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
3. Awareness and motivation

3. Awareness and motivation

In order to explore awareness of FSS in a wider population, this chapter of the report covers feedback from a group of individuals who may be eligible for FSS support but are not currently participating.

It then focuses on current FSS participants and explores what motivated them to take part.

The evidence presented here is a summary of findings from both the commissioned research activities as well as from a survey of the Scottish Government Social Security Panel[5].

3.1 Awareness

In July 2020, a short questionnaire was sent out to members of the Scottish Government Social Security Experience Panel, in order to gain some insight into awareness and attitudes towards FSS amongst non-participants. 109 responses were received. It was felt that the panel would be a good sample to look at for non-participants as it contains people who likely belong to groups who would be eligible for FSS. The panel is comprised of people with experience of benefits, and has a high proportion of members who are disabled (83%).

The full demographic breakdown of the survey, the response rate and more information on the panel can be found in Appendix 5.

One fifth (20%) of the panel members who responded to the survey had heard of FSS, 74% had not and 6% weren't sure.

Of the 22 who had heard of it, 3 had been offered a referral, and all 3 took up the offer.

Just over a third (35%) of the 106 who hadn't been offered a referral, thought that it sounded like something they would be interested in, while 35% were unsure, and 30% thought it did not sound like something they would be interested in.

Of the 37 respondents who thought they would be interested, the reasons given were:

Table 1: Reasons participants would be interested in FSS



I like the idea of receiving help or support tailored to my needs


I like the idea of receiving additional help or support


I like the idea of receiving support specific to my health condition


It would help me build confidence


I like the idea of meeting people with similar experiences to me


I feel it could help me get back to work


It looks different to anything I've been on before


It's a voluntary service and I could stop when I wanted


I really want a job


Source: Social Security Panel survey (Scottish Government). Base: those who thought they would be interested in FSS (37).

Of the 32 who didn't think they would be interested[6], respondents were asked why this was. The most common reason given was that respondents had taken part in a Work Capability Assessment and were placed in the Support Group/found not fit for work (44%). Other significant reasons included the fact that that some respondents said they were not looking for work (25%) and some noted that they are worried work will negatively impact their health/disability (22%) or that they did not feel well enough to return to work (22%). In summary the most commonly cited reasons tended to involve concerns around respondents' health and capacity to work.

Table 2: Reasons participants would not be interested in FSS



I've had a Work Capability Assessment and was put into the Support Group / found not fit for work


I'm not looking for work


I'm worried that work will have a negative impact on my health condition or disability


I don't feel well enough to return to, or start work


I don't feel ready to move into work




The service isn't relevant to my needs


I couldn't manage the travel


Source: Social Security Panel survey (Scottish Government). Base: those who thought they would not be interested in FSS (32).

Within the case study areas, it was felt by some providers that visibility within existing local structures, such as Jobcentre Plus and libraries, has had a positive effect both on the awareness of people of FSS, and the number of referrals to it.

"They can see the successes – the good things that are happening [for participants] – it raises the profile [of Fair Start Scotland]."
- Fair Start Scotland Provider, Drumchapel

As well as this, efforts by providers to build on or improve relationships with other community organisations has been felt to have improved third party referrals to FSS.

3.2 Motivation

Year 2 telephone survey respondents who were not in work were asked about their motivation to return to work. Three quarters (75%) reported that they wanted to return to work 'to a great extent', while a further 16% felt that they wanted to return 'to some extent'.

It was more common for younger participants aged 16-24 to want to return to work 'to a great extent' than older participants aged 50+ (86% compared to 66%). There were also higher levels of desire to return to work amongst men than women (79% and 69% wanted to return 'to a great extent', respectively), and amongst those qualified to degree level or above (88%).

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. For example, 80% of those who have worked in the last five years wanted to return to a great extent compared with 69% of those who have been unemployed for five years or more. Two thirds of those limited by a long term health condition (66%) wanted to return to work to a great extent while a fifth (21%) said they would like to return 'to some extent', compared to 88% and 6% respectively among those with no conditions.

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, a quarter (26%) of participants felt that their motivation levels had not changed, and a minority (9%) said they felt less motivated.

The service was particularly effective at increasing younger people's motivation, as nearly three quarters of young people (74%) reported an increase in motivation compared to older age groups (59% of 25-34 year olds, and 62% of 35-49 year olds).

In the case study areas, participants identified a range of reasons for joining FSS.

Some participants noted that they took part because they hoped FSS could help them address challenges that made it difficult for them to look for and/or find work. In a few cases, participants had physical and mental health conditions that limited the types of jobs they could undertake, and they wanted support from FSS to find a suitable job. Lack of confidence was a barrier for some participants who needed support with this before they could find (and sustain) a job.

Others had been looking for work for some time with no success so wanted some additional support. One participant, for example, said that they engaged with FSS because they were "hitting a brick wall" and another said they decided to take part because they were "not getting anywhere" on their own. Another few explained that they had been made redundant after their employers went out of business. These interviewees' key workers felt they had good employability skills and were well-placed to find another job, but the participants explained that they wanted help to "brush up on approaching employers" and to find a new job as quickly as possible.

3.3 Barriers to work

The telephone survey found that participants reported a range of issues that prevented them from working, the most common being a lack of skills, qualifications and experience (21%). Nearly the same proportion said that there weren't enough suitable jobs in their local area (19%) while 16% had a physical health condition that preventing them from being able to work. Overall, 31% of all participants experienced at least one health-related barrier.

Within the case study areas, interviewees reported various barriers that restricted participants' ability to move into and sustain work.

A few key workers reported, in a small number of cases, that participants' reluctance to fully engage with FSS and the opportunities on offer restricted their ability to progress.

"the people who take part have to be in the right space…we can't help people if they don't want to be helped"
- FSS service provider

In a small number of examples, participants felt that their age was making it difficult for them to find work. A key worker said that one participant who is 60 believes that his "age is going against him" while a participant in their 50s reported that "I'm a difficult case… age is against me". Another, in their 60s, felt that FSS was more suited to helping younger people.

Some interviewees, particularly in Peterhead/Fraserburgh, reported a lack of job opportunities locally that existed even before the pandemic. A participant said there is "nothing out there for me for what I do" and a key worker acknowledged that local opportunities outside the fishing and care sectors are limited.

Transport is an issue that restricts the opportunities accessible to some people, and this was particularly the case for participants in Peterhead/Fraserburgh, but was also mentioned in the other case study areas.

3.4 Who left the service early and why?

FSS is a voluntary service, so people are free to join or leave the service whenever they want. People may disengage from the service (sometimes with no specific reason cited) for a variety of reasons depending on individual circumstances. An early leaver is defined as someone who leaves FSS before the end of the pre-employment support period without having achieved a job outcome.

Early leaver rates can only be reported for start cohorts where enough time has passed in pre-employment support and for outcomes to be achieved. Therefore, this section shows data for all participants on FSS as of June 2019.

From the chart below, it can be seen that there were no large differences between the early leaver rates. Compared to all participants, a higher proportion of disabled people, those limited a lot by a long-term health condition (LTHC), young people, people with convictions, and from the 15% most deprived areas left the service early.

Figure 5: Early leaver rates by demographic groups
Early leaver rates by demographic groups 
This figure shows early leavers from FSS by groups. Overall 51% of all participants left FSS early. 50% of females left early. 51% of males left early. 52% of disabled people left early. 50% of those limited a little by a long term health condition left early. 57% of those limited a lot by a long term health condition left early. 50% of those from minority ethnic groups left early. 52% of those aged 16-24 left early. 50% of those aged 25-34, 35-49 and 50+ left early. 47% of lone parents left early. 56% of those with convictions left early. 53% of refugees left early. 49% of those who were care experienced left early. 43% of those who lived in rural areas left early. 55% of those from the 15% most deprived areas left early. 51% of those receiving a benefit left early. 51% of those who were unemployed for 2 or more years left early. 53% of those who were unemployed for more than two years and also disabled left early.

Of the 39% of the year 2 telephone survey cohort who were no longer receiving support, the most common reasons were that they moved into work or training (19%), that the programme of support came to an end (14%), or the service wasn't relevant to their needs (14%).

What worked well?

FSS seems to have a very positive effect on people's motivations to return to work, with this being particularly the case for young people.

Leaving FSS early was not affected by gender, ethnic minority, or age. A smaller proportion of those who were lone parents, from rural areas, and who were care experienced left the service early compared to overall.

What could be improved?

Awareness among social security panel members was relatively low, though a third of those who hadn't heard of it thought they might be interested.

Compared with overall, a higher proportion of people who were limited a lot by a long term health condition left the service early.

Age seems to a barrier to both feeling motivated to return to work, and on the opportunities that are available, with older people reporting feeling less motivated and citing their age as a barrier to finding work.

Structural barriers to employment, such as the labour market and access to transport, were recognised by participants as key concerns.

What are we doing?

We are exploring how to incorporate work with those who left FSS early into our evaluation fieldwork for next year, in order to explore some of the reasons why people started on, but then left the services.

Following year 1 evaluation findings, we recognised that some FSS participants may disengage from FSS due to health issues or having to deal with domestic emergencies. As part of continuous improvement activity we reviewed and modified the disengagement and participation guidance to reflect our participants' individual needs.


To ensure participants are not exited prematurely from the service we extended the period in which a provider should continue to try and engage with the participant from 4 to 8 weeks. Thus allowing providers longer to recommence engagement and to determine whether a participant requires any form of support to help them within their FSS journey. This also allows the opportunity for the participant to agree a pause to their participation to return at a future date.

Extending the Pause Criteria

We recognise that in addition to ill health there may be other significant barriers that mean FSS participants cannot attend FSS for a period of time. Therefore we amended policy to give participants the ability to request that their engagement on FSS be temporarily stopped until they are ready to reengage for other significant barriers such as short term caring responsibilities, risk of losing house etc.

Additionally we amended policy to ensure that at the point of reengagement the participant is entitled to the remainder of their 12 or 18 month pre-employment support.