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.

4. Year 3 Case Study – Motherwell, North Lanarkshire

Motherwell in North Lanarkshire sits within contract area 2 of Fair Start Scotland which covers North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire. The Lead Provider for contract area 2 is Remploy Limited (now owned by Maximus) who support approximately 85% of participants referred by Jobcentre Plus and are further supported in delivery by ENABLE Scotland. The main office for North Lanarkshire is in Airdrie which provides support for all Fair Start Scotland participants living in the North Lanarkshire Local Authority area. The service is also delivered via co-location - using a mixture of office space within the local Jobcentre and library in Motherwell.

Motherwell was chosen as a case study to explore how delivery works in a significant settlement with a history of high unemployment and quite a high density of existing support services.

2020 SIMD data indicated that North Lanarkshire has the 6th largest local share of deprived areas of all local authorities in Scotland, with just over a third of data zones (34.2%) among the 20% most deprived in Scotland. North Lanarkshire also has the 6th highest rate of child poverty in Scotland, with 26% of children living in relative poverty after housing costs[17]. The most deprived communities in North Lanarkshire are mostly located in Motherwell, with notably high deprivation in Motherwell South, where residents experience high unemployment and health inequalities. In this area, 32% of children live in low-income households, nearly twice the national average[18]. Jobs density is notably lower than the national average, with around 2 jobs in North Lanarkshire for every 3 working age people. A low proportion of residents are satisfied with public transport compared to the national average.

The table below compares North Lanarkshire 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.[19]

North Lanarkshire Scotland
Deprivation summary Percentage data zones in 20% most Deprived in Scotland[20] 34% 20%
Local Authority rank / 32 (data zones in 20% most deprived) 6 -
Percentage children living in child poverty[21] 26% 17%
Local Authority rank / 32 (child poverty) 6 -
Employment Unemployment rate 6.1% 4.4%
Claimant count 5.7% 5.2%
Percentage workless households 17.0% 17.7%
Job availability Working age population 219,100 -
Economically active 74.7% 76.8%
Percentage economically inactive who want a job 28.0% 22.5%
Job density 0.66 0.82
Transport Number of passenger train stations per 10,000 population 1.14 0.66
Percentage of adults reporting that they are very or fairly satisfied with public transport (2019 Scottish Household Survey)[22] 61% 68%

4.1 Service description

Remploy Limited and their delivery partners Enable have been delivering Fair Start Scotland in North Lanarkshire since the beginning of Fair Start Scotland. Between them they supported 255 participants in 2019/20 and 120 participants in 2020/21. The table below outlines the key Fair Start Scotland statistics across the two years.

2019/20 2020/21
255 individuals participated in 2019/20 120 individuals participated in 2020/21
Participant profile 62% were male 54% were male
38% were female 46% were female
39% were disabled or had a health condition 31% were disabled or had a health condition
45% were under 35 years 53% were under 35 years
29% were between 35 and 49 28% were between 35 and 49
24% were over 50 20% were over 50
Job outcomes[23] 23% of all participants sustained work for 13 weeks 24% of all participants sustained work for 13 weeks
22% of men sustained work for 13 weeks 24% of men sustained work for 13 weeks
24% of women sustained work for 13 weeks 24% of women sustained work for 13 weeks
20% who were disabled or had a or health condition sustained work for 13 weeks 29% who were disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks
28% who were not disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks 23% who were not disabled or had a health condition sustained work for 13 weeks
18% sustained work for 26 weeks 14% sustained work for 26 weeks

Operational Delivery Findings

In this area Remploy deploy staff according to level of support required by the participant. For staff working with participants with the highest level of need, the case load is capped at 20-25, while for those closer to the labour market the caseload is around double this number. Remploy recognise the need to help their key workers focus on supporting individual participants and are planning to develop a separate in-work support team so that key workers can focus on support to those in the pre-employment stage. They appreciate that a different set of skills is needed for in-work support, with different forms of engagement, preparation, and support, including starting work appointments, responsibilities of employment, weekly/fortnightly or monthly contact depending on the individual.

As in other contract areas, Remploy felt that they faced early challenges in getting appropriate referrals from Jobcentre Plus, in terms of both scale and appropriateness (i.e. those realistically able to gain work within 12 months). This was further exacerbated by Covid-19 as there was a rapid increase in Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches from mid-February 2021, and some turnover of Jobcentre Plus Managers. This meant that some of the new Work Coaches were not aware of Fair Start Scotland. In response to this Remploy have created a full-time role to liaise with Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches (there are 4 Jobcentres in North Lanarkshire – in Airdrie, Bellshill, Motherwell and Hamilton) and providers felt that this has transformed the referrals Remploy receive from JCP’s. It was reported that this change has not only has increased referral numbers received but it also appears to have reduced the number of inappropriate referrals.

Local Employability Landscape

The local impact of Fair Start Scotland in Motherwell and more widely in North Lanarkshire is affected by the range and scale of other services operating in the area, and the strength of pre-existing relationships between Jobcentre Plus and the third sector. North Lanarkshire has a significant range of existing services, focused on those who are longer term unemployed. Routes to Work (RTW) was established by North Lanarkshire Council in 1992 and so is well established with a wide range of relationships with third sector organisations and community-based services. North Lanarkshire’s Working is the Council’s own complementary service, focusing on policy work, partner relationships and employer engagement. RTW have focused on the provision of specialist support (using ESF funding), particularly those working in the areas of housing (homelessness), health and criminal justice. As part of this effort, RTW has specialist workers focused on those with health conditions, young people, people with convictions, and young people who are care experienced and minority ethnic groups. The Council has also invested in a third sector engagement fund – identifying key partners such as Access for Industry, Street League, Simon Community and Barnardo’s to help people with pre-employability support so they can then engage successfully with Routes to Work.

Our interviews with Remploy, North Lanarkshire Council and RTW confirm the feeling that there is no real joint working in place between Fair Start Scotland and the other local providers. Remploy’s view is that ‘It feels like two different systems’ with their being a very limited referral of participants between Fair Start Scotland and RTW services. However, it was noted that Remploy are represented on the Third Sector Employability Forum which helps them engage with a wider range of local third sector providers.

The Council have 25 employability staff and RTW have 75 staff, and in terms of participant referrals (most of which come from Jobcentre Plus) the services of the Council and RTW engage with over 5 times those of Fair Start Scotland. For comparison, Remploy have 8 employability staff in their main office in Airdrie and 13 staff in total.

What this means is that in North Lanarkshire, Fair Start Scotland was introduced into a well-developed service landscape for those further from work, with a wide range of well-established relationships, at a time when unemployment was relatively low and the labour market was quite tight. It was hard for Fair Start Scotland to gain the referrals and build the relationships they needed to supplement and complement existing services. This was reinforced by the focus of existing services also being on those further from work. In addition, involvement in all the existing local services was voluntary and there are a range of well-established outreach relationships. Therefore, compared with some of the other areas we have examined, it was particularly hard for Fair Start Scotland to distinguish itself through its voluntary nature and the length of Support it offered.

There were a number of specific practical implications of this. While many Fair Start Scotland providers reported that they struggled to get the referrals they had been expecting from Jobcentre Plus, it was particularly difficult in North Lanarkshire due to the close pre-existing working relationship between RTW and Jobcentre Plus, with Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches perhaps finding it hard to identify the distinctive features of the new service which looked similar to existing services.

Virtual Service delivery

As has been reported in the other case study areas, the impact of Covid-19 has been substantial. North Lanarkshire saw the same collapse of referrals from Jobcentre Plus that other case study areas saw as Jobcentre Plus staff focused on the registration of new participants to Universal Credit. They also saw the reduction in referrals from other organisations as community services furloughed their staff or moved to telephone appointments only.

There were a number of adaptations to the service as a result of Covid-19. Remploy staff saw a lot of stress and anxiety in their participants during the lockdown periods, and their roles shifted to support participants with these issues, and as a result they often focused on being a source of general support and to act as someone to talk to rather than focusing on specific work goals. They introduced 10–15-minutes telephone ‘micro appointments’ to ensure that they were keeping in touch and staff welcomed the flexibility that the Scottish Government had introduced in terms of the introduction of fortnightly rather than weekly appointments. They recognised that a lot of lone parents were focused on home schooling and school packs were therefore sent out to support such participants. Staff recognised that sometimes they were the only people that participants were talking to so the frequency and nature of the contact was important.

“During Covid we made quite a switch to keeping in touch – for example, we were organising medication etc for those shielding. For some we were their only contact during a week and they trusted us. We were focusing on mental health and hardship support like food banks. All our staff were trained in mental health first aid.” Provider

Another change was the provider developing their use of social media, specifically Facebook, ensuring that there was a single site with high quality and appealing content which would reach current and potential participants.

Remploy also developed online group sessions – for example around confidence building and interviews which allowed a range of participants to share their experience and learning. These were complemented by What’s App groups and video chats. For young participants many of these innovations worked well – they were ‘tech savvy’ and recent schools leavers were able to make progress into college and retail work. Staff reported that for these young people online was a great experience and they enjoyed the remote sessions, and the main concern was about less ‘tech savvy’ participants or those with no internet connection. A staff member noted that, while they could communicate with these participants by phone, it was more difficult to build a trusting relationship with participants in this way. To help them, Remploy had sourced tablets and internet access (mobile phones with data) but some did not know how to use this equipment.

4.2 Lessons from this case study

The experience of delivery of Fair Start in Motherwell and North Lanarkshire offers the following insights and lessons.

What Worked Well

  • Remploy were able to respond effectively to the impact of Covid-19, switching their service to a telephone and online service and recognising that the priority was on contact and general support rather than on jobs.
  • The introduction of a full-time liaison worker to stay in touch with Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches was felt to have had a significant positive impact.

What Could be Improved

  • North Lanarkshire has a particularly comprehensive and well-established set of employability services which operates at a significant scale and with high levels of public awareness. With only a limited prior presence, it was very hard for Remploy to establish a new service quickly, particularly because most of the distinctive features of Fair Start Scotland (long term support, voluntary, link to specialist support) were already well-established features of existing services.
  • Similarly, North Lanarkshire Council had a well-established range of employer contacts and training routes, so it was hard for Remploy to make inroads into the local employer market – though employers told us that they appreciated the quality and focus of the support that they had received under FSS.


Email: Arfan.iqbal@gov.scot

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