5. Employability support
This chapter summarises the feedback from participants on their experience of employability support through FSS. It covers views on pre-employment support, in-work support and some further feedback from participants who have longer term experiences of support.
5.1 Pre-employment support
Survey respondents were asked which of the support elements that were offered and taken up they found the most useful. As can be seen in Figure 6, participants from year 2 were generally positive about the usefulness of the support they received. Help with an addiction and specialist support for a mental health condition were found to be the most useful by those who had taken up this support. Both of these offers of support are health interventions and not traditionally a service offered by employability services, suggesting that the holistic nature of FSS is valued by participants.
Base: All 2019 cohort respondents (607). D6: On a scale of 1 extremely useful to 5 not at all useful, how useful would you say that each of the types of support your received were to you? Base: All who used the support type: one to one appointments (513), key worker (513), help with job search activities (440), Employment Action Plan (328), work tasters etc. (143), specialist support with mental health (106), specialist support with physical health (46), specialist support with an addiction (22), help managing finances (67)
Participants in the case study areas valued the fact that the support they received was tailored to their individual needs. Some participants with children, for example, explained that their key workers helped them to find opportunities with start and finish times that would fit around school drop off and collection times, while others said they were supported to look for work in sectors that interested them or in which they had experience.
Others reported receiving wide-ranging support to address individual needs, such as a bus pass being arranged for a participant who cannot drive, and helping to enhance a participant's digital literacy so they could seek and apply for jobs online more confidently. One said, "…there was a personal touch, they got to know me" and another observed that the key worker "…asked me lots of questions about what I wanted and I felt like she was listening to what I was saying".
Participants noted that they felt able to discuss anything with their key worker. One said "…you can share your challenges with your health and your relationships with [the key worker]" and another commented that they were able to talk to their key worker about "…things that were on my mind".
Key workers felt the ability to take a more holistic view of the wider challenges that participants faced was an important part of their job, with one saying that, "…sometimes it's not about work, it's about being in the right place and state of mind to look for work". While these issues are not directly linked to the skills or competencies needed for findings and sustaining employment, FSS helps participants to address these challenges and, by doing so, helps to prepare them for work.
5.2 In-work support
Those survey respondents who had taken up in-work support once they had moved into employment were asked about how useful they found it. As can be seen in Figure 7, year 2 respondents were generally very positive about the in-work support they had received.
Source: D11j: On a scale of 1 extremely useful to 5 not at all useful, how useful would you say that each of the types of support your received were to you? Base: All 2019 cohort who used the support type: key worker (23), one to one appointment (56), workplace inductions (23), In Work Support Action Plan (23), financial guidance (12), monthly reviews (23).
Some participants in case study areas also described the importance of the in-work support provided by FSS in helping them to sustain their job.
One participant said that their key worker had helped them to source a special chair to ensure they could undertake the job while minimising pain caused by back problems, and others said that key workers helped them to liaise with their managers when they needed support in their role. Participants, many of whom had been out of work for a significant period of time, appreciated this on-going support to help them address any issues that could affect their ability to sustain their employment.
5.3 Longer term experiences of support
Some of the respondents who took part in the telephone survey at wave 1 were contacted again at wave 2, to identify any change in barriers and motivation to work for people who had been in FSS for longer.
Responses suggest that outcomes around motivation to return to work reduced slightly amongst those who were not working. The proportion of those not working who felt motivated to work 'to a great extent' was 69% at wave 1 and 61% by wave 2. In addition, the perceived impact of FSS support on participants' motivation had also fallen, with 65% saying that the support increased their motivation at wave 1, and 52% at wave 2. It is worth noting that similar findings regarding a waning of motivation over time for those who don't find work was also found during the evaluation of Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland, the two predecessor services to Fair Start Scotland.
These participants were asked what the barriers were that prevented them from working. Health conditions played an important role, with 41% of respondents mentioning at least one health-related barrier. Other barriers not related to health were mentioned, most commonly a lack of qualifications, skills or experience (15%), and a lack of suitable jobs in the area (14%).
Respondents who reported barriers were asked to what extent they thought FSS had helped them to overcome these barriers. FSS support was most likely to be reported to have helped participants who lacked confidence applying for jobs - over three quarters (77%) of those who reported this barrier said that FSS had helped them to overcome it.
F1B. To what extent do you think the support you received from Fair Start Scotland helped you to overcome these barriers? Base: All 2019 cohort who selected barrier: Physical health condition / disability makes it difficult to carry out tasks at work (90), Not having the right qualifications (52), Not enough suitable jobs in my local area (48), Mental health condition made it difficult to carry out tasks at work (53), Not feeling confident about applying for jobs (30), Physical health condition / disability makes it difficult to travel to work (33), other (116).
The importance of on-going contact between participant and key worker can be illustrated by a few examples of case study participants who started a job but then left it for various reasons. These participants were able to immediately access support from FSS to help them to respond to this setback. For some, this support focused on finding a new job while others required support with other issues before they could start to look for work again.
One participant had to leave their job after falling ill, so the FSS key worker helped them to address the sudden reduction in income by supporting them to apply for Universal Credit and to access a food bank.
What worked well?
Participants were very positive about the support they received through FSS, both pre-employment and in-work. Many felt that FSS had helped them overcome significant barriers.
Longer term ongoing relationships between participants and providers, especially after the period of pre-employment support has ended, seems to be have a positive effect with participants reporting that this contact allowed them to respond quickly to setbacks.
What could be improved?
Findings from the fieldwork suggest that those participants who have not successfully moved into work begin after a time to lose motivation and confidence. Such participants may require additional support in order to help them achieve their goals.
Health was mentioned as an ongoing barrier to work by those participants with longer term experiences of support. This suggests that there is scope for health-specific support to be strengthened, in order to support this key group.
What are we doing?
During year 2, FSS service providers have continued to develop and improve their health and wellbeing offer to provide support to those participants with more complex barriers. Additionally, providers are now able to work with participants for an additional 4 weeks at the start of service to develop a full understanding of the level of support that a participant may need during their time on FSS. This allows providers to identify barriers and specialist support requirements that a participant, with such needs, may require.
As previously noted, from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the delivery model was revised to ensure that participants continued to receive a quality service despite not being able to engage with providers face to face. By adapting the model, this ensured that providers could continue to provide employability and heath / wellbeing support during this challenging time.