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.

1. Introduction

1.1 Fair Start Scotland

The Scotland Act 2016 devolved responsibility to the Scottish Government for contracted employment support for disabled people and those at risk of long-term unemployment. Fair Start Scotland is Scotland's national employment service which aims to support people towards and into work. The service launched in April 2018 and is now in its sixth year of provision.

FSS is underpinned by the following principles[2]:

  • delivery of a flexible 'whole person' approach
  • services that are responsive to those with high needs
  • a drive towards real jobs
  • services designed and delivered in partnership
  • services designed nationally but adapted and delivered locally
  • contracts that combine payment by job outcome and progression towards work

Delivery of FSS has been contracted out by the Scottish Government to five different local providers, over nine geographical Lots across Scotland.

1.2 Previous research

As part of the programme of evaluation of FSS, IFF Research were commissioned to conduct an independent evaluation of the delivery process and outcomes for participants during Year 4 (April 2021 – March 2022) and Year 5 (April 2022 – March 2023) of the service delivery. IFF Research have previously undertaken three waves of telephone survey research with FSS respondents over the period of 2019 to 2021, covering the first three years of delivery (Wave 1, Wave 2 and Wave 3 covering respectively Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 of FSS delivery). The aim was to provide a representative picture of how respondents are experiencing FSS and the outcomes associated with taking part in the service.

For the evaluation of Years 4 and 5 of the service, IFF Research delivered two strands of research. Element 1 was a large scale telephone survey of 1,000 participants, and Element 2 was a programme of qualitative work with 20 participants. The findings from Element 1 have been published in a separate evaluation report.

1.3 About this report

This report details the findings of the qualitiative in-depth interviews (Element 2) conducted with FSS respondents:

  • the first chapter provides an overview of FSS service and its evaluation to date
  • the second chapter covers in detail the methodology of research and continues with a summary of respondents' background
  • the third chapter focuses on respondents' prior experience of searching for work and being in unemployment and details barriers to employment prior to joining FSS
  • the fourth chapter explores respondents' experiences of the support provided by FSS, including an in depth look into why some types of support were considered more or less helpful than others
  • the fifth chapter outlines individual outcomes after receiving support from FSS, including employment status, impact on skills and on overall wellbeing
  • the sixth chapter examines respondents' goals for the future
  • the seventh chapter summarises respondents' views of FSS and outlines what works well and what could be improved
  • the eights chapter describes recommendations for future delivery of employability services based on findings outlines in previous chapters


Email: employabilityresearch@gov.scot

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