Supported employment: review report and Scottish Government response

A full report including findings and recommendations of an independent review of supported employment in Scotland commissioned by Scottish Government. Initial response from the Scottish Government is included in the supporting documents.

Annex B Case Studies

Case Study 1


We spoke with a Local Authority provider of supported employment, working to help those with long-term health conditions and/ or disabilities into sustainable work. The most common barrier to employment amongst those referred was a mental health problem, followed by learning/physical disabilities, and autism.

28% of clients self-referred to the service, with referrals from Jobcentre Plus the next most common referral route. A vast majority (84%) of those supported were over 25 years old, and about 25% over 50, indicating less of a focus on those likely to have left school or college more recently.

The unit costs per client supported and per recorded full-time job outcome were comparable with other programmes applying the full supported employment offer, at under £2k and £13k respectively.


What is going particularly well?

Fidelity: It was evident from interviews that the organisations providing support offered the 5-stage model of supported employment. Staff confirmed that the model was central to all induction and Personal and Social Development activities, with flexibility naturally required to ensure a truly person-centred offering.

Quality of provision: The delivery approach brought together the skills and coverage of multiple organisations, who worked to create a compelling and consistent service offering across their region. A high-quality welfare rights service was evidenced and added value and impact for clients.

Client focus: All Partners and Providers interviewed evidenced a holistic, client-centred practice with an aim of involving clients, with a view to providing the best support possible. Staff were observed as highly engaged and passionate about their work to help clients to maintain and sustain paid employment.

What are the key challenges?

Referrals: Referrals for higher-need clients did not typically come the way of the providers. Investment would be required to create and support a structure to expand and manage a deeper delivery of the 5-stage model for such a cohort.

Securing employment opportunities: Employer engagement did appear to be weighted towards focusing on traditional job-seeking methods. Given the needs of presenting service users, job matching, in-work support, and follow-along career progression guidance was understandably lighter touch. Were a higher-needs cohort to be sourced, this could pose a challenge.

Case Study 2


We spoke with a second Local Authority provider of supported employment services. The Council offered its own employability services, whilst also commissioning third sector organisations to deliver more specialist services to those with barriers to the labour market.

Three main services were offered or would be imminently. The two main services had helped almost 50% of clients into work in the past five or so years. Over half of those supported into work had then sustained employment for at least six months. The latest programme of the three would support younger autistic people into work in the future.

The case load amongst staff was comparatively lower than other supported employment services studied, at about 12:1. This enabled staff to offer tailored, person-centred support which flexed to the needs of service users. This was aided by strong networks with local employers, colleges and health services.


What is going particularly well?

Partnership building: The team and its direct network clearly had a highly aligned purpose, working collaboratively together and with external parties. Relationships had been developed with wide and varied community organisations, including Autism Network Scotland.

Performance amidst COVID-19: Although the number of new engagements dropped slightly due to COVID-19, outcomes targets continued to be achieved. With face-to-face meetings not possible, staff used text messaging, phone calls and virtual meetings to support the health and wellbeing of clients. ICT kit and connectivity were available to vulnerable clients.

What are the key challenges?

Securing long-term funding: Council funding was supplemented by external top-up funding, yielding monthly audits which were onerous for staff. In the absence of the funding, set to expire in the near future, a strategic challenge would be to secure further longer-term funding. This would enable the service to continue to train and retain expert supported employment practitioners.

Managing Case Load Size: The service tries to stick to its small caseload size to provide truly tailored support. This means that they have to find alternative support and services for individuals who are not likely to go on to secure work. They have built relationships with befrienders and mental health services.

Case Study 3


We also met with two supported employment service providers working within the Fair Start Scotland contract. The contracts started in April 2018 and were most recently extended to March 2023. The supported employment element of the service is delivered within a multi-million-pound contract that covers a wider employability programme. Funding is paid to providers on a payment-by-results basis, once a client enters work, and when they sustain their employment.

In this instance, a large number of referrals into the partner organisations came from Jobcentre Plus. Key workers would then assess the needs of those requesting support, and allocate them to a strand depending on their level of need at presentation. All clients deemed to require more intense support were offered the 5-stage model of supported employment, and were directed to a Health and Wellbeing Advisor.

Employment workers within the service tended to have large caseloads (e.g. 50 or 60 clients) catering for a variety of need.


What is going particularly well?

Employer engagement: One of the partner organisations qualified as a Disability Confident Leader, and viewed their employer engagement as an opportunity to build diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Employers praised their awareness-raising done via social media, their staff onboarding processes, and initial worksite reviews to assess its suitability for clients.

Use of Health and Wellbeing Advisors: Each of the key delivery partners offered a consistent approach to supporting clients' health and wellbeing. Those clients deemed to require intense support were booked into to see an Advisor within four weeks of starting the Fair Start Scotland programme to establish if more in-depth support was required. This would be through either the Supported Employment Model (SEM), or Individual Placement and Support (IPS). Vocational Profiling could also be offered on its own.

Use of personalised support: Tailored support was offered to each individual client, and in a COVID-conducive manner. Clients praised the provider's online support offering in particular, with courses available, for example to manage anxiety and build confidence. Weekly check ins were described as a "lifeline" during the challenges of the pandemic.

What are the key challenges?

Reaching individuals with additional needs: A majority of referrals came from Jobcentre Plus, via client self-referral. Those furthest from the job market may not self-refer, and so stand to go without a supported employment service offering. Of the clients receiving supported employment, needs tended to include anxiety, mild depression, and milder forms of learning disability.

The 16+ hours of work barrier: The Fair Start Scotland contract stipulates that clients need to secure 16+ hours of work per week to trigger a success payment. Meeting the target appeared particularly challenging given the needs and preferences of clients, who perhaps wanted to start or continue with part-time work, or volunteer.

Achieving outcomes with high caseloads: With key workers assisting 50-60 clients each, offering truly tailored support was a challenge. The payment-by results nature of the contract meant that the provider takes a risk when investing in ongoing in-work support, or job finding support for those clients further away from the jobs market. This poses a challenge when aiming to maintain the low caseloads required to fully deliver the 5-stage model.

Case Study 4


We spoke with a second group of providers operating under the Fair Start Scotland contract. Again, the organisations relied on referrals from local Jobcentre Plus offices and self-referrals, aided by social media campaigns. Jobcentre Plus allocated clients to each of the partners, who tailored their support offering to the level of need. A targeted training and development plan had been created to ensure staff could step up to the challenge of managing clients with different needs.

Having not initially been permitted to do so within the delivery contract, key stakeholder status enabled one provider to engage with local colleges within their lot(s). The goal was to promote the Fair Start Scotland offer to people with learning disabilities and autistic people. However, there had been limited uptake from such sources, likely due to the need to work 16+ hours per week.


What is going particularly well?

Outreach: Team Leads demonstrated a clear emphasis on understanding local demographics with a view to engaging those who might not ordinarily access a supported employment service. Client and employer brochures and social media campaigns clearly explained the available service offers. Customer testimonials and success stories were shared and broadcasted widely.

Preparing clients for work: Co-produced vocational profiling was offered to all clients in order to support them into sustainable work. Action plans were reported to be consistently developed and to a high standard with clear objectives, timeframes and review times. "Better Off Calculators" were used by advisers with clients and aided the transition from claiming benefits to being in work. The result was that just under half of those in receipt of a supported employment service were accessing work.

What are the key challenges?

Supporting higher-needs clients: Fair Start Scotland referral routes were not viewed as facilitating the pick-up of people with learning disabilities or autistic individuals. About 5% of service users in the lot(s) had a mild learning disability or were autistic.

Managing high caseloads: One provider's caseload was reported as being as high as 1:80. Such caseloads posed a challenge when aiming to meet key performance indicators set out in the Fair Start Scotland contract. It was noted that caseloads had dropped slightly amidst COVID-19, with prospective clients choosing to wait to sign up for support.



Back to top