Fair Start Scotland: evaluation report 4 - participant phone survey - year 3

Part of a series of reports on the evaluation of Fair Start Scotland (FSS) employability services. The report presents more detailed findings from a representative telephone survey of FSS participants and explores their experiences in the third year of delivery

Executive Summary

This report presents detailed findings from the third wave of a survey conducted with Fair Start Scotland (FSS) participants. Between 2018 and 2021 there have been three annual survey waves with FSS participants. In this report, FSS participants are referred to as the 2018, 2019 and 2020 cohorts, according to the year they joined FSS. From 2020 onwards the survey had a longitudinal element meaning that a proportion of the earlier cohorts were recontacted. The table below shows which respondents were surveyed over the three survey waves (longitudinal elements are shaded blue):

Wave 1 Survey (2019)

2018 cohort (joined FSS in 2018)

Wave 2 Survey (2020)

2018 cohort (joined FSS in 2018 and surveyed in 2019 and 2020)

2019 cohort (joined FSS in 2019)

Wave 3 Survey (2021)

2018 cohort (joined FSS in 2018 and surveyed in 2019, 2020 and 2021)

2019 cohort (joined FSS in 2019 and surveyed in 2020 and 2021)

2020 cohort (joined FSS in 2020)

This report covers the wave 3 survey carried out in 2021, completed by 1,027 participants. Overall, findings show that in its third year, Fair Start Scotland (FSS) has continued to deliver positive results for participants, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The service has shown an improvement in the number of participants who have moved into work compared with in 2018, and it has continued to motivate participants who are not employed to return to work.

Employment outcomes

At the time the survey was conducted, 36 per cent of the latest, 2020 cohort were either working for an employer or self-employed. The proportion of the 2020 cohort in work represented an increase compared to 27 per cent of the 2018 cohort at the same point in their customer journey. Those in the 2020 cohort that were working were also more likely to be working full time, compared to their 2018 counterparts at the same point in their customer journey. Six-in-ten (61 per cent) of the 2020 cohort were working full time, compared to half of the equivalent 2018 cohort (49 per cent).

The vast majority of the 2020 cohort who were not working (or working less than 16 hours per week) wanted to return to work (94 per cent) and six in ten (60 per cent) reported that their motivation had increased since receiving FSS support.

The impact of the COVID pandemic

Despite their positive employment outcomes, nearly a third of the 2020 cohort had been adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic. Sixteen per cent reported having lost their job due to the pandemic and were out of work at the time of the survey, while a further 5 per cent had lost their job but found employment elsewhere. A minority of other participants reported working reduced hours or being furloughed; being unable to find a job due to the pandemic; or being affected in another way (4 per cent, 3 per cent and 4 per cent respectively).

Findings suggest that FSS supported participants well through the pandemic. The majority of the 2020 cohort were able to continue accessing FSS support without difficulties, while COVID-19 restrictions prevented meeting face to face, with most (90 per cent) receiving support by phone during this time. Furthermore, while over a third of participants (35 per cent) reported that the pandemic posed a barrier to finding work, nearly half of these participants (48 per cent) reported that the support they received helped them to overcome this.

Experiences of the support received

Overall satisfaction with the support received from FSS has remained consistently high across the 2018, 2019 and 2020 cohorts, and the 2020 cohort were even more likely than their predecessors to respond positively about several key aspects of the support. For example, 95 per cent of 2020 cohort participants felt they were treated with dignity and respect, an increase from 92 per cent of the 2018 cohort at Wave one. Over four-fifths (84 per cent) of the 2020 cohort agreed that they were offered support to improve their general quality of life and wellbeing, an increase from 78 per cent of the 2018 cohort at Wave 1.

Take up of pre-employment support has remained consistent over the last three years of the service, and generally participants who accessed the various types of support were very likely to find them useful (for example, 83 per cent of participants used a dedicated key worker or adviser, of which 77 per cent reported they had found this support useful).

Take up of in-work support had decreased since the start of the FSS service, from 67 per cent of the 2018 cohort at Wave 1, and 57 per cent of the 2019 cohort at Wave 2, to 43 per cent of the 2020 cohort. However, in all three cohorts, those who accessed in-work support were highly likely to find the various types of support helpful.

Long term outcomes for the 2018 and 2019 cohorts

The long term outcomes for participants who joined the service in 2018 and 2019 suggest that those who have found employment through the FSS service in their first year were likely to be able to sustain it and in some cases, to show progress in the quality of work in subsequent years.

As described above, we contacted the 2019 cohort in the year that they joined the service (Wave 2) and again a year later (Wave 3). While the overall proportion of this cohort who were in and out of work remained unchanged (31 per cent were in work at Wave 2 and 34 per cent a year later at Wave 3), there were a few signs that employment outcomes had improved for this group in their second year. For example, among the longitudinal respondents in the 2019 cohort at wave 3 over one-in-eight (13 per cent) moved into work in the second year after joining the service (at Wave 3), while only one-in-twenty moved out of work (5 per cent). In addition the 2019 cohort were less likely to work in labour intensive jobs in their second year after joining the service (37 per cent at Wave 3 compared to 52 per cent at Wave 2) and more likely to be paid a higher wage (53 per cent were paid between £9.30 and £15.00 an hour at Wave 3 compared to 22 per cent at Wave 2).

The 2018 cohort were followed over three years of their journey, to 2021. Similar to the 2019 cohort, of those in the 2018 cohort who had found work, the long term picture was positive. There was significant growth at each Wave in the proportion that reported having started their job 'over a year ago', suggesting those that found work were managing to sustain it. At Wave 1 just over one in twenty (6 per cent) had started work over a year ago, by Wave 2 this had risen to forty-four per cent and at Wave 3 almost three-quarters had begun over a year before the interview. The proportion of the 2018 cohort who were not working and who reported that they wanted to return to work decreased somewhat over the three-year period.

Further evaluation research findings from year 3 are published separately in two reports: local area case studies, and an overview of year 3. These are available on the Scottish Government website.

Detailed statistics, including demographics data, for FSS are published by the Scottish Government quarterly. Demographic data is also collected in the survey to ensure the sample is broadly representative of all FSS participants. A table comparing key demographics of the survey sample can be found in the appendix. 


Email: Arfan.iqbal@gov.scot

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