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
4. Process: referral and service delivery

4. Process: referral and service delivery

As with last year's evaluation, local area case studies were undertaken in three research locations. The aims of the case studies were to:

  • understand how FSS is being implemented across the different Lots in Scotland
  • understand the experience of FSS for lead providers, partner organisations, participants and employers
  • identify what is working well and less well in the implementation of Fair Start Scotland
  • identify lessons learned and recommend changes to consider for the remainder of the FSS contract period, as well as shaping what the next iteration of employment support in Scotland might look like

It should be noted that planned fieldwork coincided with the national lockdown caused by the COVID-19 crisis and as such it was not possible for researchers to engage with the breadth of participants that had been planned, such as JCP staff and employers.

The following section therefore sets out key findings from FSS delivery organisations, partners, stakeholders and participants in the three case study areas, which are Drumchapel, Dundee, and Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

A complete report of findings from the case studies has been published separately as: Fair Start Scotland Evaluation Report 3: Local area case studies - year 2 (November 2020) and can be found at:

4.1 Fair Start Scotland in Drumchapel

Drumchapel is a deprived peripheral estate on the outskirts of Glasgow City with a history of high and sustained unemployment. With regards to the delivery of FSS, Drumchapel is part of the Glasgow Lot, which covers the Glasgow Local Authority area. The contract for the lot is held by People Plus and the service is delivered locally by the Lennox Partnership (TLP).

Strengths of the FSS delivery model in Drumchapel

The relationship between JCP and TLP has been described as "going from strength to strength" (FSS provider). This appears to have been achieved through both JCP and TLP making an effort to build a strong relationship, with regular meetings taking place between staff. This allows TLP to discuss the FSS service offer in detail as well as to highlight the input they require from Jobcentre staff. TLP noted that regular communication is also important as it keeps Jobcentre work coaches up to date on how participants are finding their experience with the service and that this communication is key for maintaining both relationships with and a steady stream of referrals from JCP staff. It is worth noting that a recurring message from JCP staff during last year's fieldwork included a desire for more communication from providers on the progress of participants and therefore it is reassuring to see these changes come to fruition.

Part of the success behind the working relationship between TLP and the JCP is attributed to the fact that TLP are co-located in the Jobcentre. This not only facilitates discussion between staff but also allows potential participants to meet the TLP worker face to face at an early stage in their engagement. This alongside warm handovers[7] from JCP staff, is felt by providers to have contributed towards an increase in referrals.

TLP have also set up community engagement teams who have established referral pathways which offer participants access to the service via routes other than through JCP. This includes a number of third sector organisations in the area as well as mental health services, drug and alcohol addiction teams, Housing Associations and community groups. It was felt that, although a challenging process, it has been a rewarding one, leading to a larger portfolio of partners, a stronger presence in the local area, and a wider variation of participant caseloads.

Another key strength that was described included the use of experienced key workers. This was seen by TLP to be particularly important given the complex, multifaceted challenges which participants face in an area of high deprivation such as Drumchapel. In addition TLP also praised the flexible nature of FSS which was seen by the provider to be a key aspect of its success, with key workers able to provide a wide range of support services to participants.

"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

Challenges encountered delivering FSS in Drumchapel

Providers felt that the complex circumstances faced by many of the participants from the area was a challenge. This presented itself in many ways but a general recognition of the fact that many participants were beset by a number of barriers which had to be overcome before employment was a realistic goal was voiced by stakeholders.

"Community teams dealing with drug and alcohol addictions are bursting at the seams. We normally get someone in the recovery period – clean now but spent last 10 years living with an addiction – so not work ready."
- Fair Start Scotland Provider

It was also recognised that many participants in the area were reluctant to travel outwith Drumchapel for the purposes of work. Reasons for this are likely complex and intrinsically related to the nature of Drumchapel as a relatively isolated and deprived 'peripheral estate'. The implications of this are that some participants may be restricted to their local area to find work, in which opportunities are limited.

Related to this were concerns from stakeholders that the labour market in the area was changing, particularly in terms of dwindling opportunities in the retail sector which may negatively impact participants' chances of finding employment. Additionally concerns were also raised about the risk of participants relying on precarious forms of employment when they did successfully manage to gain paid work.

There was a general recognition from the individuals and organisations that participated in the fieldwork that the employability landscape within the Greater Glasgow area is crowded and this can cause confusion both for individuals and for referring organisations. Representatives from the Local Authority also felt that Fair Start Scotland has not done enough to fully understand and work with the existing employability infrastructure in Glasgow to best effect.

Rebecca is a single mum from Drumchapel in her 30s. She had been unemployed for 8 years.

She was referred by Jobcentre Plus in November 2019. 

Her confidence was low and she felt that on her own she was getting no closer to employment. Rebecca was looking for a job that would fit with her parental responsibilities. 

Rebecca’s key worker supported her with job applications and improving her CV. 

She enrolled in a care course that was due to start in March but was put on hold. She hopes to start soon. FSS gave Rebeca the confidence to enrol.

4.2 Fair Start Scotland in Dundee

Dundee is a compact city with a recent history of high unemployment and deprivation. However Dundee is also known to have a well-developed support landscape. With regards to FSS delivery Dundee is in the Tayside Lot, together with Perth, and Kinross and Angus local authority areas. The lead Provider in Dundee is Remploy. Their supply chain originally included Rathbone but they withdrew in 2019, with all their staff being transferred across to Remploy who are now the direct provider of all FSS support.

Dundee was also one of the sites of the Health and Work Support Pilot[8], a programme jointly funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Scottish Government. The pilot was designed to primarily help those at risk of unemployment due to a health condition or disability but also included provision for the recently unemployed (less than six months). As such there was some degree of overlap in eligibility criteria between the pilot and FSS.

Strengths of the Dundee FSS model

The fact that the provider is now partly co-located with the JCP, via having a key worker present on a regular basis, is seen as providing a number of benefits including that it allows the provider to invest time to ensure that all job coaches are aware of and understand the FSS offer. In addition having key workers present in JCPs allows for early contact with potential participants and an opportunity to describe the service and assess suitability.

Beyond working with the JCP, Remploy also has a structured way of building its wider network of partners, through their Transforming Lives Community (TLC). Partner organisations are subject to due diligence checks in order to ensure that they are well placed to support the wide variety of barriers that participants may face. Of their different regional networks Remploy consider Dundee their strongest, because of their previous work in the area. The provider also noted that the principles and ethos behind FSS, namely a person centred, holistic approach is not only valuable but also aligns closely to their TLC approach.

The provider also discussed the hard work that has been undertaken to foster relationships between FSS and other employability services in the local area. The longstanding presence of Remploy in Dundee means that it has a well-established network of contacts which has resulted in significant numbers of referrals from third party organisations.

Another key strength that was highlighted was the provider's development of a rapid response system which provides specialist help via a dedicated key worker for those participants who fall out of employment after a successful placement.

"Being in Dundee before Fair Start helped us – there are a lot of key partners who (we) have worked with over the years..."
- Fair Start Scotland provider

Challenges in Dundee

Although there is general acknowledgement that there is a comprehensive landscape of support in Dundee, the proliferation of services also results in an environment that is complex to navigate. Partly as a result of this it was felt that there are still clients who are confused about what programme they are on, and the role and status of their provider.

Another theme which emerged regards the relationship between the provider and the local authority. Remploy used to work closely with Dundee City Council but this relationship has faltered because of issues around the European Social Fund (ESF) and the risk of duplicate spend.

"We used to work closely with the Council, but double funding prevented this and it feels like we are in competition. We may get a referral and they then start on a Council programme and then we have to try to work out who gets the credit."
- Fair Start Scotland provider

"We don't have very much to do with Fair Start – we run our programmes and they run their programme – we may compete with clients but it is hard to get a sense of the scale of this."
- Local Authority

Concerns were also raised by the provider that although there are options to "pause" support for participants on the service, that if participants disengage or decide to leave they are not able to readily re-engage. It was felt that, particularly in the current context of the COVID-19 outbreak that this may present difficulties and therefore a more flexible approach may be required to accommodate the potentially unstable circumstances participants may be facing.

Douglas is 57 and lives in Dundee. He has been unemployed for two years after working on building sites or in factories. He suffered a bad injury that required an operation. 

Douglas was referred to FSS by the Jobcentre in August 2019. He is very keen to find work. 

Douglas’s key worker has been encouraging him to look for new opportunities. They believe that once Douglas is in a job his employers will see that he is a hard worker and want to keep him on.

Douglas and his key worker have talked every couple of weeks during lockdown.

4.3 Fair Start Scotland in Peterhead and Fraserburgh

Peterhead and Fraserburgh are two towns in Aberdeenshire with a challenging labour market situated in a predominantly rural area. The towns are in the NE corner of the North East Lot, in the Aberdeenshire Local Authority. The North East contract is now held by Start Scotland, but at the time of the fieldwork (May – July 2020) it was held by Momentum, with three other delivery partners – Aberdeen Foyer, Enable, and Enterprise Mentoring.

Strengths of the FSS service in Peterhead and Fraserburgh

As with the two other local area case studies the local provider in Peterhead and Fraserburgh has focused on successfully fostering a strong working relationship with the local Jobcentre. This has raised the awareness of FSS amongst Jobcentre staff successfully and has further developed into the regular use of warm handovers and information sharing. In total it was felt that this approach has successfully increased referrals into the service from the JCP.

A 'health model' run by providers, in conjunction with the JCP, as a preparation for FSS is felt by the provider to have been successful in preparing participants for FSS. The approach aims to encourage potential participants who face significant barriers (including mental health challenges as well as drug and alcohol misuse) to develop healthier lifestyles and positive ways of thinking.

"....this is all about relationships and we are lucky in terms of our relationships with Jobcentre Work Coaches...."
- Fair Start Scotland provider

Another key strength that was highlighted was the provision of specialist support for those participants who are interested in self-employment. This represents a distinctive feature of FSS provision in Peterhead and Fraserburgh which is well regarded.

Challenges in Peterhead and Fraserburgh

One of the challenges that was highlighted concerns the fact that all referrals from the local Jobcentre are directed to a central hub in Glasgow. There is a clear sense that this arrangement is not ideal, and that referrals being made to a Glasgow hub and back out again is neither efficient nor client centred. Similarly employer engagement also takes place nationally (in Glasgow) which again may present challenges for areas such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

Again, in keeping with the other areas within Peterhead and Fraserburgh it was noted that both the local authority and provider feel that their relationship could be improved. There have been efforts to strengthen the relationship but so far these have been unsuccessful.

As with many rural areas the job market in the local area is very limited and transportation options to the nearest city of Aberdeen are not ideal. This can be exacerbated by some participants' unwillingness to travel outwith the local area for work.

"We are only 30 miles from Aberdeen but the culture is very different – lots of clients are not prepared to travel and this is a huge barrier, unless they want to work in fish factories or oil and gas. We are working on entry level jobs but most of the positions available are specialist. So the market is cleaners, retail, security."
- Fair Start Scotland provider

Billy is 19, and has a learning difficulty and a mental health condition. He has been unemployed since leaving school.

Billy was referred to FSS in August 2019 by Jobcentre Plus. 

FSS helped him to arrange a placement in a charity shop. This strengthened his CV and made him consider retail as a career.

The key worker helped Billy to apply for a training programme at a large retailer, and he secured a job. Billy’s key worker observed an improvement in his confidence and reported that Billy’s family was pleased to see him getting out the house.

What worked well?

It was evident from the findings of the local area case studies that significant steps have been taken by local providers to ensure closer working with JCP staff. The time taken to build relationships and the use of strategies such as co-location and warm handovers are regarded as effective approaches which should improve service delivery and experience of the service for participants.

Another strength that was highlighted across the areas was the benefit of building positive relationships with other employability services and third sector organisations in local areas. Related to this was the recognition of the importance of leveraging existing experience of delivery in local areas.

Providers also demonstrated utilising the flexibility inherent to FSS to develop approaches which reflect local need such as the health model and delivery of targeted support for those seeking self-employment.

In relation to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, all three local case study areas demonstrated use of alternative approaches when faced with challenges presented by lockdown, primarily through the successful use of social media for marketing of the service at a time when JCP was unable to refer participants as normal.

What could be improved?

With regards to ongoing challenges and areas for improvement, individuals and organisations from across the three local case study areas noted that there remained a relatively complex and cluttered local landscape with regards to employability services which presents a number of challenges.

This in part was reflected via discussions surrounding difficulties faced by providers in terms of their capacity to work effectively with local authorities, often due to perceived restrictions surrounding use of ESF monies.

Some local communities evidently face complex and location specific challenges, whether in the form of local labour market structures, a history of deprivation and associated barriers or through challenges presented by rurality. It was felt that these challenges may limit participants' capacity to succeed and therefore additional specific assistance may be required to overcome such barriers.

What are we doing?

Through No One Left Behind[9] SG are seeking to deliver transformational change across employability services in Scotland. We are working with partners to ensure employability across Scotland is user-centred and straightforward to navigate, with the funding for these services being flexible and responsive to individual needs. We are continuing to build on the Partnership Agreement with Local Government to help realise our shared ambition to deliver a place based approach.

No One Left Behind recognises the need to balance a desire to progress our ambitions to deliver improved employability services at pace with the need to protect the stability of the system as a whole and offer continuity of support to service users. We remain focussed on the principles of No One Left Behind, working collaboratively with partners across sectors to ensure services can adapt to this time of challenge and change, and to work together to plan for recovery and shape the employability support that will be needed going forward.

In relation to the current economic circumstances brought on by COVID-19, our overall investment in employability - including the Young Persons Guarantee, National Transition Training Fund and enhanced redundancy support through Partnership for Continuing Employment (PACE) activity announced in direct response to the impacts of COVID-19 as well as Fair Start Scotland - will continue to have a particular focus on helping those who struggle most in the labour market.

This year, we also instigated a Joint Continuous Improvement Forum with FSS Providers, early outputs from the group include the activities around disengagement and extending the pause criteria outlined in chapter 3, as well as specific actions around COVID-19.

As COVID-19 began to impact service delivery in March 2020, we put in place a number of service delivery flexibilities to ensure both our participants and provider's staff welfare was placed at the centre of our priorities e.g. we moved quickly to introduce digital engagement, removing the need for face to face contact, encouraging provider staff to work from home.

We also stabilised the employability service provider space by taking immediate steps to financially support our providers, ensuring all provider staff remained fully employed and able to support participants throughout this worrying period, without the fear of losing their jobs.

Going forward employability will have a pivotal role to play in rebuilding our economy by rebuilding a better, fairer, greener and more sustainable economy. Fair Start Scotland as our largest single investment is key to this and we will be working to strengthen the links and alignment at a national, regional and local level as we continue to emerge from this crisis.