Publication - Research and analysis

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

Published: 9 Nov 2020

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.

Fair Start Scotland - evaluation report 3: year two - overview
1. Introduction

1. Introduction

1.1 Purpose

This is the third evaluation report published by the Scottish Government (SG) on Fair Start Scotland (FSS). This report presents an overview of research relating to the second year of service delivery (April 2019 - March 2020).

The report aims to answer the following questions:

  • Who engaged with FSS?
  • How aware are people of FSS? What motivated participants in FSS to take part?
  • How well did the process of referral and service delivery work in year 2?
  • What has been participants' experience of the support they received?
  • How well has FSS embodied its values and principles?
  • Has FSS helped participants to move towards work?

It aims to do this by presenting an overview of findings from four different data sources:

  • Three local area case studies in Drumchapel, in north Glasgow, Dundee, and Peterhead and Fraserburgh, undertaken by Rocket Science UK Ltd and Blake Stevenson. The case studies take an in depth look at the local delivery and outcomes of FSS from those who participate in the service as well as those who are involved in providing it. This includes FSS service providers, local organisations, and FSS participants. Individual[1] participant stories are included throughout the report.
  • A telephone survey of 1,007 FSS participants by IFF Research Ltd. Participants were a mix of those who had started in the second year of FSS service, and follow up interviews with those who joined in the first year and were interviewed for the year 1 evaluation report.
  • Analysis of FSS service provider management information (MI) on the demographics and background characteristics of the FSS participants who joined in the second year of delivery.
  • An online survey of 109 non-participants in FSS, conducted with members of the Scottish Social Security Panel.

Further information about the evaluation methods used to gather the findings reported here can be found in Appendix 1.

Full details of the findings from the local area case studies and the participant telephone survey are published in two separate reports on the Scottish

Government website, alongside this overview report.

1.2 Background

Fair Start Scotland is Scotland's first fully devolved employment support service. The Scottish Government took on employability powers in 2017 and exercised those powers through transitional services Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland. The learning from those services and the overriding principles of dignity and respect were taken forward in FSS.

On 4 October 2017 the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP, announced the award of contracts up to £96 million to deliver FSS, with provision to be delivered by a mixed economy of public, private and third sector suppliers, in nine contract areas (Lots) across Scotland. In July 2020, Mr Hepburn announced the extension of service delivery for a further two years to March 2023. See Appendix 2 for more detailed information on the FSS service providers and contract areas.

Fair Start Scotland originally launched on 3 April 2018, with the aim of supporting 38,000 people over three years. The key focus for FSS is to provide tailored and personalised support to all those who take part.

Key elements of the service are:

  • Participation is entirely voluntary
  • All participants can expect to receive in-depth action planning to ensure the support they receive is tailored for them and suits their individual needs and circumstances
  • The service offers pre-work support of 12-18 months
  • The service offers in-work support for up to 12 months
  • Those who require specialist support to help them find work can expect to receive it
  • There are national standards to ensure everyone receives a consistent quality of support across the nine geographic contract areas

The service delivery model is based on evidence of what works in employability support and was developed in consultation with delivery partners, employability providers and the Scottish public.

Scottish Ministers have committed to a "test and learn" approach to the long-term development and continuous improvement of devolved employability services and both the FSS service design and evaluation reflect this approach. The FSS evaluation plan will report annually on the process, outcomes and impact of service delivery, capturing the experiences of all those involved in FSS delivery and participation.

The first FSS evaluation report was published in June 2019, and covered implementation and early delivery in the first six months of services (to September 2018). The second evaluation report was published in November 2019, and covered the first full year of delivery (April 2018 – March 2019).

The key findings from the first two reports show evidence that:

  • FSS is reaching participants with a broad range of different personal, social and economic characteristics, though there was room for improvement, especially with regards to females, young people, and those from minority ethnic backgrounds
  • Most participants were referred by Jobcentre Plus (JCP) staff, though there was some evidence of an increase in third party referrals
  • Co-location of FSS services with existing employability or support organisations was an effective way to reach the wider community, and the development of strong relationships with delivery partners is crucial
  • There was some feeling from providers that other outcomes apart from sustained job outcomes of more than 16 hours should be recognized
  • Participants in FSS reported that they recognised the benefits of the support, and felt treated with dignity and respect

For further information on the overall FSS evaluation plan, see Appendix 3.

1.3 Context

In March 2020, the UK entered a period of unprecedented public health measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has understandably had a huge impact on participants, referrals, providers and the labour market. As the evaluation fieldwork took place in spring, there was some discussion of COVID-19, however this report focuses on year 2 of FSS, April 2019 – March 2020, and therefore the majority of the report focuses on FSS pre-COVID. The evaluation of the 3rd year will of course report on how COVID-19 has impacted on the service, providers and participants in detail.

Nonetheless, due to COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, some elements of planned fieldwork were unable to go ahead. This included a series of focus groups that were planned to take place across Scotland in spring, in order to gather direct feedback from FSS participants as well as some of the planned fieldwork for the research contractors, namely interviews with Jobcentre Plus staff and employers.

1.4 What SG did with last year's feedback

Following the publication of the second evaluation report covering April 2018 to March 2019, SG identified a number of areas to review as part of Fair Start Scotland continuous improvement activity. SG recognised the importance of working closely with FSS providers and JCP to drive shared improvement activities, leading to the development of a joint provider continuous improvement plan as well as a SG / JCP continuous improvement plan.

This led to the design of a number of key improvement initiatives undertaken and implemented in year 2 which are detailed throughout the report.