learning disabilities. Of the participants for whom an illness was recorded, a total of 81.5% said that it affected their ability to work, with 25.9% responding that it affected their ability to work ‘a lot’ and 55.6% saying it affected their ability to work ‘a little’.
- 6% of participants obtained and sustained 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week and 1.7% sustained employment for 26 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week. This is compared to 9%, and 4% across all FSS lot areas respectively.
- 8% of male participants sustained 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week compared to 3% of female participants.
- 25-34 year olds were the most likely to sustain 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week (12%), while participant who were 50+ were least likely to sustain 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week (3.2%).
Features of FSS in Alloa
The lot area covers the local authority areas of Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire. The FSS contract is held by a consortium of the three councils with Falkirk Council holding overall responsibility for the delivery of FSS in the contract area.
The three councils operate FSS fairly independently, with each council responsible for the delivery of FSS in their area. The three councils work together to meet reporting and auditing requirements and there are some specialist services including mental health and IPS services that are available to all three councils. While the three services sit separately, operationally the areas report benefit in working together strategically as well as sharing learning and skills. For example, Stirling has experience in running IPS supported employment services which Falkirk identified as helpful in understanding how to implement IPS services in their area.
The FSS service in Clackmannanshire is run by the Council’s employability service “Clackmannanshire Works”, known colloquially in the area as “Clacks Works”. The service is operated out of the Clackmannanshire Council building in Alloa. Clackmannanshire Works has been a long-standing provider of employability services in the area and has well established relationships with the local Jobcentre and third sector organisations in the area. In conversations with third sector organisations and the local Jobcentre all interviewees reported on the long standing and important relationships with Clackmannanshire Works and it is clear that they are a trusted and valued provider in the area. They emphasised the strong communication that they had with FSS key workers and that they felt able to share concerns about FSS participants.
“We’ve got an excellent relationship with Clacks Works and have done for years. We were all quite glad that they got the Fair Start contract. It’s good that we can just pick up the phone and ask how a customer is doing.” JCP Staff
In addition to FSS, Clackmannanshire Works also runs an ESF-funded employability programme which is funded until 2021. This project has a regular stream of referrals from the Jobcentre and others.
Clackmannanshire Council also deliver employability support funded through European Structural Funds (ESF). This is entirely separate from any support funded through FSS as contractual arrangements with FSS providers prohibit the use of ESF funded support for FSS participants, specifically to avoid double funding of the same provision. This means that there are two teams of key workers in Clackmannanshire Works – one for FSS and one for their ESF programme. There have been cases where participants have been transferred from FSS to their ESF programme, and vice versa, but no participant receives support from both at once. For example, one participant we interviewed, who is coming to the end of FSS but still needs support, will be transferred to the ESF programme when they complete FSS.
There are small operational efficiencies associated with running more than one employability service at once. The senior key worker manages key workers across both services with her time allocated in budgets between the two contracts. In addition, the externally commissioned IT training is part funded by ESF and part funded by FSS so that only one contract is required, and the service can operate at economies of scale.
FSS in Clackmannanshire follows the key worker model, where participants have a single key worker who works through the service with them. Clackmannanshire Works pays particular attention to ensuring consistency of care for participants and therefore prioritises participants staying with the same key worker throughout their time on FSS. Participants who took part in interviews as part of the evaluation valued this consistency, which allowed them to build a trusting relationship with their key worker. This was especially important for those who needed to improve their confidence or who have more complex personal, emotional or wellbeing issues to address. Their worker provides “someone to talk to” for these participants. The vast majority of regular meetings with key workers occur in the Alloa offices of Clackmannanshire Works.
The service also employs a Job Broker who:
- Identifies work experience placements and work opportunities
- Works with participants to prepare them for their engagement with employer and job interviews
- Develops and manages relationships with employers who have employed participants to manage the early days of placement and employment.
- This job broker primarily looks for employment and work experience placements within the Clackmannanshire Local Authority area. There appears to be three drivers for this approach:
- A view by staff that Fair Start participants are unwilling to travel beyond Clackmannanshire to take up an employment opportunity
- Transport options limiting a participant’s ability to easily travel to take up employment opportunities outside Clackmannanshire
- Operational separation of the FSS lot area meaning that each of the three local authorities in this lot look for employment opportunities in their own area and not each other’s areas.
Clackmannanshire Works has contracted out two particular parts of the FSS delivery:
- The local Third Sector Interface (CTSi) is contracted to provide IT training for FSS participants. There are held in Alloa and nearby Tullibody in Clackmannanshire each week. Two separate 1.5 hour sessions per week are run as 6 week courses introducing participants to IT basics. The other session is held as weekly drop-in class for participants to access support with specific questions they have
- The local Citizen’s Advice Service is contracted to provide 20 hours a week of support for FSS. These 20 hours a week are used to make appointments for participants to have the required benefits calculations done as well as provide support and advice on any other financial or legal concerns they have.
In addition, Clackmannanshire Works has a range of informal relationships with other third sector organisations in the area – for example, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) has around 10 FSS participants volunteering for them as part of their FSS required work related activity.
Clackmannanshire Works keeps the majority of other support required as part of FSS in-house and it is largely provided by the key workers and the job broker due to:
- In house expertise available that has been built up over a long period of running similar employability services
- A lack of local support organisations and services available to refer to.
Clackmannanshire Works staff describe the FSS service as more akin to a health and wellbeing service than a pure employability service in their area due to:
- A prevalence of long-term unemployment in the area driven by significant mental and physical health barriers to employment and intergenerational unemployment from the history of industry closures in the area
- The existing ESF service in Clackmannanshire already supporting many of those who are closer to employment.
“If we didn’t think they’d get a job in 12 months, I’d still send them to Fair Start, hoping that they’ll manage.” Clacks Works Staff
Lessons from this case study
Those we spoke to were clear that FSS has a number of strengths that set it apart from other employability services:
- Given the low national rates of unemployment there is general consensus that a service that focuses on health and work is an important focus
- Clackmannanshire Works (and Falkirk Council as the lead provider) have valued the relationship they have with Scottish Government and, in particular, the openness with which they have approached their relationship with providers and their focus on continuous improvement
- It is felt that the key worker model is valued and that there is a high level of trust in the quality of the key workers in Clackmannanshire Works.
- Participants value the personalised and wide-ranging support that FSS offers as well as the key workers’ understanding and non-judgemental approach, which is in line with the Scottish Government’s principles of dignity and respect.
In relation to Clackmannanshire specific delivery the following strengths emerged:
- The established relationships and reputation Clackmannanshire Works held appeared to be helpful in establishing the FSS service early as Clackmannanshire Works:
- Is trusted within the community which increases willingness of organisations to refer to FSS and for participants to attend
“Because a lot of our customers have been through Clacks Works, sometimes they know the key workers before they go in.”
- Holds a large amount of in-house expertise in both management and frontline staff on delivering similar services
- Has established relationships with providers and partners that means they can easily access specialist support such as volunteering, IT training, and financial and legal advice.
- Employers had positive interactions with FSS in Clackmannanshire and felt that awareness of FSS was still building amongst employers. Many employers we spoke to felt that the job broker had created a smooth recruitment process and that she understood their needs when assigning clients for work placements. The fact that the job broker provided them with her contact details made them feel confident that they had a point of contact if they needed extra support. One employer was surprised at how easy the process was and said:
“At first, I thought there must be a catch, but there wasn’t. It was very flexible.”
Another employer said:
“It was our first experience with Clacks Works and it was spot on, really professionally done.”
- Most employers we spoke to felt that the clients had been useful in the workplace and they had met or surpassed their expectations.
- Employers felt that providing work experience was an important part of contributing to their community and that it would have reputational benefits for them as well
“When you have a situation when you’re helping with the community, it says a lot about an employer.”
- In Clackmannanshire it was felt by FSS delivery staff, JCP staff and other stakeholders that job opportunities were limited and that while it was easy to find a work experience placement, this often didn’t turn into paid employment. The importance of managing expectations for those on a work placement was important and that there was often disappointment felt by everyone including Clackmannanshire Works, the participant and employers when successful work experience didn’t turn into employment.
- The operation of the service by the three local authorities in the contract area appears to be working well overall and staff from the two local authorities we spoke to see the benefit in taking a regional approach to planning, strategy and resourcing even if operationally the service is run more locally.
- It was noted by partners that FSS in Clackmannanshire seemed to be doing well at coordinating local effort already in place, but that the tight FSS budget limited the ability of the service to invest in more capacity – particularly around supporting organisations that provide supported volunteering placements. It was felt by provider delivery staff, their partners and supply chain that long term sustainability of the broader network of services in an area required financial investment and support in those services to accompany any referrals that occur.
Both Clackmannanshire Works and Falkirk Council appreciate the regional approach to the Fair Start contract. They feel it enables them to work together strategically and share learning and expertise across the region – particularly where one of the areas has a specialist expertise or experience. Operationally the areas have set FSS up as three distinct Local Authority area services as they felt this enabled them to best support their locals. There is very little operational activity happening at a regional level. Therefore, this case study provides limited insight into regional approaches to operational delivery.
This operational separation by the three partners appears to have strengths in that it enables local provision of support in each of the three areas. Clackmannanshire Works reported that under other employability services and by other organisations, provision within the Clackmannanshire area was limited as provision was centralised, usually in Falkirk. They felt that this meant that those living in Clackmannanshire often missed out as they were unwilling or unable to travel to where provision was. However, there may be value in a more regional approach to the job matching function and job broker role to ensure that job opportunities are not arbitrarily limited by each local authority provider looking for roles only within their local authority boundaries.
Those we interviewed also raised several challenges they found in the first year of implementation of FSS which may have implications for FSS more generally:
- Clackmannanshire Works have been able to align existing provision and achieve some operational efficiencies through their various employability services. However, the extent to which Clackmannanshire Works was able fully integrate provision through FSS is limited due the ESF contribution to the FSS budget. Scottish Government may want to reflect on the balance between using ESF funding and enabling service integration for future provision.
- The structured nature of the service can be challenging for participants who still have chaotic lives.
- For some participants, finding employment within 12 months is challenging, particularly for those who have more complex needs. Some of the participants we interviewed experienced significant barriers to finding work and, while they made progress during their participation in FSS, they still required further support to continue moving towards employment at the end of 12 months.
- Flexibility around disengaging and re-engaging is important because unpredictability or setbacks in participants’ lives can mean that it is better for them to take a break from the service without the time taken out being removed from their 12-month timeframe. This also includes limitations provided by only being able to access FSS once. Staff reported that participants can be referred who aren’t ready at that point but would likely benefit from FSS at a future date, usually once another external factor had been addressed or had settled. However, staff reported that the referral was unable to be declined or delayed to enable participants to come to FSS at a later date.
A number of less tangible outcomes that represent progress towards employment, such as volunteering or full-time study, represent significant achievements for participants, but are not recognised within FSS’s payment and outcomes structure.
It was generally felt by those we interviewed across Clackmannanshire Works, their partner organisations and the Jobcentre that due to the nature of jobs and contracts available in the area as well as participant’s health needs, it is likely that:
- 16 hours would be too much for some participants to sustain but that FSS did not appropriately recognise jobs with fewer than 16 hours. DWP and Jobcentre staff noted that they had removed references to 16 hours in their policies and procedures and that aligning FSS with DWP expectations around work may be more appropriate
“The bar has been set too high because there are really disadvantaged people.”
- The number of hours a participant will work may vary from week to week. Administratively this can pose problems where individuals switch between working more or less than 16 hours a week. These situations switch the participant from pre-work to in-work support and vice versa.
Eligibility for early entry could be extended to other groups of individuals so that those leaving the armed forces can access support. It was felt that waiting for the required time in unemployment to be able to access FSS may place individuals at more of a disadvantage. Jobcentre staff pointed out:
“We have people who are work ready and want the help, but they’ve not been unemployed long enough”
Clackmannanshire Works are finding that while many participants referred are eligible for the service, some may not be suitable for FSS. In particular, there is concern that, for some participants, employment within 12 months realistic. It is clear that the Alloa Jobcentre have a lot of trust in Clackmannanshire Works and want to refer those who are eligible for FSS in the hope that working with Clackmannanshire Works will change the timeframe of employment.
Reporting is considered to be administratively burdensome and it is felt that this can divert time away from supporting participants. There was also a concern that the rigidity of the reporting can detract from being able to provide a person-centred approach. Suggestions were raised that now that FSS was moving into its second year and Scottish Government had established relationships with providers that reporting requirements could be reviewed. We understand that a review of KDI and KPIs is currently underway within Scottish Government
Despite consultation on devolved employment services suggesting that referrals for support should not include too much historic detail on participants, some [provider] key workers had concerns that they not have many details on participants prior to engaging with them. This was felt to have an impact on the key workers’ ability to provide tailored support from the outset and meant that key workers had to rely on uncovering information themselves through working with the participant.
Providers were concerned that some participants can find the induction process intimidating asthe FSS induction process is very detailed, and the amount of information required can feel overwhelming for some more vulnerable participants. Providers emphasised the importance of having enough time over a number of weeks to build up relationships with participants and explore their support needs.
Key workers would like the flexibility to have an early conversation with participants and then give them a chance to think about whether FSS is for them before participation on the service starts.
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