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.

2. Methodology

2.1 Research aims

This qualitative research aims to provide greater insight into the individual journeys and outcomes following FSS support for those who joined the service in Year 4 (April 2021 – March 2022) and Year 5 (April 2022 – March 2023) of FSS delivery. This research incorporated a particular focus on previously identified groups who have significant barriers to employment and are further from the labour market with a focus on participants from families at highest risk of child poverty, participants from minority ethnic backgrounds and disabled participants.

2.2 Method

The telephone survey in Wave 4 was conducted in December 2022 and January 2023. A total of 1,000 respondents were surveyed in Wave 4. Most of the FSS respondents contacted in Wave 4 had joined the service between July 2021 and June 2022 (to include both those who joined in Year 4 and Year 5 of FSS delivery), but some had joined FSS in 2020. These two groups are referred to as the 2021-22 cohort and the 2020 cohort. The longitudinal interviews of the 2020 cohort were included to inform our understanding of the longer-term outcomes experienced by FSS respondents.

After the Wave 4 telephone survey was conducted, 20 respondents to the survey were invited to take part in a one-hour depth interview via telephone or video call. Purposive sampling[3] was used to make sure a mix of experiences were captured and in order to gather more feedback from respondents with characteristics of interest. Individual answers from the telephone survey were used to inform recruitment for the in-depth interviews.

Sampling was conducted to ensure representation of respondents from the following groups:

  • respondents from the 2021-22 (fresh cross-sectional) or 2020 (longitudinal) cohorts
  • respondents currently in paid work or currently unemployed
  • respondents who are parents of dependent children
  • respondents classified as being in 'priority family groups'[4]
  • respondents who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks
  • respondents who are from a minority ethnic background

Of the 1,000 respondents who completed the telephone survey for Wave 4, 668 consented to being recontacted for the purpose of being invited to participate in the qualitiatve research. In total 32 were approached, and interviews were booked with 26. Of these, six participants did not attend the scheduled interview.

Interviews were conducted in January and February 2023. Individual answers from the telephone survey were used to inform discussions and explore aspects of experience not previously covered by the survey.

Participants provided verbal consent to participate at both the recruitment stage and the beginning of the interview. Respondents were offered £20 as a thank you for their participation, which was available to them as a bank transfer, Amazon voucher, or charitable donation.

The interviews covered the respondent's background, working history, current employment situation, experience of participating in FSS, their future outlook and goals and their thoughts on any improvements that could be made to service delivery. The topic guide for the interview can be found in Appendix 2: Topic guide used for interviews.

The shortest interview lasted 42 minutes, whilst the longest took 67 minutes. The average length of interview was 56 minutes. Seven of the interviews were conducted by members of the core research team, who designed and delivered all aspects of the qualitative and quantiative research, the remaining 13 were conducted by IFF's specialist qualitative interviewing team. All interviews were conducted in English language. For several participants English was not their first language, but all of them spoke English to a comfortable level to conduct the interview without support.

Interviews which took place from within IFF's London offices were recorded by IFF's telephone software. Interviews conducted remotely were recorded, where possible, by placing the respondent on speakerphone and using PC/laptop based software to record. In total, 15 interviews were audio-recorded. During each interview, researchers from IFF created 'live' write-ups of the discussion, taking paraphrased notes of all responses and capturing verbatim transcription of sentences and phrases that the researchers felt encapsulated a view particularly well. Where recordings were available, researchers revisited these following the interview to write-up in greater detail the content of the interview, and ensure accuracy of verbatim quotations.

Based on conducting the initial interviews, members of the core research team designed a thematic analysis framework which was organised according to research objectives and topics covered in the interviews. Findings from each interview were written up into the framework by the researcher who conducted each interview. The framework provided a structure for data management, analysis and interpretation. Following completion of fieldwork, members of the core research team conducted personal analysis using the framework to explore answers to the research questions, understand emerging narratives and examine differences by subgroups. Researchers iteratively reviewed the contents of the framework, identifying patterns of response and exceptions, interrogating how strong and consistent themes were within the framework. The core research team then met for an analysis discussion sessions, during which researchers compared their initial interpretation of the findings and scrutinised the evidence to reach consensus on the key messages.

It should be noted that given the qualitative nature of the research, the views described are not framed quantitatively but rather explored in a descriptive way. This means individual respondents' journeys and experiences can be approached in rich detail. When describing the qualitative results, the terms 'many', 'some' or 'a few' are sometimes used to give a relative indication of the extent to which views were expressed. The term "many" is used when a view or behaviour is fairly widespread within a particular group of respondents and "few" indicates findings applied only to a handful. "Some" indicates a middle ground between "many" and "few". As our sample is not representative of the population of FSS participants, these terms are intended only to illustrate the variety of views and experiences among our qualitative respondents that took part in this study.

Three subgroups of respondents are examined in particular detail throughout the report, in line with characteristics associated with being far from the labour market:

  • respondents classified as being in 'priority family groups'
  • respondents who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks
  • respondents from minority ethnic groups

2.3 Background and profile of respondents

Table 1 details the number of interviews conducted by cohort and by characteristics of interest. The data presented in this section is sourced from the telephone survey.

The respondents interviewed were located in seven geographical Lots: East, Glasgow, Highlands and Islands, Lanarkshire, North East, South West and Tayside. Respondents from Forth Valley and West were invited to take part, but either declined or were not available in the fieldwork period. The sample included some respondents who were originally from another country (including locations in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa). Of those who were in paid employment at the time of interview, this included a mix of people in part-time and full-time roles. Reflecting the inclusion of respondents from a spread of years of FSS provision, respondents had been involved with the FSS service for various lengths of time ranging from three months to three years. Many of the respondents interviewed were still receiving support from FSS, even if this was limited to still being in contact with their key worker every few weeks as part of the 'in work support' offer. Five were classified as 'early leavers'; that is, they left the service before the end of the 12 month pre-employment support period[5].

Table 1: Respondents interviewed by cohort, demographics and characteristics of interest
Characteristic Wave 3 2020 Cohort Wave 4 2021/22 Cohort Total
Gender: Male 3 8 11
Gender: Female 3 6 9
Age: 16 – 24 1 2 3
Age: 25 - 34 2 2 4
Age: 35 – 49 3 7 10
Age: 50 or over - 3 3
Education[6]: Level 8+ e.g. Degree or above 3 5 8
Education: Levels 6 – 8 e.g. Highers/HNC 1 3 4
Education: Level 5 or below e.g. National 5 or below (including unknown) 2 6 8
Working status: In employment 4 7 11
Working status: Not in employment 2 7 9
Minority ethnic groups 2 5 7
White ethnic groups 4 9 13
Disability or long-term health condition* 4 10 14
Parent of dependent child/ren 3 6 9
Priority family 3 6 9
Total 6 14 20

*Disabilities and long-term health conditions included mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, physical conditions such as arthritis resulting in reduced mobility or chronic pain, and learning difficulties such as dyslexia.


Email: employabilityresearch@gov.scot

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