Fair Start Scotland - evaluation report 5: qualitative interviews with service participants - years 4 and 5 - November 2023

Part of a series of reports on the evaluation of Fair Start Scotland (FSS) employability service. The report presents findings from a series of qualitative interviews with FSS participants. The report covers years 4 and 5 (April 2021 to March 2023) of FSS delivery.

Appendix 2: Topic guide used for interviews

Introduction (5 mins)

Interviewer introduction

Thank respondent for agreeing to participate

Background to the research: The Scottish Government have commissioned IFF Research Ltd to evaluate the services and support provided through Fair Start Scotland to help people move into and stay in-work, in a steady job. . As part of this we're speaking to people like you who have used these services to hear your experiences and gather your thoughts on what has worked well, as well as possible improvements that could be made to the service.

IF NEEDED: Fair Start Scotland provides this support through organisations such as People Plus, Remploy, Start Scotland, the Wise Group, Triage, Fedcap and Enable,.

IFF Research is an independent market research company, operating under the strict guidelines of the Market Research Society's Code of Conduct. This means that anything you tell us will be treated in the strictest confidence, and none of your answers will be attributed to you unless you give explicit permission for us to do so. Under GDPR, you have a right to have a copy of your data, change your data, or withdraw from the research until one month prior to the end of the research project (estimated April 2023). If you'd like to do this, you can contact us at Fair StartScotland@iffresearch.com or on 020 7250 3035. Any personal data held by IFF will be retained for one year after the end of the project, and then destroyed (by summer 2024). Further information about this can also be found on our website at: iffresearch.com/gdpr

Participation in this research is completely voluntary, and please be assured that participation will not affect your benefits or the support you receive in any way, now or in the future.

Permission to record: With your permission, I would like to record our discussion to ensure that your views are accurately captured. All information you provide will be kept confidential.

After the interview a written version of the interview will be created, which will be kept within our team and used for analysis purposes only. Your name will not be linked to your views in any reporting of findings (OR in any report we produce), and as a result your views or comments will be totally anonymous. The recording will be deleted once the project is completed.

Based on this are you happy to take part?

Yes Continue

No Thank and Close

Background (5 - 10 mins)

I will start by asking a few questions about your background. You may have already given some of this information in the survey but please bear with me.

To begin, could you just tell me a bit about yourself:

  • Where you're from and where you live now?
  • Who you live with (if anyone)?
  • What you're mainly doing at the moment (looking for work, working, something else)?
  • When you first joined Fair Start Scotland and your current involvement with the service (if any)

Please can you tell me a little about what led you to join the Fair Start Scotland service?

  • How did you find out about the service?
  • What did you hope the service could help you with?
  • If Rejoiner: Why did you decide to rejoin the service?

Please can you briefly describe your working history prior to this?

Before joining the Fair Start Scotland service, were you actively looking for a job?

If was actively looking for a job:

  • How long were you looking for a job before you joined Fair Start Scotland?
  • Can you tell me about what you were doing before job hunting?

If was not actively looking for work:

  • Can you tell me about what you were doing before joining Fair Start Scotland?
  • Can you tell me a little about any job(s) you have had previously? Which industry/ies have you worked in?

And please can you describe your employment situation since participating in the service?

  • Explore whether they have begun a new job, had job interviews/applications, begun education/training etc.
  • If not already mentioned: and what is your employment situation now?

Experience of work search/unemployment before FSS (10 - 15 mins)

I'm now going to ask a few questions about your experience of job seeking and any barriers to finding work you may have faced – we appreciate that these can be different depending on individual circumstances. If there is anything you are not comfortable talking about, please let me know and we can move on straight away.

At the point of joining Fair Start Scotland, what sort of roles or types of jobs were you looking for?

Interviewer probe for:

  • Industries or job roles
  • Full-time/part-time/any other specific working hours
    • Reasons for this
    • Any links to caring or childcare responsibilities
  • Location – WFH vs on site
    • Any travel/transport constraints e.g. walking distance, accessible by public transport
  • Suitability for any disability / health condition

What were the main difficulties you faced in trying to find work before Fair Start Scotland?

Interviewer probe for:

  • What was the job market like where you lived?
    • To what extent were there jobs available that matched what you were looking for?
  • How did you find applying for jobs?
  • Any difficulties with different stages of job search e.g. finding jobs vs applying vs interviewing
  • Were there any specific aspects of looking for work that were you felt were more difficult for you as an individual because of your circumstances?
    • E.g. any health/wellbeing or disability related difficulties
    • Anything resulting from childcare/caring responsibilities
    • Any language barriers

Ask if previously in employment: And have you experienced any challenges in previous jobs that made it difficult to continue in that job?

Interviewer probe for:

  • Policies and ways of working (e.g. flexi-time/remote working/lack of these)?
  • Any difficulties because of the physical workplace (e.g. long periods of time standing etc.)?
  • Did you experience any difficulties with colleagues or managers?
  • Did you experience any practical difficulties such as childcare, transport?

If not already covered spontaneously: Did the Covid-19 pandemic have any impact on your working status or job search?

Before seeking support from Fair Start Scotland, had you ever received help from other employment or skills support services?

If yes: Please can you tell me a little bit about this service(s) and what led you to them?

  • What was your employment situation at the time?
  • How did you hear about them?
  • What type(s) of support did you receive?

If has experienced other employment support services:

  • How helpful did you find these services?
  • What was helpful about this service? Why?
  • Was there anything you didn't find helpful? Why was that?
  • What was the outcome of this support?

What effect has your experience of not being in paid employment had on other aspects of your life?

Allow spontaneous response and then probe:

  • Would you say it has had any effect on your mental health, stress, self-confidence?
  • Has it had any effect on your family life? In what way?
  • How has it impacted your finances?
  • Other types of impacts?

Experience of support (10 mins)

I'm now going to ask a few questions about specific types of support Fair Start Scotland offered. In the previous survey you did for us, you said you took up the following types of support, is that right?

Circle the options selected in quant interview

  • A dedicated key worker or employability advisor, that is, one person who oversees your involvement with the service)
  • Development of a personalised Employment Action Plan (IF NECESSARY: that is, a set of agreed activities and timescales for helping you back into work, taking account of your skills, history, aspirations and barriers)
  • One to one appointments with regular support and contact
  • Help with an addiction
  • Help with job search activities and applications
  • Access to work tasters, work experience or apprenticeship opportunities
  • Specialist support for a mental health condition
  • Specialist support for a physical health condition
  • Help with managing finances or dealing with debt
  • Help with English language skills
  • Provided with a laptop or tablet

Were there any other types of support you received from Fair Start Scotland, that I haven't mentioned?

  • How did this support work?

Which types of support did you find most helpful? Why?

  • What did this support help you with?
  • What difference did this support make?
  • If interviewee has a long-term health condition/is disabled: Did these types of support or any other types of support you received help you overcome barriers to employment related to your health condition / disability? How?

Which types of support did you find less helpful? Why was this?

  • How could this support be improved?

Were there any types of support offered to you that you chose not to take up?

  • Why was this?

Is there any support you would have liked to have received, but didn't?

  • Do you feel there was any support missing?
  • How might this have helped you?

Ask if currently in work (from booking sheet)

Did you receive any support from Fair Start Scotland once you were in your job?

  • How did this support work?
  • What difference did this support make?

Outcomes (10 mins)

Overall, to what extent do you think taking part in Fair Start Scotland has made a difference to your life?

Interview probe for:

  • Benefits of taking part
  • Any drawbacks

What affect has taking part in Fair Start Scotland had on:

  • Your employment?
  • Your job search skills?
    • Including interview skills, preparing CVs etc. if relevant
    • And ability to use computers and the internet
  • Your soft skills (e.g. communication, problem solving, time management)?

Interviewer probe for how and why fss has resulted in changes to the above

  • Do you think the taking part in the programme has had any influence on your overall wellbeing, or feeling of satisfaction with life?
  • Why do you say that?
  • What parts of the programme were particularly important to this?

If not mention probe for:

  • Any impact on confidence
  • Any impact on loneliness/isolation/social networks

What impact has taking part in the programme had on other areas of your life?

Interviewer allow spontaneous and then probe:

  • Has it had any effect on your family life? In what way?
  • Any impact on your finances?

Overall views on FSS (10 mins)

Thinking now about Fair Start Scotland, what are your views on the service overall?

  • How do you feel about the support you received?
  • Would you recommend the service to others needing support with employment? Why?

What do you think are the main things the service does well?

  • Why was this?
  • What helped you the most?
  • What difference did this make to you?

What do you think could be improved about FSS?

  • Why is that?
  • How could this be improved?
  • What difference would this make for those using the service?

If you were designing a service like Fair Start Scotland, to help people find and stay in work, is there anything you would do differently?

  • How would this help?
  • What difference would this make for those using the service?

(if not already emerged) – ask those who left the service early: Why did you choose to leave the Fair Start Scotland service early?

  • Was it due to the service itself or some other reason?
  • Were you expecting something different from the service? What were you expecting?

Future outlook (5 mins)

Thinking about the next year or so, would you say you have any goals in terms of work and/or education?

  • Is there anything you are working towards at the moment?
  • What would you like to be doing in a year's time?

And thinking about the future, do you have any longer-term goals for work?

  • What sort of job would you like to have?
  • Is there any training or education that you hope to do?
  • What would you like to be doing in 5 years' time?

Ask if have views on future goals: Is there any further support you feel would you need to help you achieve these goals?

  • What would this support involve?
  • Do you know where/how you might get this support?
  • How would this help you?

Closing (2 - 3 mins)

Thank you very much for talking with me today. Before we finish, is there anything else you'd like to say about Fair Start Scotland?

How would you like to receive your £20 thank you gift? This could be as an Amazon voucher, PayPal transfer or as a charity donation.

(if Transferwise has been offered previously: Please make respondents aware that they will get an email from Transferwise saying we have sent them payment and they should claim their payment within one week of receiving that email, otherwise the payment will be returned back to IFF)

If charity donation, ask which of the following:

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • British Heart Foundation
  • Macmillan Cancer support
  • Shelter
  • Celia Hammond Animal Trust
  • Mind
  • Centrepoint

Would you be willing to be contacted again for clarification purposes or be invited to take part in further research by IFF Research?

  • Yes, happy to be re-contacted for clarification purposes
  • Yes, happy to be re-contacted for further research
  • No, prefer not to be contacted

Thank respondent and close interview

I declare that this survey has been carried out under IFF instructions and within the rules of the MRS Code of Conduct. I

nterviewer signature:


Finish time:

Interview Length


How to access background or source data

The data collected for this <statistical bulletin / social research publication>:

are available in more detail through Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics

are available via an alternative route <specify or delete this text>

X may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact <marta.krasuska@gov.scot> for further information.

cannot be made available by Scottish Government for further analysis as Scottish Government is not the data controller.


Email: employabilityresearch@gov.scot

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