This report presents detailed findings from the fourth wave of a phone survey conducted to capture the experiences of Fair Start Scotland (FSS) participants. The phone survey is one element of an ongoing evaluation programme of FSS and focuses on evaluating Year 4 (April 2021 – March 2022) and Year 5 (April 2022 – March 2023) of FSS delivery.
FSS is the devolved employability service responsible for providing employment support for disabled people and those at risk of long-term unemployment throughout Scotland. The service launched in April 2018, initially for three years, but has since been extended to accept referrals until 31 st of March 2024. Evaluation of the service has been conducted throughout its lifetime, in order to understand the experiences and outcomes for participants, and to contribute to continuous improvement of the service. The following report forms part of the evaluation of the service extension phase, which will contribute to future provision of employability support in Scotland, including the No One Left Behind approach.
Between 2018 and 2023 there have been four survey “waves” with FSS participants. In this report, FSS participants who took part in this phone survey research are referred to according to the calendar year they joined FSS including: the 2018 cohort (individuals first interviewed as part of Wave 1 survey), 2019 cohort (individuals first interviewed as part of Wave 2 survey), 2020 cohort (individuals first interviewed as part of Wave 3 survey) and 2021-22 cohort (individuals first interviewed as part of Wave 4 survey). From the Wave 2 survey onwards the survey had a longitudinal element, meaning that a proportion of the earlier cohorts were recontacted in the subsequent wave(s). Figure 1 provides further details which individuals were surveyed over the four survey waves.
This iteration of the survey was carried out between December 2022 and January 2023 and was completed by 1,000 participants, 250 of whom had been interviewed previously. Out of the 1,000 participants surveyed, 750 had joined FSS between July 2021 and June 2022 and 250 had joined the programme in 2020.
To analyse results from the phone survey, differences between waves, cohorts and participant sub-groups were tested for statistical significance. Only significant differences are reported. Participant sub-groups include gender, age, ethnicity, presence of a health condition, education level, whether participants are in a priority family group, parents, stage of support, early leavers from the service, and employment status/activity before participating in FSS and at the time of the interview. Some of the participants interviewed had participated in the FSS service more than once. The experiences of re-joiners were compared against those of non-rejoiners and of all participants on average to identify any differences.
Comparisons between geographical contract area (Lots) are also included, in order to indicate any differences related to geography. Differences between Lots should not be interpreted as indicative of the performance of local service providers.
With the aim of assessing longitudinal outcomes, 250 of the 2020 cohort interviewed at Wave 3 were interviewed for a second time at Wave 4. In order to address the risk of non-response bias weighting was applied to longitudinal data on geographical Lot, gender and age based on the population proportions of 2020 FSS starters and on employment status based on the employment status of the 2020 cohort at Wave 3.
Demographic data was collected as part of the phone survey to ensure the sample is broadly representative of all FSS participants. A table detailing key demographics of the survey sample can be found in the technical appendix. Detailed statistics, including demographics data, for FSS are published by the Scottish Government quarterly.
Overview of results
Overall, findings show that in Year 4 and Year 5 of its delivery, the service has continued to deliver positive results for participants, with members of the 2021-22 cohort expressing high levels of satisfaction with their experience of FSS (for instance, 93 per cent of the 2021-22 cohort agreed that they were treated with dignitiy and respect when receiving support from FSS), and members of the 2020 cohort showing signs that difficulties entering employment at the time they were first surveyed have since been overcome (these individuals were significantly more likely to be working for an employer in a paid role at Wave 4 compared to Wave 3 (59 per cent compared to 36 per cent).
However, there are indications of differences in experiences of services across demographic groups, and in the extent of high satisfaction scores across demographic groups, for example minority ethnic participants and those with a limiting health condition. For example, white participants were more likely to find a dedicated key worker useful than ethnic minority participants (79 per cent compared to 69 per cent). Furthermore, those who had a health condition which limits their day to day activities were less likely to agree that FSS offered support to improve their general quality of life and wellbeing compared to those whose day to day was not affected by their health condition (79 per cent compared to 90 per cent). However, the differences identified in the reported experiences across demographic groups do not necessarily translate into differences in outcomes from participating in FSS services.
Profile of participants
The below details the profile of participants across several characteristics of interest:
- 62 per cent were male and 37 per cent were female
- 13 per cent were from a minority ethnic background
- 23 per cent were parents and 21 per cent belonged to a priority family
- 26 per cent of the 2021-22 cohort were ‘re-joiners’, in that they had previously received support from the service.
- 48 per cent had a health condition which limits their day-to-day activities, 14 per cent had a health condition but no limitations and 33 per cent had no health condition
Working Status & Quality of Work
At the time the survey was conducted, 39 per cent of the latest 2021-22 cohort were either working for an employer or self-employed while just under half were out of work and claiming an out of work benefit (48 per cent). A small proportion were not working and not claiming an out of work benefit (7 per cent).
FSS participants who were employed, self-employed or who had done paid work in the last week prior to the survey were asked what their usual pay was including overtime, bonuses or tips but before tax and other deductions are taken out. This information on gross (i.e. pay before tax or any other deductions) earnings reported by survey participants was then benchmarked against the National Living Wage and Real Living Wage rates at the time of the survey. The National Living Wage is set each year by the Low Pay Commission and is the legal minimum employers must pay workers if they are aged 23 or above. The Real Living Wage is a voluntary wage rate set by the Living Wage Foundation each year and is a rate that employers sign up to pay (i.e. it is not a legal minimum wage rate).
The earning levels reported by participants indicated that around one in eight (12 per cent) of the 2021-22 cohort in-work were earning below the National Living Wage rate for those aged 23 or or above. The majority (74 per cent) of the working cohort reported earnings that indicated they were earning at least the National Living Wage rate, with 30 per cent reporting earnings that indicated that they were earning at least the level of the Real Living Wage. It should be noted that age played a role here; among those aged 25 and above, 9% reported earnings that would be below the National Living Wage rate and 76% reported earnings that would be at the National Living Wage rate or above. Among those aged between 16 and 24 years old, 24 per cent reported earnings that would be below the National Living Wage rate and 65 per cent reported earnings that would be at the National Living Wage rate or above.
Almost three in five (57 per cent) of participants in the 2021-22 cohort who had worked within the last week had a permanent employment contract, while less than one in five (18 per cent) had a temporary contract. Those employed on a zero hours contract made up 12 per cent of the working 2021-22 cohort and 5 per cent were self-employed.
Service experience and changes over time
Overall satisfaction with the support received from FSS has remained consistently high across all waves. Of the 2021-22 cohort, 93 per cent felt they were treated with dignity and respect, in line with 95 per cent of the 2020 cohort at Wave 3, 91 per cent of the 2019 cohort at Wave 2 and 92 per cent of the 2018 cohort at Wave 1. Over four-fifths (81 per cent) of the 2021-22 cohort agreed that they were offered support to improve their general quality of life and wellbeing, in line with previous waves (84 per cent at Wave 3, 81 per cent at Wave 2, and 78 per cent at Wave 1). Most participants in the 2021-22 cohort (87 per cent) were aware that signing up for the service was voluntary, while 10 per cent thought that they had to take part and 3 per cent did not know.
Take up of pre-employment support has remained consistent over the last five years of the service, and generally participants who accessed the various types of support were very likely to find them useful (for example, for 2021-2023 cohort at Wave 4, 88 per cent of participants recalled being offered a dedicated key worker or advisor and of these 94 per cent took up the offer. 77 per cent of those who took up the offer reported they had found this form of support useful).
Take up of in-work support had increased since Wave 3 (54 per cent at Wave 4 compared with 43 per cent at Wave 3) but remains lower than the levels seen at the launch of the FSS service, (67 per cent of the 2018 cohort at Wave 1). However, in all four cohorts, those who accessed in-work support were highly likely to find the various types of support helpful.
Awareness of the possibility to re-join the service was relatively high, at 75 per cent amongst those who were taking part for the first time.
Outcomes and Motivation to Return to Work
FSS support helped build participants’ motivation to find work. The majority of the 2021-22 cohort who were not working (or working less than 16 hours per week) at the time of the survey wanted to return to work (86 per cent) and almost two-thirds (64 per cent) reported that their motivation to find work had increased since receiving FSS support.
Some new measures of job quality were collected at Wave 4 compared with previous waves of the survey. Through this we found that on the whole, participants from the 2021-22 cohort who were in work at the time of the survey indicated high levels of satisfaction with their job (83 per cent), as well as agreement that their job offered the flexibility to manage family and household responsibilities (86 per cent). Participant satisfaction among the 2021-22 cohort was lower for other aspects of their job such as income, with two-thirds (68 per cent) agreeing that their job pays enough to support themselves/their families, and with the extent to which their job reflects their career aspirations (61 per cent).
There were also early indications that the 2021-22 cohort were moving towards higher quality employment since taking part in FSS. For example, over half of those in work (59 per cent) had undertaken training or development opportunities in their job, whilst over a third (37 per cent) had received an increase in pay rate, salary or income. Over one in ten had received a performance-relate bonus (14 per cent), had moved to another job with increased pay (14 per cent), or had received a promotion (11 per cent).
Long term outcomes for the 2020 cohort
The long term outcomes for participants who joined the service in 2020 suggest that those who had found employment through the FSS service at Wave 3 were likely to be able to sustain it at the point of Wave 4 and a substantial proportion of those who were not in work at the point of the Wave 3 survey had since moved into work at Wave 4.
As described above, we first contacted the 2020 cohort (663 individuals) in May 2021 (Wave 3), up to 16 months after they joined the service. We then surveyed a selected sample of 250 individuals from 2020 cohort again between December 2022 and January 2023 (Wave 4), circa 18 months after they took part in Wave 3 survey. We then analysed longitudinal data for the 250 individuals who took part in both Wave 3 and Wave 4 surveys. The overall proportion of this longitudinal cohort who were in work had considerably increased (63 per cent compared with 41 per cent at Wave 3). Among the longitudinal respondents in the 2020 cohort at Wave 4, three in ten (29 per cent) moved into work during their second or third year after joining the service (at Wave 4), while only 3 per cent moved out of work. At Wave 4, the 2020 cohort that were in work were most commonly working in labour intensive jobs (36 per cent). This was followed by 22 per cent in service intensive roles, 22 per cent in high skilled jobs, and 19 per cent in middle skilled roles.
Measures of improvement in job quality between Waves 3 and 4 were mixed. There were no significant changes in the types of occupation undertaken by the 2020 cohort between waves, however, a greater proportion of the longitudinal cohort who were in work at Wave 4 held a permanent employment contact (75 per cent) compared to at Wave 3 (43 per cent).
The new measures of job quality introduced this year found high levels of satisfaction in the 2020 cohort who were in work at the time of the survey. Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with their job (88 per cent) and the work they do day-to-day (85 per cent). Participant satisfaction among the 2020 cohort was lower for other aspects of their job such as income, with only two-thirds (66 per cent) agreeing that their job pays enough to support themselves/their families, and with the extent to which their job reflects their career aspirations (54 per cent).
Despite this, many participants from the 2020 cohort reported experiences of work that would suggest movement towards higher quality employment. For example, almost three-quarters (73 per cent) had undertaken training or development opportunities in their job, two-thirds (66 per cent) had received an increase in pay rate, salary or income, and almost a quarter (24 per cent) had obtained a promotion.
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