Fair Start Scotland employability service - year 4: online survey results

Findings from a series of three short online surveys with participants of Fair Start Scotland (FSS) employability service. Surveys focused on experiences of in-work support, of re-joining FSS and on support for parents. The report covers year 4 (April 2021 to March 2022) of FSS.



Fair Start Scotland (FSS) is Scotland's national employability service that has been delivering employability support across Scotland since its launch in 2018. The service aims to support those facing significant challenges accessing the labour market.

This report presents findings from three short online surveys which took place in July and August 2022. These surveys explored the views and experiences of individuals who joined Fair Start Scotland in Year 4 (April 2021 – March 2022) of service delivery The research covers the period when Covid-19 related government guidelines restricted the ability to meet in-person were in place and the following period when these restrictions were lifted.[1]

The surveys focused on the views and experiences of:

  • receiving in-work support, for those who started on a job while taking part in FSS - this was motivated by the aim to better understand the experiences of participants receiving the in-work element of employability support to help them sustain employment (Survey 1)
  • re-joining FSS, for those who re-started on the service - this was motivated by the aim to capture the experiences of those who took part in the service more than once following a recent change to the eligibility criteria that allowed past FSS participants to re-join the service (Survey 2)
  • support for FSS participants who were parents - this was motivated by the aim to better understand the experiences of parents taking part in FSS, following an increased policy focus on supporting parents into employment and reducing child poverty rates[2] (Survey 3)

Views and experiences of in-work support (Survey 1)

Employment status and income

  • most survey participants (78%) were in work at the time of completing the survey
  • of those, two fifths (40%) indicated that their income from working had increased while they had been in work

Types of in-work support received

  • the majority of survey participants (87%) recall receiving at least one type of in-work support
  • of those, 77% stated that it had helped them to remain and/or progress at work
  • around 1 in 10 survey participants (13%) reported that they were offered in-work support but did not take it up - most said that this was because they only needed support with finding a job
  • the most frequently mentioned types of in-work support were a dedicated key worker (reported by 64% of survey participants who recalled receiving in-work support) and one to one appointments with regular support from the key worker (reported by 53%)

Views on impacts of in-work support

  • the most commonly mentioned aspects of in-work support survey participants found helpful were regular contact, providing support and encouragement and help with confidence
  • other ways in which survey participants found the in-work support helpful were: being able to discuss emerging issues at work, receiving financial support with cost of travel to and from work, key worker speaking to the employer on person's behalf and knowing that the support was available if required

Views and experiences of re-joining FSS (Survey 2)

Reasons for re-joining the service

The most commonly selected reasons for re-joining the service were:

  • needing a little bit more support to help with finding a job (36% of survey participants selected this reason)
  • requiring support to find a new job after the previous job came to an end (20% selected this reason)
  • now felling ready to re-join after either mental or physical health related reasons had meant they were unable to continue participating previously (18%)
  • wanting to start looking for a job again once the Covid-19 related restrictions have been removed (13%)

Perceived changes to survey delivery since re-joining

  • most survey participants indicated that they had not noticed any changes or differences (42%) or did not know/found it hard to say if there had been changes (38%) to how FSS has been delivered since they re-joined
  • of those who did report noticing changes(20% of survey participants), most pointed to changes in the amount and quality of support available after re-joining the service
  • this included many positive changes such as feeling more listened to than the first time round, improvements in the office spaces and facilities, more one-to-one support and access to a wider range of courses
  • some negative changes were reported such as remote rather than face-to-face delivery of the service which some participants found less desirable than face-to-face delivery

Views and experiences of FSS participants who were parents (Survey 3)

Views on usefulness of support

  • most survey participants had found the support they received useful - 48% reported that the support helped them a lot to either start on a job or stay in work and a further 27% reporting that it helped them somewhat or a little.
  • the support found most useful included:
    • help with CV and job applications and with the interview process
    • regular contact
    • encouragement and support and help with building confidence
    • supportive key worker and friendly and understanding staff
    • knowing there is support if it is needed
    • being understanding about a disability or a health condition
    • financial support (e.g. with bus fares or with work clothes)
    • access to job adverts such as daily job boards and signposting to recruitment portals
    • courses and training, workshops and sessions

Views on what could be done better to support parents

  • the most common suggestions were help for parents to find a job that fitted around their childcare responsibilities, including school hours and term time and that the service should be understanding of the childcare options available to parents, including lone parents, who want to start work
  • some parents also mentioned that help with childcare, including access to information on the availability of childcare and help with childcare costs would help them
  • the need to provide better support to disabled parents or parents who have a disabled child was also mentioned

Views on improvements to the service (all 3 surveys)

Survey participants in all three surveys were asked open-ended questions on whether there was anything that the service could do better to support them or any other comments about the service they wanted to share.

Many survey participants indicated that their experiences of taking part in FSS were positive and that the service supported them in finding employment, developing skills and improving their wellbeing and mental health.

Four key themes emerged:

  • communication between the service and service participants - some survey participants highlighted the importance of the key worker keeping in touch for their overall experience of the service, while others signaled inadequate communication with key worker as an issue
  • adoption of a person-centred approach when delivering the service - not all survey participants felt they were receiving a personalised service from FSS
  • mode of delivering the service: face-to-face vs. remote - many survey participants indicated that they welcomed a return to face-to-face delivery of support following the lift of Covid-19 related restrictions
  • access to wellbeing and mental health related support - better access to wellbeing and mental health support as part of the FSS was mentioned by some as a way to improve the service.


Email: EmployabilityResearch@gov.scot

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