Fair Start Scotland: evaluation report 4 - local area case studies - year 3

Part of the Fair Start Scotland series of evaluation reports which presents detailed findings from the third wave of local area case studies in in Fife, Motherwell and Inverclyde, incorporating feedback from FSS service providers, participants, and local delivery partners in these areas.

3. Year 3 Case Study – Greenock, Inverclyde

Greenock sits within contract area 9 of Fair Start Scotland which covers East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde. The Lead Provider for contract area 9 is the Wise Group who are supported by ENABLE Scotland, The Lennox Partnership, Street League and Enterprise Mentoring Limited as subcontractors and delivery partners. Both the Wise Group (the Lead Provider) and ENABLE Scotland (a delivery partner) deliver Fair Start Scotland directly to participants within Inverclyde. The Lennox Partnership, and Street League support The Wise Group in delivery in other parts of the contract area but do not cover Inverclyde. When describing this case study, we will refer to Inverclyde instead of Greenock as the Greenock-based staff provide support for all participants who live within the Inverclyde Local Authority area.

Inverclyde was chosen as a case study area in order to explore how Fair Start Scotland was operating within an area of relatively high unemployment and deprivation. 2020 SIMD data indicated that Inverclyde had the 2nd largest local share of deprived areas of all local authorities in Scotland with nearly half of data zones (44.7%) among the 20% most deprived in Scotland.[9] Greenock town centre and neighbouring Port Glasgow are among the most deprived communities in Scotland, with low life expectancy, a declining population, high in-work poverty and high levels of worklessness[10]. Inverclyde also has the 12th highest rate of child poverty across all local authorities in Scotland, with 25% of children living in relative poverty after housing costs. Inverclyde has 6% more workless households than the national average, low economic activity and notably low job density indicating low labour market demand. Limited service on train lines connecting Inverclyde’s towns to Glasgow which pressurises road networks and in turn local bus services. Staff delivering Fair Start Scotland felt that participants in Inverclyde were often hesitant to take work outwith Inverclyde. Sometimes this was driven by transport options, but also a general culture of wanting to work within Inverclyde contributed to this pattern. It was felt by service staff that this placed additional pressures on finding suitable employment for participants when combined with the relatively low number of suitable job opportunities within Inverclyde.

The table below compares Inverclyde to the Scottish average across deprivation, employment, job availability and transport. It draws on the most recent local authority labour market profile data unless otherwise stated.[11]

Inverclyde Scotland
Deprivation summary Percentage data zones in 20% most Deprived in Scotland[12] 45% 20%
Local Authority rank / 32 (data zones in 20% most deprived) 2 -
Percentage children living in child poverty[13] 25% 17%
Local Authority rank / 32 (child poverty) 12 -
Employment Unemployment rate 5.1% 4.4%
Claimant count 5.7% 5.2%
Percentage workless households 23.9% 17.7%
Job availability Working age population 48,200 -
Economically active 71.5% 76.8%
Percentage economically inactive who want a job 17.8% 22.8%
Job density 0.58 0.82
Transport Number of passenger train stations per 10,000 population 2.90 0.66
Percentage of adults reporting that they are very or fairly satisfied with public transport (2019 Scottish Household Survey)[14] 76% 68%

3.1 Service description

The Wise Group and ENABLE Scotland have been delivering Fair Start Scotland in Inverclyde since the launch of the service. Between them they supported 150 participants in 2019/20 and 85 participants in 2020/21. The table below outlines the key Fair Start Scotland statistics across the two years.

2019/20 2020/21
150 individuals participated in 2019/20 85 individuals participated in 2020/21
Participant profile 68% were male 60% were male
32% were female 40% were female
61% were disabled or had a health condition 45% were disabled or had a health condition
47% were under 35 years 57% were under 35 years
26% were between 35 and 49 20% were between 35 and 49
26% were over 50 22% were over 50
Job outcomes[15] 16% of all participants sustained work for 13 weeks 27% of all participants sustained work for 13 weeks
14% of men sustained work for 13 weeks 23% of men sustained work for 13 weeks
22% of women sustained work for 13 weeks 32% of women sustained work for 13 weeks
16% who were disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks 21% who were disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks
16% who were not disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks 32% who were not disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks
12% sustained work for 26 weeks 12% sustained work for 26 weeks

The Wise Group and ENABLE Scotland share the referrals from the Jobcentre and both seek to get referrals from third parties and also generate self-referrals through other platforms such as social media. ENABLE Scotland are responsible for around one in ten participants with their provision focussed on participants with complex needs and multiple barriers to employment.

The service from both The Wise Group and ENABLE Scotland is structured as follows:

  • Referrals and self-referrals are received by an engagement team who contact the participant, explore the eligibility criteria, provide information on the service, and register the individual if appropriate.
  • Participants are then allocated a work coach who works with them to set goals, access learning, address barriers and identify opportunities. Within The Wise Group there are several Work Coaches who are focused on supporting participants with pursuing self-employment while others are supporting participants with finding employment vacancies. In The Wise Group, prior to the pandemic, Work Coaches would cover particular geographies across the contract area (including Inverclyde and the other localities within the contract area). Following the pandemic and homeworking, staff from across the contract area are now supporting participants in Inverclyde where matches are made based on staff availability and caseloads as well as specialist areas of knowledge and support needs. The Wise Group intends to move back to aligning caseloads to individuals in particular geographies once they move back to office based working in the future to minimise travel time for staff.
  • When participants are ready to apply for jobs, the services’ employer engagement teams work with most participants to help them identify and apply for roles and support them through the recruitment processes such as interviews where this support is needed.
  • Following placement into work, the in-work support team keeps in contact with participants to provide ongoing support as needed.

Operational Delivery Findings

Participants are able to access other services operated by The Wise Group (although funding from The Wise Group’s Fair Start Scotland budget must fund this where they are used) and are supported to access support available from other organisations. Participants reported accessing other support from these organisations, and the service identified that there were a wide range of services and activities available for participants. However, one area they struggled to access for participants was timely access to mental health support.

Staff across both The Wise Group and ENABLE Scotland reported that, prior to the pandemic, they were able to work closely with Jobcentre Plus staff on increasing referrals and addressing specific issues related to particular participants. As with other case study areas, Fair Start Scotland delivery staff noted that the quality of their relationship with Jobcentre staff reduced over the course of the pandemic, as did the number of referrals they received. However, the pre-existing relationship between the Jobcentre and Fair Start Scotland in Inverclyde does not appear to be as strong as we have found in some of the other case study areas. There was frustration expressed by Fair Start Scotland provider staff in the area that, throughout the period of the service, they regularly receive inappropriate referrals[16] (primarily because providers felt that those who were referred were unlikely to move into employment within 12 months). Staff felt that this is likely due to a lack of understanding by Jobcentre staff about the purpose of Fair Start Scotland, combined with a preference amongst Jobcentre staff to refer to other services and providers first before considering a Fair Start Scotland referral.

Local Employability Landscape

Some of the other notable employability service providers operating within Inverclyde include the Inverclyde Community Development Trust as well the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme and Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS). There are concerns among Fair Start Scotland provider staff that competing with these services makes it challenging to attract participants particularly given the longstanding relationship between the Inverclyde Community Trust, who have been operating in the area for a number of years, and JCPs.

Virtual Service delivery

As with other case study areas contacted this year, the Wise Group and ENABLE Scotland noted that they have been putting a greater focus on referral from third parties and from social media over the course of Fair Start Scotland. They found social media particularly helpful during the height of the pandemic but are currently looking at ways to differentiate the service in advertising as they feel that the market is saturated with other providers which makes attracting participants more difficult.

As in other case study areas, staff reported that they were seeing a higher proportion of their participants who are work ready and have lost their job as a result of the pandemic. They reported that they have a larger number of participants who have been in long term employment and are needing help find a new job. This is reflected in the participant figures provided by Scottish Government which shows a decrease in the proportion of participants with a health condition or who are disabled, and an increase in the job outcome proportions which could be partly explained by this changed profile of participants.

As in other case study areas, staff reported initial hesitancy about the impact that virtual delivery would have on service quality:

“If you asked me 18 months ago, ‘Would you deliver it remotely?’, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not, it won’t work’, but it has and it is fantastic.” Provider

Provider staff were pleased with how well the service could be delivered virtually and were keen to see a mixed model of delivery in the future to retain some of the benefits of virtual working that have been made apparent. Provider staff and participants observations about virtual working are outlined below.

Provider staff reported less time spent setting up, travelling to, and waiting on face-to-face appointments where participants were unable to attend. Instead, staff reported they are able to manage their days more flexibly and keep trying to reach participants over the phone and make themselves available to participants to get in touch throughout the day if they have specific questions or support requirements. Staff report speaking with participants more frequently as a result of virtual working as they are able to chat regularly over the phone or via text when participants need them. In general, participants we contacted were happy to engage with staff digitally and one said the contact with staff he had with provider staff during lockdown was particularly important for his wellbeing.

“You could have three or four people booked and two wouldn’t turn up and that was half your day wasted. We didn’t use telephone and zoom beforehand. Now we can, and we can help people throughout a day – for example we can speak to someone at the beginning of the day and send them off to do something then they can get in touch for help and advice throughout.” Provider

“We will become more flexible in a way we work in the future, we hope that Scottish Government will keep it flexible to suit the client need rather than going back to requiring certain face-to-face hours.” Provider

Provider staff reported that there was a shortage of devices that they could access for participants with demand outstripping supply considerably. Free access to devices and support to fund connectivity was identified as key to making virtual services fairer and more accessible. Participants who might have previously visited local libraries, community venues or friends and families’ houses to access services virtually or conduct activities such as online learning or job search were unable to do this due to lockdown restrictions. Informal support with technology that participants may have received from friends and family in the past to support their accessibility also became more restricted. One participant, for example, noted that she did not have an internet connection but was able to keep in touch with staff by telephone.

However as in other case study areas, staff noted that they would like to be able to use face-to-face engagement particularly for group work and activities with participants.

3.2 Lessons from this case study

The relationship between Fair Start Scotland, Jobcentres and other providers in the area is vital in ensuring a coordinated and joined up service delivery for staff. Fair Start Scotland providers in Inverclyde felt that they were operating in competition with other services with staff reporting that they struggled to be prioritised by Jobcentre staff and often did not receive appropriate referrals.

Our field research in Inverclyde identified other areas that were felt to be working well or less well in the design and delivery of Fair Start Scotland.

What Worked Well

  • The duration of the service was identified as a strength and enabled someone to receive a full year of intensive support to enable them the best chance at moving into and sustaining employment as it means they can support people through a number of ups and downs that occur over an extended period of time.
  • The voluntary nature of the service was identified as a strength of Fair Start Scotland which contributed to a positive culture. Staff felt it enabled them to work with people who were already motivated which helped in their chances of securing employment. As with other case study areas, Fair Start Scotland participants noted however that occasionally participants were not aware that the service was voluntary when they first engaged with the service, and that while most participants understood it was voluntary some felt that they had to be there as they were still worried about how their Jobcentre Plus Work Coach may react to non-engagement.
  • Explicit in-work support was identified as a strength of Fair Start Scotland and was felt to set it apart from other employability services. Two participants, for instance, reported that Fair Start Scotland funded their travel costs for the first few weeks of their new jobs, and another appreciated staff “regularly checking in”.
  • Provider staff noted that retention of the flexibility with regards to the mandated 3 hours of engagement with participants would enable them to better tailor the time they spent with participants to suit their requirements and availability.

What Could Be Improved

  • There was frustration amongst staff delivering Fair Start Scotland that the success associated with getting someone employment that is less than 16 hours a week was unrecognised by the service. For some participants moving into any form of work represents significant progress, and it provides them with employment that meets their requirements.
  • As in other case study areas, the administrative requirements of Fair Start Scotland were identified as restrictive and time intensive with staff concerned that it often crowds out time they could have spent with participants.


Email: Arfan.iqbal@gov.scot

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