Fair Start Scotland evaluation report 2: local area case studies - November 2019

Part of the Fair Start Scotland evaluation series. It presents detailed findings from the first wave of local area case studies in Alloa, Wick and Irvine and includes feedback from FSS service providers, participants, local delivery partners and other local people facing similar barriers to employment.

FSS in Wick

This chapter outlines the key features of FSS in Wick. This chapter covers:

  • A description of Wick and the Caithness area more generally, including the socio-economic context and labour market
  • Analysis of the FSS management and performance data for Wick
  • A description of the delivery of FSS in Wick
  • Key lessons we can draw from this case study area.

Area profile

This section provides information about labour market patterns and socioeconomic trends in Wick; Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross; and the Highlands more broadly, 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 overall population for Caithness and Sutherland was 39,732 according to the 2011 census.[32]

There are higher levels of deprivation in Wick than many other parts of the Highlands
Some areas of Wick have significant levels of deprivation. In Wick South and Wick North, life expectancy at birth for males in 73.3 years and 72.8 years respectively, which is lower than life expectancy in the Highlands as a whole and lower than the national average (79.2).[33]

There is a high prevalence of chronic disease, including Asthma, Chronic Heart Disease, Chronic Kidney Disease, Stroke and Hypertension.[34]

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Figure 3: A map of Wick, colour coded to show the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation deciles. Wick North and Wick South are in the most deprived decile [Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2016: Wick]

Across the Highlands, there is a lower unemployment rate than across Scotland generally (3% compared to 4.3%).[35] There is also a higher job density of 0.9, compared to 0.81 in Scotland and 11% of household are workless compared to 18% across Scotland. In the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (CSER) parliamentary constituency, 62.5% of workers are in full-time jobs, compared to 66.1% in Scotland.[36]

The data does not demonstrate, however, the higher levels of deprivation within Wick. The average claimant count and universal credit unemployment rate for Wick is 3.6%, compared with 2.1% in the rest of the Highlands and Islands.[37] Wick also has the second largest proportion of Travel to Work Area (TTWA) unemployment in the Highlands.[38]

Across CSER generally, the age group with the largest proportion of benefits claimants is 18-24, of whom 5.3% claim benefits, compared with 4.3% across Scotland generally. While 4.2% of males claim benefit, 2.7% of females claim benefits.[39]

The industry that employs the most people in CSER is human health and social work (16.7%), followed by wholesale and retail trade (including motor vehicle repair) (12.5%) and manufacturing (9.4%).[40] The smallest industries are electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply (0.2%), financial and insurance activities (0.8%) and real estate activities (1%).[41] The largest expected increase in jobs in the Highlands and Islands area generally is expected to be seen in construction; administrative and support services; and professional, scientific and technical jobs.[42] The most significant decreases are expected to be seen in manufacturing; public administration and defence; and transportation and storage.[43]

The Highland Council have also invested in some key initiatives to revive the local economy and improve employment opportunities:

  • They commissioned a Charrette process that involves local communities in making decisions about Wick’s economic development.[44]
  • Supported the establishment of ‘Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archive’ in Wick, bringing over forty jobs to the town.[45]
  • A £2.6bn private investment in the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm was agreed in 2014 (with the project’s official opening was in July 2019). Wick is the operations and maintenance base for the windfarm, bringing some economic opportunities into the town, though these are unlikely to be far-reaching.[46]

A relatively low proportion of the population in Caithness are highly skilled
Overall, a lower proportion of the population in Caithness have the highest formal skill levels when compared to the proportion across Scotland more generally (33.3% have NVQ4 and above, compared with 44.2% in Scotland).[47]

Across the Highlands and Islands, 35% of jobs are higher occupations; 37% are mid-level occupations and 28% are lower level occupations.[48] However, the proportion of mid-level and lower level occupations are expected to switch by 2028.[49]

95.5% of school leavers in the Highlands go on to positive destinations, compared to the national estimate of 93.7%.[50]

Highland Council has funded a range of employability services, but the range of providers remains limited
The infrastructure of local employability support in the area is limited and the recent closure of the Shirlie Project has reduced it further. Highland Council has a framework of employability providers across the Highland area – these include Clearview 2020, which is also the local FSS provider, and Ormlie Community Association in Thurso which refers appropriate FSS clients to Clearview 2020. Both of these organisations deliver the Highland Council service which provides unemployed people with the tools they need to find work (ie CV production, interview skills and job applications) – these services provide 3 months support which can be extended by a further 3 months if appropriate.

Other support includes the Hi-hope noticeboard (https://hi-hope.org/noticeboard) created by the Highland Council in collaboration with NHS Highland and CHIP+ to provide young people with more information on opportunities for further education, training and employment.

There is a gender opportunity and pay gap
There is a gender pay gap in the Highlands of 18%, which is higher than the Scottish average of 14%.[51] There is also segregation in the opportunities available, as women are more likely to be underemployed, work in lower value sectors, work in lower grades and work part time.[52] Males account for 59% of managers, directors and senior officials and 60% of associate, professional and technical occupations.[53]

Management and Performance Data for Wick
The infographic overleaf draws on the management and performance data collected between April 2018 and March 2019. It covers all FSS participants who are registered with the Wick Jobcentre which supports participants from across the Caithness area.

  • 31 individuals participated in 2018/19
  • 70% Male
  • 30% Female
  • 29% with disability or health condition
  • 46% aged under 35 years
  • 31% aged 35- 49
  • 23% aged 50+
  • 16% Sustained work for 13 weeks
    • 19% of men
    • 11% of women
    • 33% with disability/health condition
    • 10% without
  • 10% sustained work for 26 weeks

Key trends to note in Wick are:

  • Of the participants for whom race and nationality were recorded (n=19), 84.2% were White Scottish; 5.3% were Other White British; 5.3% were Pakistani, Pakistani Scottish or Pakistani British; and 5.3% were ‘Other’.
  • Of the participants for whom gender was recorded (n=30), 70% were male, and 30% were female, compared to 64% male and 35% female in FSS across all lot areas.
  • Of the participant for whom age group was reported (n=26), 19.2% were aged 16-24; 26.9% were aged 25-34; 30.8% were aged 35-49; and 23% were aged 50+. Across all FSS lot areas the most common age of participants was 35 to 49 (31% of participants).
  • 29% of participants had a disability or health condition – compared to 64% across all FSS lot areas. 71% reported that they did not have a health condition. The most common illness was a mental health condition (44.4% of participants who had a disability or health condition were affected by this). 77.8% of people who had a health condition responded that it affected their ability to work; 22.2% said that it affected their ability to work ‘a lot’; 55.6% reported that it affected their ability to work ‘a little’ and 22.2% said it did not affect their ability to work at all.
  • 16.1% of participants obtained and sustained 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week. 9.7% 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.
  • 19% of male participants sustained 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week compared to 11% of female participants.
  • The age group most likely to sustain 13 continuous weeks of working at least 16 hours per week was 16-24 years (40% of this age group), while the least likely age group was 35-49 (0% of this age group).

Description of service

Wick is in the Highlands and Islands contract area for FSS and the contractor is People Plus, who sub-contract the service in Caithness and north Sutherland to Clearview 2020. There is only one Jobcentre in the area which is also in Wick.

Clearview 2020 is a well-known small provider with strong local links and both Highland Council and Jobcentre Plus talk of a very close working relationship with Clearview 2020. Their three room office is a converted ground floor flat in a residential area in the centre of Wick and is accessible to those areas of the town particularly affected by high unemployment. The FSS service is delivered by two people: the business principal has provided employability support in the area for many years and has a strong working relationship with Jobcentre Work Coaches, local charities dealing with issues around unemployment and poverty, and a range of local employers. She is supported by another member of staff who also has many years’ experience of working for employability organisations. The office and is friendly and welcoming, with people arriving for appointments or just dropping in to update staff on their latest situation. Participants we interviewed praised staff for their friendly, flexible and supportive approach: “they treat you like family”. Around 40 live clients is a typical case load. The main destinations for FSS clients are seasonal work with hotels, bed and breakfasts, grass cutting, and longer term roles in retail, hospitality, care, and security.

From this office, the service covers Caithness and north Sutherland and so involves a very large area with poor public transport. Transport is seen by all the partners as a big issue across the area, in terms of availability, timing, frequency and cost – this affects both access to support and access to work. Some of the participants we interviewed felt that it is important to be able to drive to access support and job opportunities, particularly if they live outside Wick. The minimum return bus fare for FSS clients travelling from nearby towns to Wick is £7.90. The provider meets all FSS clients face to face and this involves substantial travel time and costs.

Clearview 2020 also delivers the Highland Council employability support service locally. This consists of a suite of provision including job search, CV building, and interview skills. The eligibility criteria is long term unemployment (6 months plus) or shorter term unemployed but with evidence of additional barriers to employment. The complementarity of the Highland Council service and FSS mean in practice that there is some scope for the provider to reach a judgement about which service would be better for a particular client. Some of those who refer people to Clearview 2020 talk about the way that the Highland Council service can provide a valuable stepping stone to FSS. Since the Highland Council service provides relatively short intensive support, it can be used to develop clients’ routines and test out their commitment.

“There are people who will engage 1 hour a week [on the Highland Council service] and get used to a pattern of personal support and it can lead to the bigger commitment of [FSS].” Provider

HC to [FSS] is a useful step – we can tell if they are going to be compliant – are they ready?” Provider

Highland Council see FSS as an ‘ally’ providing an effective complement to their own services and ‘taking up the slack’ in terms of providing support for those further from work.

Apart from FSS and Highland Council support there is very little other local provision apart from related support from charities such as Y People. There is a community support service in Ormlie in Thurso, run by the Ormlie Community Association, which is run by someone with a strong employability background, so in practice there is employability support available there, and the organisation works closely with Clearview 2020 and the Jobcentre in Wick to identify potential FSS clients. This lack of other provision – and in particular specialist provision – has important implications for the FSS service

“There are not many providers left, so there is nowhere to refer clients to for specialist support. We can refer to a GP but any specialist help needs to be at the end of a [telephone] line.” Provider

“There are staff shortages in supporting those with anxiety and depression – there is a 2 year waiting list to see a Community Psychiatric Nurse.” Provider Clearview 2020 are very reliant on Jobcentre Plus for referrals.

“There has to be a good working relationship with DWP – we are all talking to the same people. I can pick up the phone and say have you referred X, I am working with Y, I have an issue, what do you think. Everything is done with really good intentions.” Provider

“I say, ‘I don’t work for JCP but I work with JCP – we are joined up and this is how we are going to work together’”. Provider

From the JCP perspective, Fair Start is seen as valuable evolution from the Work Service:

“When [FSS] first started – we thought it might be the same old, same old. But in practice they have more time with the client and extra support in work – this is definitely helping retention in work.” JCP staff

There has been an evolution in how FSS is seen and experienced. Initially, people were arriving at the office who said that Jobcentre Plus had sent them, but there is now a much clearer sense that the service is voluntary and involves an active choice by clients.

An important issue in Wick and other local towns is that everyone knows everyone else and it can be difficult for some clients to find work because their family’s reputation precedes them. There are other implications of this – for example, there are clients with addiction issues but these may not be referred to FSS because the lack of anonymity is another factor among many which means there is a low chance of them getting a job within 12 months. There are occasional windows of opportunity for those from families with a local reputation – two recent retail openings in Wick meant that the new store managers were recruiting and they were prepared to recruit people who local employers would not consider.

“Nobody is anonymous – people make links.”

Voluntary opportunities are very important and are seen as a significant stepping stone to jobs. Clearview 2020 therefore maintain a number of relationships with organisations that can offer voluntary roles.

Clearview 2020 maintain close relationships with a range of local employers and report that employers see FSS as a good thing as they know that recruits come with support. As a corollary, Clearview 2020 know the employer and are confident that the recruit will be appropriately supported by the employer. Clearview estimate that about half their FSS clients find work through their own contacts and applications, and half find work through Clearview 2020 promoting a particular individual to an employer. Participants value the support that the service can offer in putting them “in touch with employers”. With so many jobs requiring online applications, staff find that they do a lot of checking of online question and answer sections on job applications to ensure that clients have completed these accurately and fully. This is reflected in comments from participants we interviewed who described receiving support to make online applications: for example, as one said, “I was scared about doing my CV and job applications because it’s all online now... but they [Clearview 2020] guide me with everything”. One employer we talked to appreciated the role of Clearview 2020 in identifying appropriate candidates so they were able to trust any candidate they sent.

The majority of FSS clients seen by Clearview 2020 do not have significant challenges to overcome, although the provider recognises that some participants will need more holistic support e.g. for lone parents. Jobcentre Plus appear to be using the longer term support particularly effectively for lone parents:

“If a child is aged 4 JCP get in touch because Income Support stops at 5 so this can tie into 1 year of [FSS] support.”

Lessons from this case study

The ability of a provider to mix and match local provision for the benefit of the client is clearly an advantage, and the delivery of the short intensive Highland Council provision and the longer FSS service by the same provider allows these to become complementary rather than competitive. It also means that third party referrals can be assessed by the provider and put on the service that is most appropriate to them.

The Highland Council service provides an invaluable ‘stepping stone’ to FSS – not only helping the provider to assess the commitment of the client to a longer term service, but also helping the client to develop the routines and practices that they will need to make the most of FSS.

The combination of services also makes referral from Jobcentre Plus much more straightforward as JCP Work Coaches trust the provider to make the best use of each service depending on the needs and situation of the client – in other words, in some cases, in practice, a Work Coach refers to the provider rather than to a service.

Although the 3 hours face to face (which can also be done by Skype and similar approaches) can be an issue, the provider has been creative in ensuring that experiences can be developed that meet the needs of each client. The issue is not so much about the time or distance as about finding appropriate kinds of engagement:

“The 3 hours face to face engagement has certainly been an issue – we need to develop work arounds, scrambling to get placements, but JCP, School, and College are all trying to do the same.” Provider

There has been some confusion about the criteria for referral to FSS and although this now appears clearer, there remains scope for improved understanding across partners. Most of the difficulties are resolved through the close working relationship between the provider and JCP.

“Everyone is a bit hazy about the criteria for Fair Start. Of 47 recent referrals – 13 didn’t want to take part, or they were not well enough, or they couldn’t commit. I find it difficult to make sense of criteria and JCP staff do as well.” Provider

There was general agreement from the provider and their partners that, while the voluntary approach had helped with many clients, there was something else needed. Staff across the local partners were aware of people who had benefitted from mandatory programme in past - but would not have participated had the programme been voluntary.

“The main difference from Work Programme is that [FSS] is voluntary - and this is where problems begin. As soon as we mention it is voluntary, they decide not to come. They don’t want to commit to 3 hours a week - there are real issues of travel and childcare.” Provider

For example, a participant we interviewed explained that they left the service early because it was difficult to fit it around caring for their young child.

There is an issue with poor internet cover across north Highlands which makes it difficult for both clients and providers to use online tools.

There are issues about paying for travel, required certification and training. For example, the funding of CSCS cards is an issue – compounded by the only local provider being a private provider in Thurso charging over £300, and the cheaper provision in Inverness being inaccessible. It is possible to use discretionary funding from JCP when there is a guaranteed job, but the provider pays for travel (return bus journey to Wick at £7.90) for local clients and other requirements (eg copy of birth certificate at £15, which many clients don’t have).

For those further from work, a local charity in Wick emphasised the need for help before clients are ready for FSS:

“Their lives are so chaotic – they need more skills before [FSS] – there is no structure to their lives. We are sorting out all of the chaos first. And young people often don’t have a birth certificate, passport, proof of citizenship, provisional licence or bank account.” Local charity partner

This is reinforced by some comments from some participants who had encountered significant barriers to employment, including problems with literacy, criminal convictions, mental health issues, abusive relationships and a lack of confidence caused by being away from work for long periods of time. As one said, “I don’t think Clearview 2020 were expecting such a catalogue of events that I have had to deal with”. One staff member explained that sometimes clients do not want to “cough up all their life secrets”, but it is important for them to know about any issues that might affect an individual’s ability to find or sustain work in order to support them effectively.

Overall, the service provided in Wick by the FSS provider comes across as professional, dedicated and energetic on behalf of participants, the provider’s extensive local knowledge is put to good use, and their high reputation means that referrals are made with confidence. The fact that the same provider delivers two complementary services is an advantage and allows these two services to be used effectively alongside each other.

However, there are few other employability services locally and a lack of specialist provision means that the support available is less comprehensive than elsewhere, with longer waiting times for specialist support. The lack of anonymity in the local area is an issue with some participants finding it hard to find work because of the reputation of their families, though the provider works hard on behalf of participants to challenge this.


Email: kirstie.corbett@gov.scot

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