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.

8. Moving towards work

This section focuses on participants’ views and experiences of moving towards and into work.

8.1 Employment Status at end of Year 1

When the participant phone interviews were conducted (in June 2019), 29% of respondents reported that they were working[17] and 67% were not in work.

Almost two fifths (38%) of respondents had not worked in the last 5 years. A greater proportion of younger respondents were in work than older respondents (40% of those aged 16-24 compared with 25% of those 35-49 and 24% of those 50 and over).

Those who had worked in the last 5 years were also more likely to be working currently (39%) than those who had not worked at any time in the last 5 years (11%). Those in Lot 3, Tayside, were also more likely to be working (41%) than the other lots.

Figure 7: Participants’ working status (at time of interview, June 2019)

Figure 7: Participants’ working status (at time of interview, June 2019)

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

Level of education was also correlated with working status. Those with Highers or equivalent (40%) and those with a degree level qualification or above (35%) were more likely to be in work than those with either no education (21%) or National 1-5 or equivalent (26%).

Of those in work, half (49%) were in full-time employment (30 or more hours per week). Two-fifths (38%) worked between 16 and 29 hours per week, whilst 12% worked fewer than 16 hours per week.

Women were more likely than men to be in part-time work, 16 to 29 hours a week (16% vs 9%), reflecting national employment patterns[18]. Those that had worked in the last 5 years were also more likely to be in full-time employment (as opposed to part time) (21%) than those who had not worked in the last 5 years (4%). In addition to being more likely to be in any type of employment, those in Tayside (Lot 3, 24%) were more likely to be in full time employment than those in other areas.

8.2 Factors influencing progression into and towards work

Views on returning to work

The vast majority of participants who were still receiving pre-employment support at the point of interview felt that they wanted to return to (full time) employment in the future. Figure 8 below shows that seven in ten participants (69%) stated that they wanted to return “to a great extent” and a further 17% “to some extent”. A small proportion (4%) did not want to return to work; this was more common amongst older participants (aged 50+, 8%) and those whose health limited their day-to-day activities (6%).

There were higher levels of desire to return to work amongst men than women (72% and 64% wanted to return “to a great extent”, respectively), and amongst those qualified to degree level or above (83%). There was some indication that those who have been out of work for longer periods felt less strongly about returning to work, with 77% of those who have worked in the last five years wanting to return to a great extent compared with 61% of those who have been unemployed for five years or more.

FSS had a positive effect on motivation to find employment for two-thirds (65%) of participants, with 41% reporting that their motivation to find work had increased a lot. However, a fifth (21%) of participants receiving pre-employment support felt that their motivation levels had not changed, and one in ten (10%) reported a decrease in motivation.

FSS appears to be less likely to have a positive impact on the motivation levels of those with a long-term health condition than other participants; half (51%) of those with no health condition said that their motivation had increased a lot from when they began receiving support from FSS, compared with only 36% of those whose health limits their day-to-day activities. A quarter (25%) of those with no health condition compared with 35% of those whose activity is limited by their health stated that their motivation levels had stayed the same or decreased.

Figure 8: Participants’ views on returning to work

Figure 8: Participants’ views on returning to work

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

Indeed, health proved to be the issue most commonly mentioned when those in pre-employment support were asked about the barriers they face returning to work, with half (49%) stating that this was one of the main issues they faced. This factor was more commonly mentioned by women (56%) and older respondents (50+; 58%).

A lack of skills, qualifications or experience was the second most frequently mentioned barrier that participants felt was preventing them from finding work (19%). Men (22%), younger people (16-34; 23%), and individuals from minority ethnic communities (39%) were particularly likely to cite this as a barrier to employment.

A range of other concerns were mentioned, some of which were particularly felt by subgroups of respondents, for example:

  • Family or caring responsibilities were more commonly mentioned by women than men (11% compared with 3%);
  • One in five (19%) of those aged 50 or over were concerned that they would not be offered employment due to their age;
  • A quarter (26%) of those in the Highlands and Islands (Lot 8) felt there were not many suitable jobs in their local area (11% overall).

Job search skills and self-efficacy

FSS is rooted in the principles of dignity and respect, and the service model is designed to treat individuals in a way that reflects these values. This will manifest in a number of ways, one of which may be by nurturing a sense of self-efficacy in those who participate.

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their own ability to organise and carry out actions in order to successfully achieve a task. It is based on a person’s perceptions and beliefs about themselves. The level of self-efficacy experienced by a person can have an impact on many areas of life, particularly those that are relevant to finding and maintaining employment.

Self-efficacy can influence many personal outcomes including:

  • decision making,
  • level of motivation, whereby lower self-efficacy makes it more likely for an individual to avoid a task[19]
  • the amount of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity,
  • engaging in thoughts that are harmful or supportive to the individual,
  • levels of stress and depression[20].

Self-efficacy is not set in stone; it can change, and deliberate efforts can be made to increase feelings of self-efficacy for an individual. The most effective way of increasing feelings of self-efficacy is through the successful mastery of a task[21]. This means that a person’s confidence in their own ability to be successful in the workplace, and in other areas of life, can be increased through opportunities to master the tasks needed to achieve employment, such as through pre-work training, as well as experience in the workplace itself.

In order to explore the effects of FSS support on participants’ self-efficacy, and to establish any links to being treated with dignity and respect, the participant phone survey included a section on standardised job search self-efficacy measures. Respondents completed a nine-item measure of the strength of an individual’s belief that they have the skills to undertake a range of job search tasks, known as the Job Search Self Efficacy (JSSE) Index[22].

Over all respondents, there were variations in the levels of confidence felt about specific job search tasks, which ranged from most feeling confident (74%) about searching for jobs online through to a half (51%) who felt confident about contacting and persuading potential employers to consider them for a job.

The average score JSSE index score across the nine statement iterations revealed some groups with lower confidence in their ability to find a job, compared with the mean (3.8), namely:

  • Those without formal educational qualifications (mean score 3.4)
  • Participants who had not worked in the five years prior to joining the Fair Start Scotland service (3.7)
  • Those whose day-to-day activities were limited by a health condition (3.7)

Those aged 16-34, conversely, demonstrated greater confidence regarding these job search skills, with a mean score of 4.0 across all statements.

As expected, participants in work at the point of the Wave 1 interview were more likely to feel confident about each measure of job searching ability, as shown in Figure 9 below.

This part of the research will be repeated over the next two years to explore any changes in self-efficacy as a result of FSS support or time in spent in work.

Figure 9: Job Search Self Efficacy Measures

Figure 9: Job Search Self Efficacy Measures

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

Positive impacts of FSS support in Alloa, Wick and Irvine

Participants and key workers reported a range of positive outcomes for participants. Several interviewees had gained new practical, job-related skills, or renewed their existing qualifications, through undertaking courses and work placements. Participants had built skills in a range of areas such as forklift driving, retail, health and safety, landscaping and welding. Many interviewees also reported being enrolled in IT courses and confidence-building workshops.

Participants also said they improved their skills in job-seeking. This included better awareness of where to look for vacancies, including online sources, enhanced CVs and support with interview skills.

Many of the participants and key workers involved in the research reported that Fair Start Scotland helped participants to feel more confident in themselves and in their ability to find work.

“I’ve opened up more as a person… before, I was always at home and I was never out the house.”

“They helped me see that people should be screaming out for me.”

“It has given me the confidence and experience to go into places.”

Participants attributed this growth in confidence to Fair Start Scotland activities giving them a purpose and “structure” to their week, a chance to meet new people, and a greater awareness of their strengths, as well as enhancing their skills and experience. One participant reported that Fair Start Scotland “gave me the confidence to do interviews” and another, who has not worked for 12 years, said the key worker “has helped me feel more confident”. Another key worker felt that one of their participants “is less quiet than before” and more confident about speaking to people.

Some interviewees told us that Fair Start Scotland helped them to gain experience of different sectors and decide what they want to do. For example, one participant took part in placements in retail and sports development and through these, realised that they wanted to pursue a career in sports development - “I like that they’ve helped me find out what I want to do”. Another liked the fact that their key worker gave them different “ideas to float around my head”.

For some participants, the confidence gained and support provided through Fair Start Scotland helped them to move into work or further education. One participant said that “I got the job because of confidence and self-esteem” developed through Fair Start Scotland, while another “wasn’t confident at all in applying for retail jobs but they supported me the entire way and I feel a lot more confident. That’s how I was able to get my current job”. A third noted that their key worker has “helped me to get into work by showing me how to do my CV and that sort of thing”. Another secured a place at college which they will take up unless they are successful with a Modern Apprenticeship application. Another reported that Fair Start Scotland has “helped me with skills to start self-employment”.

Other participants reported that, although they are not ready to enter the labour market just now, Fair Start Scotland had made them more confident about and interested in finding work when their circumstances change. For example, one single parent who has eight children said that Fair Start Scotland has given them a “taster” and that they are more interested in finding a job when their children are older.

Fair Start Scotland has also had a positive impact on participants’ health and wellbeing and, more broadly, that of their families. Some participants reported that, by helping them to get into work, Fair Start Scotland had helped to improve their financial situation and this in turn had benefitted other members of the family as well. The service helped some participants to meet new people, exemplified by one who said “I don’t feel so isolated”. Another spoke about the importance of the holistic support that Fair Start Scotland offers and of having the key worker there to talk to about anything that is worrying them - “[the key worker] is there if you need her… she gives the support I need”.

8.3 Wellbeing and work

A further section of the phone survey explored the health and well-being impacts of FSS support and moving towards work. IFF used standardised questions from the (Short) Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale[23]. The scores of FSS participants based on our survey responses were compared with the population norms based on the Health Survey for England 2011[24], when population level data was last published. FSS participants had a lower mean (average) score (23.1) than the population norm (23.6).

As Figure 10 shows, FSS participants were considerably more likely to have a score in the lower quartile of the population norm by 14 percentage points (39% of FSS participants scored less than 21.5 compared to the norm of 25%). FSS participants were less likely to score within the interquartile range (39% scored between 21.5 and 26.0 compared to the norm of 50%) and the upper quartile range (23% scored above 26.0 compared to the norm of 25%).

Figure 10: Wellbeing Scores, FSS participants and population norms

Figure 10: Wellbeing Scores, FSS participants and population

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

The average score of participants varied considerably by employment status, age and the impact of health conditions on individuals.

Mental wellbeing and employment

Participants who were receiving In Work Support from FSS providers scored the highest wellbeing score of any demographic group at 25.5, which was considerably higher than both the FSS participant average (23.1) and the population average (23.6).

Those who were in work at the time of survey (a slightly higher proportion than those recorded as receiving In Work Support) also had a higher average score of 25.4, while those who had been in work in the last five years scored more highly than those who had not worked in this period (23.4 compared with 22.6).

There was also some variation among different FSS Lots. The East (Lot 5) were more likely to have scores in the lower quartile of the population norm (42% had a score of below 21.5 compared to the norm of 25%). Lot 4, Forth Valley had the lowest average score of 21.6%, with only 11% of participants in this region recording a score in the population top quartile.

Mental wellbeing and age

Participants aged between 16 and 24 had the highest wellbeing score of 24.2, while those aged between 16 and 34 still had a higher than average score of 23.6. Participants aged between 35 and 49 scored lower than average, at 22.4. Participants aged over 50 were very close to the average and the difference was not statistically significant.

Mental wellbeing and the impact of health conditions

As described above, we asked participants who had a health condition to what extent their condition impacted on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. As might be expected, participants who were limited by their health condition (either a lot or a little) had a lower than average mental wellbeing score (22.4), while those who had a health condition which did not limit their abilities were in line with the average (23.1). FSS participants who did not have a health condition scored 24.8 which is above the average for both FSS participants and the population norm.

Participants who did not have any qualifications had the lowest mental wellbeing score of any demographic group (22.0 compared to 23.1 average across all FSS participants), although there were no significant differences across those who had qualifications.

Overall, the findings from this part of the survey suggest that FSS support, and employment more generally, have a positive influence on an individual’s mental wellbeing. While FSS participants start off with lower than average wellbeing scores, those who move into work, and who are receiving in-work support from FSS providers show higher wellbeing scores than the general population.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, age, the impact of health conditions and having no qualifications are the factors most likely to lead to lower than average mental wellbeing scores.

As increased numbers of FSS participants move through the service and find work, the overall wellbeing score may rise towards that currently reported by those receiving in-work support. This element of the research will be repeated over the next two years with new and existing FSS participants to explore how mental wellbeing changes over the stages of the FSS participant journey.

Barriers to progression identified in Alloa, Wick and Irvine

Participants and non-participants interviewed across the local case study areas reported that challenges in finding and then staying in work were related to a range of individual circumstances. Many interviewees reported that they have struggled to find work because of their parental and/or caring duties. These issues have either prevented them from moving into employment altogether or set limits on the range of roles they could apply to. For example, one participant mentioned that they had to wait for their child to start school before moving into work. Their key worker reported that the participant felt they could not commit to the hours required. Likewise, another interviewee recently became a full-time carer for their grandson and said that, in the jobs they applied to, they were asked to work nights and weekends, without any flexibility.

A lack of skills was another key barrier to employment. Some felt they were hindered by a lack of skills in written English or IT (such as typing) or by not having a driving license, which one key worker noted was valuable in opening up opportunities for employment further afield.

For some, a lack of knowledge of recruitment processes was also a barrier to employment. We heard from participants who needed help with writing and uploading a CV and applying for jobs online. One participant felt hindered by a lack of interview skills and familiarity with the interview process. They had been in the same line of work for decades, had never attended a formal interview, and had difficulty understanding what was being asked of them in interviews.

In some cases, poor mental and/or physical health has prevented interviewees from moving into and staying in employment. For example, one participant lost their job as a chef because they were experiencing mental health issues, which they described as “a psychological knock”.

Other barriers to employment reported included a lack of job opportunities in the local area and age constraints. For example, one research participant referred to a retail job they applied for which required a 12-year commitment from successful applicants so that they could make progress to middle management. As the interviewee said, “they’re not going to hire someone in their 50s”. Another participant who is turning 60 stated that they received good support from Fair Start Scotland and “managed to fire off lots of applications” but felt their age “works against me” and “employers don’t want to give me a look in”.

We also heard from a [Provider] key worker that a lack of discipline and/or poor relations with work colleagues has prevented two Fair Start Scotland participants from staying in work. While one participant lost their job because of inappropriate behaviour, the other left due to strained relations with their manager.

What worked well?

There is clear evidence from the phone survey results that receiving FSS support has a positive effect on many (65%) participants’ motivation to return to work.

The measures of self-efficacy used in the phone survey also showed that most participants felt confident about their job search skills, with those in work reporting markedly higher levels of confidence in all nine recognised activities on the scale than those still receiving pre-employment support.

The local case studies show that FSS has also had a positive influence for participants who are not yet ready to move into work, with examples of many who reported increased confidence and wellness and moves into education or training.

Finally, results of our measures of mental wellbeing demonstrate the positive influence of both FSS in-work support and of work itself.

What could be improved?

While FSS support is motivating many participants, there remains scope to strengthen the positive influence of FSS services for vulnerable participants, including those with more limiting health conditions, who have been unemployed for 5 years or more and who report feeling they have a lack of qualifications, skills or experience.

Similarly, participants with no formal qualifications reported the lowest levels of confidence in their ability to undertake a range of job search tasks. Not working for five years or more prior to engaging with FSS support and having a limiting health condition were also factors in reducing confidence in job search tasks.

The mental wellbeing survey results emphasised again the negative impacts for those with more limiting health conditions, for people aged 35-49 and in particular, for people with no qualifications.

What are we doing?

We will work with providers and local delivery partners to deliver our continuous improvement plan which aims to strengthen the support available through FSS for the most vulnerable members of our communities.


Email: kirstie.corbett@gov.scot

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