Fair Start Scotland - evaluation report 3: year two - overview

Third report in a series of evaluation reports of Fair Start Scotland employability services which covers the second full year of service delivery (April 2019 - March 2020) and summarises findings from a participant phone survey, local area case studies and analysis of management information.

Executive Summary

Fair Start Scotland (FSS) is Scotland's first fully devolved employability support service. FSS was launched on 3 April 2018, with the aim of supporting 38,000 people towards and into the labour market, over a three year referral period. The key focus for the service is to provide tailored and personalised support to all those who participate.

This is the third FSS evaluation report published by the Scottish Government. This report presents an overview of research relating to the second year of service delivery up to 31 March 2020, and includes: a telephone survey of over 1,000 participants; local area case studies in Drumchapel, Dundee and Peterhead & Fraserburgh; a survey of the Scottish Government Social Security Experience Panel; and analysis of management information of the 12,077 participants who joined FSS in the second year.

Reach of FSS

  • FSS received 17,139 referrals in the second year, with 12,077 people joining the service (70% of all referrals). This is an increase from the 10,063 that joined FSS in year 1 and also demonstrates an improved rate of successful referrals (58% of referrals in year 1 resulted in people joining the service).
  • Compared to the unemployed population of Scotland, females, young people, individuals from ethnic minorities and those living in rural areas were underrepresented in the second year of FSS delivery. However, the service saw a higher proportion of disabled individuals, older people (ages 35-64), lone parents and those living in the 15% most deprived areas, as measured by SIMD.
  • Compared to the first year of delivery, year 2 saw improvements in the number of females, young people, lone parents, those with convictions, refugees and people who have care experience joining the service. However there were lower proportions of those with disabilities and older individuals compared to year 1.
  • Just over a fifth of participants who engaged in the participant telephone survey were from a priority family group, a key target group that suffer from a higher than average risk of child poverty.

Awareness and motivation

  • A survey was conducted with the Scottish Government Social Security Experience Panel, which is formed of individuals who are likely to belong to groups who would be eligible for and may benefit from FSS. The results from this survey suggested that the majority had not heard of FSS (74%), with 35% stating that FSS is something they would be interested in.
  • Participation in FSS had a positive effect on motivation to find employment for close to two-thirds (63%) of participants in the telephone survey, with 38% reporting that their motivation to find work had 'increased a lot'.
  • However there was some indication that those who have been out of work for longer periods, and those limited by a long-term health condition felt less strongly about returning to work.
  • The barriers to employment most commonly cited by participants were lack of skills, qualifications and experience (21%), lack of suitable jobs in their local area (19%) and having a physical health condition that prevented them from being able to work (16%).
  • With regards to early leavers from the service a higher proportion of disabled people, those limited a lot by a long-term health condition, and young people left the service early in year 2 compared to the overall population of participants.

Process, referral and service delivery

  • Participants who engaged in the local area case studies were highly positive about their experience of Fair Start Scotland, from the referral stage through to receipt of support. Participants identified several key strengths including the service's person centred approach and the voluntary nature of the support offered.
  • Providers and other key stakeholders who participated in the local area case studies noted a number of strengths and improvements as compared to the first year of delivery. One of the key strengths included improved working relationships with Jobcentre Plus (JCP) staff which had been facilitated through the use of techniques such as co-location. Additional strengths included the development of positive relationships with other employability services in local areas.
  • A number of challenges were also noted including recognition that the local employability landscape in each area remains cluttered and confusing to navigate for participants. Other issues included challenges to working effectively with Local Authorities, often due to perceived restrictions surrounding the use of European Social Fund monies.

Employability support

  • Participants were generally very positive about the usefulness of the support that they received. The forms of support rated highest in terms of usefulness were not conventional forms of employability support but rather health oriented offers including help with an addiction and support for a mental health condition.
  • Survey participants were also generally very positive about the form of in-work support that they received with 92% noting that they found the development of an in-work support action plan useful and 91% noting the same with regards to one-to-one appointments.
  • A number of individuals who took part in the year 1 evaluation in 2018 were re-contacted and asked a number of follow up questions. Responses from this cohort suggested that feelings of motivation had reduced for the individuals who had yet to successfully move into work.

Values and principles

  • Nine out of ten respondents stated that they were treated with dignity and respect by FSS (91%) and eight out of ten felt that the service took account of their individual needs and circumstances (80%).
  • Eight out of ten also felt they had choices about the support they received (81%), that the service offered support to improve their general quality of life and wellbeing (81%), and they felt they were in control of their progress (80%).
  • While the overall majority of participants were clear about the voluntary nature of FSS, it was clear that the level of awareness varied. Most notably individuals from an ethnic minority background were much less likely to be aware of the voluntary nature of the programme compared to others.
  • Some variation in the proportions of participants agreeing that they had a strong choice and say in the service was also noticed, with women and white individuals more likely to agree than males and individuals from ethnic minority groups.

Moving towards work

  • One in three people joining FSS started a job. Once starting work, around three quarters (72%) went on to sustain employment for at least 3 months, and 77% of the people who sustained employment for 3 months went on to reach 6 months employment.
  • From the telephone survey it was possible to determine key factors which affected year 2 participants' likelihood of being in work at the time of the survey, namely previous employment history and qualifications.
  • There are some groups for whom starting and sustaining work seems to be more difficult, such as those who are disabled, those with convictions and those who are care experienced.
  • With regards to those in work the most common types of job included; elementary occupations (41%), sales and customer service occupations (16%) and caring, leisure and other service occupations (12%).


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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