Fair Start Scotland employability service - year 4: focus group discussions

Findings from a series of focus group discussions with participants of Fair Start Scotland (FSS) employability service who are disabled or have a long term health conditions or are from minority ethnic groups. It covers year 4 (April 2021 to March 2022) of FSS delivery.

2. Approach

2.1 Methods

Four focus group discussions were undertaken: two with disabled FSS participants or those who had a long-term health condition and two with people from minority ethnic groups. Some people from minority ethnic groups who took part had moved to Scotland from other countries and English was not their first language. Some also had disabilities or a long-term health condition. Participants were selected using the management information data on FSS participants and with support from a local service provider who helped to identify service participants who might be interested in taking part.

Table 1 presents information on how many participants were invited to take part, how many declined and how many took part in each of the focus groups.

Table 1: Recruitment of focus group discussions participants
  Year 4 FSS participants - disabled/ long-term health condition Year 4 FSS participants -minority ethnic groups
Number invited to take part 31 32
Number agreed to take part 13 16
Number declined 6 8
Number took part in the focus group discussions* 9 (7 in first focus group and 2 in second focus group) 10 (7 in first focus group and 3 in second focus group)

* Please note that some participants agreed to take part over the phone but then did not attend on the day of the focus group discussion

Focus group discussions took place in person, in one of the offices of local service provider. Due to time and resource constraints, the study was limited to one geographic contract area. Each focus group discussion was audio-recorded. Verbatim transcripts of focus groups discussions were analysed by social researchers at the Scottish Government using thematic analysis to draw out key themes and topics discussed.

Further details of the methodology used in presented in Appendix 1.

2.2 Strengths and limitations

Focus group discussions were chosen to engage with participants for a number of reasons:

  • the experiences of disabled and minority ethnic participants were likely to be different to those of other participants, and we wanted to explore those experiences in more depth
  • an online survey methodology could risk exclusion of these groups due to a lack of good access to technology, lower levels of digital literacy and barriers to communication
  • when using focus group discussions we were able to offer adjustments to support participation
  • focus group discussions could be delivered efficiently within a relatively short time frame

When considering the findings presented in this report, it should be noted that:

  • there was a risk that those FSS participants who had less positive experiences and outcomes would be less likely to take part in the focus group discussions - the discussions within the focus groups suggest there were a range of views, both positive and negative, and these are reflected in the analysis
  • as the focus group discussions were in English, this could have been a barrier to participation - people attending the focus groups were able to bring someone to support them though no one chose to do this, suggesting we engaged with those who had a good level of English
  • participants were all from one urban area, who were engaged with one service provider - participants in rural areas or engaged with other service providers may have other experiences which are not reflected
  • the majority of focus group discussions participants were not in-work when taking part in the service so this study cannot provide evidence on the experiences of in-work support
  • the findings cannot be easily generalised and should be considered within the wider body of evidence and evaluation of the FSS service


Email: EmployabilityResearch@gov.scot

Back to top