The second year of the Fair Start Scotland (FSS) programme has continued to deliver positive outcomes for participants. The proportion of surveyed clients that had moved into work increased slightly compared to the cohort surveyed from year one of the programme, while other outcomes around motivation to return to work remained consistent or slightly improved.
At the point of survey (May 2020), of the 2019 cohort (who joined the service between January and December 2019) over a third (35%) were working or had done some work in the last week. This was a six-percentage point increase on the 2018 cohort surveyed in June 2019. Two thirds of the 2019 cohort felt that the support they received from FSS had increased their motivation to return to work (63%) and three quarters said they wanted to return to work 'to a great extent'.
The 2019 cohort were generally very positive about the support they received from FSS and their experiences were well aligned with the Scottish Government's key values. Nine in ten (91%) participants agreed that they were treated with respect and dignity, and eight in ten agreed that the support took account of their individual needs (80%), supported them to improve their quality of life (81%) and allowed them to have control of their progress on the service (80%). The support was most effective in helping participants to feel confident about applying for jobs, find suitable jobs in their area, and helping participants to overcome barriers around mental health (over half who reported these as barriers said support helped them to overcome them).
Participants who had moved into work were highly likely to be working in labour intensive positions including roles such as cleaners, catering assistants or non-managerial hospitality positions (50% of those working), or service occupations such as caring, leisure, sales and customer services (24% of those working). Most were earning less than £9.30 per hour (66%).. Positively, over half were on permanent employment contracts while one in ten were on a zero hours contract. There were indications however that the Coronavirus outbreak had impacted employment outcomes. The survey took place in May 2020, around two months after the start of lockdown, and this had directly impacted the working status of just under a quarter (23%) of the 2019 cohort, including nine per cent who were furloughed and seven per cent who were no longer in work due to the outbreak.
Less than half of participants who were eligible for in-work support at the time of the survey recalled being offered it in the form of a key worker (49%) and two fifths of all who were eligible took up this support (39%), however participants who used in-work support were highly likely to have found it useful.
Across the target groups, those with mental health conditions were generally more positive about their experiences on the programme, compared to those with physical health conditions. Participants who were limited by a long term mental health condition were more likely to recall being offered specialist support for their condition, than those who were limited by a physical condition (47% compared to 23%), and over half (54%) of those whose mental health prevented them from carrying out tasks at work said the service had helped them to overcome this, compared to a third (36%) who experienced barriers due to their physical health condition or disability.
The survey also engaged participants from the 2018 cohort who had taken part in the Wave 1 survey and gathered insights about their experiences up to two years after joining the service. Over a third (36%) of this group were in work at the time of the survey (May 2020), with those with Highers or Advanced Highers most likely to be working (52% compared to 36% average). The proportion who were in work over 16 hours per week and therefore eligible for in-work support had increased from a quarter (25%) in June 2019 to nearly a third (31%) in May 2020. Among those in work, a relatively low proportion reported that they had been offered the various forms of in-work support available (for example, 26% recalled being offered meetings with a dedicated key worker). Eight per cent were still receiving in-work support through FSS.