1. Introduction and context
Rocket Science, in partnership with Blake Stevenson and the Institute for Employment Studies, was commissioned in 2019 to complete a three-year evaluation of Fair Start Scotland. Fair Start Scotland is the Scottish Government’s first national employability service supporting those who are farther from the labour market. The service aims to reach those who have disability or additional support needs and who have been unemployed for a long time (2 years or more) and others with disabilities and additional support needs. It also aims to support other groups including those with a health condition, those with caring responsibilities, lone parents, refugees, those with a conviction ant those from minority ethnic community. It seeks to build on the Scottish Government’s ambition to move Scotland towards a more integrated employability landscape that can support those with a complex combination of support needs. This ambition is articulated by the Scottish Approach to employability “Creating a Fairer Scotland” underpinned by principles around fair work, person centred approaches and respect and dignity. Fair Start Scotland has been commissioned in nine contract or lot areas across Scotland.
This report is the third and final in a series of evaluation reports that explore how Fair Start Scotland has been implemented and what lessons can be learned to feed into the ongoing delivery of the service and inform future decisions by Scottish Government and others on employability services in Scotland. Fair Start Scotland offers scope for learning around:
- The way that national services can be adapted and flexed to meet local needs and conditions
- How it can complement and support other local provision
- How its governance and performance can be more locally ‘owned’, so driving service quality and outcomes
- How to better integrate employability support with more specialist support which can include health and housing.
To achieve that learning we have taken a case study approach. Each year we have explored how Fair Start is working in three localities within three of the nine contract areas, adding up to nine case studies over the three years of the evaluation. This has provided us with an in-depth understanding of how Fair Start Scotland is being implemented across Scotland, what the experience has been like for lead providers, partner organisations, participants, stakeholders, and employers, and what is working well and less well in the implementation of Fair Start Scotland.
The case study areas for each lot are outlined in the following table:
- Alloa in the Forth Valley (Contract area 4)
- Irvine in South West (Contract area 6)
- Wick in Highlands and Islands (Contract area 8)
- Drumchapel in Glasgow (Contract area 1)
- Dundee in Tayside (Contract area 3)
- Peterhead and Fraserburgh in the North East (Contract area 7)
Year 3 (2020/21)
- Greenock in Inverclyde (Contract area 9)
- Fife (Contract area 5)
- Motherwell in North Lanarkshire (Contract area 2)
For each case study area we:
- Conducted a brief socio-economic and employment analysis of the area to place the delivery of Fair Start Scotland within a local context
- Analysed management and performance data held by Scottish Government on Fair Start Scotland delivery to provide an understanding of the profile of participants in each area
- Carried out interviews with Fair Start Scotland providers’ staff, partners, participants, employers, and stakeholders to build a picture of their experience of the service.
In addition to these case study specific components, in Year 3 (2021) we conducted:
- Interviews with senior stakeholders in Scottish Government, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Lead Providers across Scotland
- A survey of frontline Fair Start Scotland delivery staff across Scotland
- A survey of Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches across Scotland.
These additional activities were intended to provide an overall view of the delivery of Fair Start Scotland during the evaluation period to supplement the conclusions we have been able to draw on the case studies.
The Covid-19 pandemic started just prior to the Year 2 case study field work period. As a result, we were unable to speak to Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches in the case study areas for years 2 and 3. The survey with Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches conducted in year 3 is partly designed to help fill this gap in evidence.
This year’s report has been produced against the background of a growing focus on the rolling out of the No One Left Behind approach to employability. This involves the ‘pooling’ of a range of the Scottish Government’s funding streams which focus on employability and skills and passing this pooled funding to Local Government. Each of the 32 Local Authorities will be expected to work closely with their Local Employability Partnerships to design, implement, procure, and manage an appropriate range of local employability services that meet their specific local needs. In this report we reflect in section 6.3.2 on the lessons that can be drawn from the experience of Fair Start Scotland to date in terms of the implementation of the No One Left Behind approach.
Interviews with employers who had employed Fair Start Scotland participants or offered work experience were also challenging in Years 2 and 3 as a result of Covid-19. Appendix 1 describes the number of employers we were able to reach during our field research across the three years of the evaluation.
This report provides the findings from our Year 3 case study areas (see chapters 2, 3 and 4) and provides evaluation findings from across the three years to draw conclusions about Fair Start Scotland in total across the three years of delivery. Views of participants can be found in Chapter 5, and our overall evaluation findings can be found in Chapter 6 and cover our operational findings, the impact on participants, and the lessons for the future.
The next three chapters present the findings from our in-depth exploration with providers, partners, and participants in three localities in the Fair Start Scotland contract areas:
- Fife – a large geographical area with transport challenges and high degrees of income inequality
- Greenock in Inverclyde – an area of high deprivation, unemployment, and low job density
- Motherwell in North Lanarkshire – a larger settlement in an area with a history of high unemployment and many existing support services.
Many of our findings were similar between the three case study areas this year and were also consistent with the findings from our case studies in years 1 and 2 of the evaluation. Each case study is explored in detail in chapters below.