Fair Start Scotland evaluation report 2: overview of year one - November 2019

Second report in a series on the evaluation of Fair Start Scotland employability services. It covers the first full year of service delivery (Mar 18 - Apr 19) and summarises findings from a participant phone survey, local area case studies and analysis of management information.

7. Values and Principles

The Fair Start Scotland service is built upon the Scottish Government’s key values for public services[15]:

  • Dignity and respect
  • Fairness and equality
  • Continuous improvement

Responses to the 2015 public consultation on the future of employability services in Scotland suggested that these underpinning values were driven by a desire for individuals to feel more in control over their journey through support services into work; that they as “service users” had a clearer voice in how services were designed and delivered; that they felt services were tailored to their individual needs; and that providers recognised their individual life circumstances and challenges.

Previous research[16] suggests that when individuals have this sense of control over their personal journeys and are treated with dignity and respect by service providers, they are more likely to recognise the benefits of progression to their mental and physical wellbeing.

As shown in Figure 6, most respondents were very positive about the support they received from Fair Start Scotland. Those who were in work at the point of interview (June 2019) were particularly likely to agree with each attitudinal statement compared with those not in work.

Figure 6: Participants’ attitudes to the FSS support they received

Figure 6: Participants’ attitudes to the FSS support they received

Source: FSS Participant Phone Survey Year 1 (IFF Research).

Nine out of ten respondents felt that they were treated with respect and dignity (92%), and this did not differ by gender, ethnicity, or presence of health condition. Younger participants were more likely to agree than others (95% amongst those aged 16 – 34 compared with 89% of those aged 35-49 and 92% of those aged 50 and over).

Four fifths (80%) felt that they had choices about the type of support they received, and that they could set their own goals. Women were more likely to agree with this than men (85% vs 79%), as were those aged 16-24 (88%) compared with older participants (78% of those aged 35-49 and 80% of those aged 50 and over agreed).

A further four fifths (80%) felt that the support took account of their individual needs and circumstances, and a similar proportion (79%) agreed that they felt they were in control of their progress on the service. Again, younger participants were more likely to agree with the later statement (82% of 16-34 year olds vs 74% of those aged 35 – 49).

Most participants (78%) also agreed that the service offered support to improve their general quality of life and wellbeing. Women were more likely than men to agree with this (84% vs 75%).

There were some differences by area in levels of agreement with these statements. See the full Phone Survey report for more detail on these.

Direct feedback from phone survey participants (June 2019)

Respondents were asked for more open feedback about the service. On the whole, there were more positive responses than negative, with participants particularly praising the staff involved in delivering the service:

“If it wasn't for FSS and my support worker, I wouldn't be where I am today. She's done a brilliant job and has been so supportive.”

Female, aged 50+, Lot 8 (Highlands and Islands)

“The advisor has been very good, phoning and texting when I didn’t turn up for appointments. He also understood my situation and he helped me without putting me under any pressure. Very empathetic.”

Male, aged 50+, Lot 1 (Glasgow)

“It put me in a new direction. It gave me the confidence to start working. It was really worthwhile”

Male, aged 35-49, Lot 5 (East)

“It was absolutely fantastic for me and I wish the Jobcentre was run a lot more like that service. The Jobcentre creates anxiety for its users whereas with this service I felt like I was treated with dignity and respect - life is great thanks to them.”

Female, aged 16-24, Lot 9 (West)

Although small numbers were more critical about the service:

“I wasn't offered any courses nor was there any attempt to contact employers. They just humoured me once a fortnight. It was a waste of time.”

Female, aged 50+, Lot 6 (South West)

“They put me forward for a position within the office which then transpired didn't exist. Any positions I applied for were positions I had found myself and not through the service. I found the benefits [of the service] minimal.”

Female, aged 35-49, Lot 3 (Tayside)

What do participants in Alloa, Wick and Irvine think about Fair Start Scotland?

Overall, feedback from participants was very positive and clients identified several strengths including comprehensive and tailored support, the caring, respectful and supportive key workers, the holistic support offered, and the voluntary nature of the support.


Participants valued the comprehensive support offered, covering all aspects of preparation for employment. Interviewees appreciated the help and advice they receive to find vacancies, write their CV, make job applications, prepare for interviews and enhance their experience and skills through placements and courses. Very few participants reported having any support needs that Fair Start Scotland did not meet and one said, “What they do is perfect”. Another said the service was “On the ball about everything”.

Tailored support

Participants reported that the support they received was tailored to their individual needs. Key workers help to find vacancies and arrange placements and training that suits individual participant’s skills, interests and circumstances. For example, one participant, who has a young son, said that their key worker was helping them to look for opportunities that would fit around school start and finish times. Key workers also provide wide-ranging support to address individual needs including, for example, helping participants to obtain a driving license, get their hair cut before an interview, or buy new shoes before starting a job.

Many participants who had also taken part in the other employability support programmes noted that they did not seek to accommodate their interests and individual circumstances to the same extent as Fair Start Scotland.

Holistic support

Participants appreciated the holistic nature of support from key workers with other aspects of their lives not directly linked to their employability. For example, we spoke to one participant whose key worker helped them to access financial assistance to buy furniture when they moved out of their father’s house and into their own flat, and another whose key worker helped them to arrange medical appointments. Other examples include a participant with a mental health condition who said “they made sure I was eating and taking my medication”.

Caring, respectful and supportive key workers

In line with the principles of dignity and respect, participants described the approach of their key workers as caring, respectful and supportive. Across the three [local area case studies] providers, interviewees reported that staff were friendly, understood their circumstances and genuinely cared about achieving the best outcome for them.

Participants with experience of the DWP Work Programme felt that FSS key workers are more supportive and respectful than Work Programme advisers. One said that they were “spoken to like a bairn” on the Work Programme, but the FSS worker “puts you at ease”. Another observed that “the FSS advisor listened to you” in contrast to their experience of the Work Programme.

Voluntary participation without risk of sanctions

Participants and non-participants [interviewed for the local area case studies] appreciated the voluntary aspect of FSS and reported that key workers were understanding when they missed appointments or were unable to take part in activities. In one case, a participant turned down a job offer because they did not feel emotionally ready to return to work, and they were able to do this without fear of penalty.

In contrast, participants who had engaged with other employability support services, e.g. the Work Programme, disliked the compulsory nature of that programme and the risk of sanctions for non-completion or non-participation.

Specific challenges reported by FSS participants in Alloa, Wick and Irvine

While feedback was generally very positive, some participants interviewed as part of the local area case studies research reported some challenges.

In Irvine, several participants stated that they preferred other employability support to FSS, and chose to leave and return to their previous advisor because they provided more intensive and personalised support.

Another participant, also receiving support in Irvine, for whom English is not their primary language, left FSS as they did not receive the intensive literacy support they required. They stated that the key worker only saw them once a week, whereas they saw a dedicated literacy worker three times a week on the programme provided by Jobcentre Plus, which provided support with English writing skills and in preparing job applications and cover letters.

In Alloa, one participant said they had hoped to receive support with interview skills but there was not enough time to provide this, and in Wick one participant would have appreciated more support with managing their finances.


Email: kirstie.corbett@gov.scot

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