Fair Start Scotland (FSS)
Fair Start Scotland is the Scottish Government's devolved employability support service, and aims to help those further from the labour market to move into and sustain fair work. FSS launched on 3 April 2018 with funding to support up to 38,000 people into work over an initial three year referral period to end March 2021. In response to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, referral into the service has now been extended to March 2023.
FSS provides individualised one-to-one support to unemployed people who face the greatest challenges to obtaining work, including people with a disability or health condition, people with convictions, care-experienced young people, single parents, refugees, ethnic minorities, and people who live in some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. More information about the service can be found here.
Fair Start Scotland is delivered by a mixed economy of public, private and third sector providers across nine geographical areas throughout Scotland. Potential participants can engage with Fair Start Scotland in a variety of ways. A referral can be made by an individual's Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Work Coach. Alternatively, participants can be signposted to Fair Start Scotland through third party organisations or they can self-refer to their local provider if they meet specific criteria. Third-party referrals relate to referrals from outwith JCP.
After a referral is made, the participant is matched with a provider in their local area. The provider makes contact and offers an introduction in which the service is fully explained. The participant is then given the necessary information to engage with Fair Start Scotland.
How has COVID-19 impacted the delivery of Fair Start Scotland?
This publication includes data for FSS over a period from March 2020 onwards when the COVID-19 pandemic, associated public health measures and economic and labour market impacts have caused several changes which impact the statistics published here.
Key changes to FSS include the following:
1) Early in the pandemic, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refocused their work to deal with the increased demand for benefit claims, so FSS referrals from DWP were paused between April and June 2020.
2) As a result of this, there has been an increase in the proportion of referrals to FSS through other avenues, particularly from FSS providers' own marketing efforts.
3) FSS switched from face-to-face interaction to delivery via phone calls and online interaction. This affected the equalities data collected, with fewer people disclosing information on protected characteristics like ethnicity on joining FSS, though this has improved ove time.
4) There was a relaxation of rules specifying how often participants must be in contact with providers, from March to September 2020. This meant that some people who would otherwise be considered to have left the service during this period stayed on FSS.
5) There were fewer job vacancies. ONS data shows a sharp reduction in job vacancies in Scotland during April 2020 to approximately 40% of the level seen in February 2020, rising to around 75% over the course of 2020. After a festive dip, a sharper increase in job vacancies was seen in the first quarter of 2021, rising from 60% to 90% of February 2020 levels over three months. Lower levels of job vacancies would be expected to affect rates of job starts and outcomes in FSS, but the numbers of job starts in FSS do not necessarily follow these trends.
How many people have joined FSS?
48,755 people were referred to FSS between its launch in April 2018 and the end of March 2021. Of the total number of people referred to FSS, 32,504 went on to start receiving employability support.
Both referrals and starts have increased this quarter: referrals have increased by 39% to 4,502, and starts have increased by 27% to 3,028. As set out above, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the referral process into FSS, with referrals and starts from April to December 2020 being lower than before the pandemic. The large rise in referrals and starts during January to March 2021 means that figures for these are now similar to before COVID, with referrals 2% higher than last year and starts only 4% lower.
Figure 1: Number of people referred into Fair Start Scotland by quarter of referral, from April 2018 to March 2021
Figure 2: Number of people starting on Fair Start Scotland by quarter, from April 2018 to March 2021
The Scottish Government's evaluation of the second year of the service highlighted that compared to the unemployed population of Scotland there were some groups under-represented in FSS: women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds and young people; while a higher proportion of disabled people and older people used the service. This was the same in the first year of FSS.
The breakdown of equalities groups for FSS is shown in Figure 3. There have been changes in the demographic characteristics of those joining the service over time.
Overall, 37% of people who have joined FSS were women and 62% were men. The proportion of women has generally increased over time: from 35% in year 1, to 37% in year 2 and 40% in year 3. In the most recent quarter (January – March 2021), 39% of participants were women; a slight drop from 43% in the October – December 2020 period.
The most common age group of people joining FSS was 35-49 years (28% of people), followed by 50 years old and over (25%), 25-34 years (24%), and 16-24 years (21%).
Over the course of years 1 to 3, there has been an increase in the proportion of participants from the two younger age bands (16-34), and a decrease in the older age bands (35+). Participants aged 16-34 made up 38% of all starts in year 1, 44% in year 2, and 52% in year 3. In the most recent quarter, 51% of participants were aged 16-34, which is a decrease from a peak at 56% in April – June 2020. Participants aged 35 and over made up 60% of all starts in year 1, 51% in year 2, 47% in year 3, and 48% in the most recent quarter.
Overall, 5% of people who have joined FSS were from minority ethnic backgrounds and 70% were white, with ethnicity unknown for the remaining 26% of participants. In the most recent quarter, 5% of participants were from a minority ethnic group and 83% of participants were white. Monitoring changes to the proportion of minority ethnic participants over time is difficult due to the percentage being low, with high levels of unknowns which vary by quarter; however, data completeness has improved in the second half of year 3. In year 1, 4% of participants were minority ethnic, 6% in year 2, and 4% in year 3.
43% of people joining FSS reported a disability. The proportion of disabled participants decreased from 55% in year 1, to 44% in year 2, and 32% in year 3. Data for disabled participants in year 3 showed a lot of change throughout the year, as both data completeness and people identified as disabled decreased immediately after the first lockdown in the first half of the year. In the most recent quarter 39% of participants were disabled, 52% were not, with the rest (9%) unknown.
64% of people joining FSS reported having a long-term health condition, 29% reported no long-term health condition, with the rest (7%) unknown.
Figure 3: Percentage of people joining Fair Start Scotland, broken down by equality characteristic group, from April 2018 to March 2021
Figure 4 shows that the most common type of long-term health condition reported was mental health (35%). Between year 1 and 2 there was a 5 percentage point increase in people reporting a mental health condition among those joining FSS, from 31% to 36%. This remained at 36% in year 3, with 34% in the most recent quarter.
The second most commonly reported type of health condition was a long-term illness, disease or condition, which affected 17% of people joining FSS and has remained close to this level over time. In the most recent quarter, the proportion was 16%.
A physical disability was the third most common type of long-term health condition reported. The number of people reporting a physical disability has declined over time from 14% in year 1, to 10% in year 2, 6% in year 3, and 5% in the most recent quarter.
Figure 4: Percentage of people joining Fair Start Scotland who report long-term health conditions, broken down by type of long-term health condition, from April 2018 to March 2021
How many people left FSS early?
Someone is defined as having left FSS early (an 'early leaver') if they leave FSS before the end of the pre-employment support period and without having sustained employment for at least 3 months. The pre-employment support period usually lasts for up to 1 year. In some cases, it can last up to 18 months, but this has only applied to a small number of people so far.
Overall, 13,124 people have left FSS early. As with job outcomes, as time goes on we get a more complete picture of the numbers of people staying on FSS or leaving early. Where we have a complete picture 49% of people left the service early. There has been a reduction over time – 53% of participants who joined in year 1 left early, and 45% of participants who joined in year 2 left early.
Figure 5 shows that the percentage of people leaving early was broadly similar across most of the equalities groups. However, the percentage was higher for those reporting a disability, particularly for those who have a long-term health condition that limits daily activities a lot (54% left early). The proportion of people leaving early was lower for those who had a long-term health condition that did not limit daily activities at all (42%).
Figure 5: Percentage of people that leave Fair Start Scotland early, broken down by equality characteristic group, from April 2018 to March 2021
How many people entered and sustained employment?
A total of 10,417 people who joined FSS have started a job.
COVID-19 has had an impact on the labour market, and the number of job vacancies available.
Figure 6 shows changes in FSS job starts since COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020. There was a reduction in job starts from April 2020 after the first lockdown in Scotland followed by an increase peaking in August 2020, when FSS recorded the highest levels of job starts since the service began. A high level of job starts remained until November followed by a large drop in December 2020. Some of this decrease is likely to be seasonal, as decreases in December were also seen in 2018 and 2019. Although there was a slight increase by March 2021, the 838 job starts in the January – March 2021 period were the lowest seen per quarter since year 1, and below the quarterly total level seen during the first lockdown in April – June 2020. However, figures for recent months are likely to increase in future publications as there can be a delay between a participant starting a job and it being recorded by service providers.
Figure 6: Number of people starting work after joining Fair Start Scotland, by the month job was started, from April 2019 to March 2021
Of the 10,417 people who started work, 6,451 had sustained employment for at least 3 months (13 weeks), 4,423 sustained employment for at least 6 months (26 weeks), and 2,590 sustained employment for at least 12 months (52 weeks), as of March 2021.
Job outcome rates can only be reported for start cohorts where enough time has passed in pre employment support and for outcomes to be achieved. These show:
- most people who started FSS did not enter work or go on to sustain employment: 33% started a job, 23% sustained employment for 3 months, 19% sustained employment for 6 months, and 14% sustained employment for 12 months
- however, high levels of those starting jobs sustain them: 71% of people starting jobs went on to sustain employment for 3 months, 78% of the people who sustained employment for 3 months went on to reach 6 months, and 76% of those who sustained employment for 6 months went on to reach at least 12 months
Figures 7, 8, 9 and 10 show how the rates of job starts and outcomes compare between different equality groups.
The rates of job starts and outcomes do not show a large difference by gender, though slightly higher rates were achieved by women. For both men and women, 33% started a job. 3 month job outcomes were achieved by 24% of women and 23% of men, 6 month job outcomes were achieved by 20% of women and 18% of men, and 12 month outcomes were achieved by 15% of women and 13% of men.
The biggest differences in job start and outcomes rates were observed in age and long-term health conditions, which are often related. 38% of 16-24 year olds started work after joining FSS, compared with 29% of those aged 50 plus – a difference of 9 percentage points. Differences are also seen in the proportions of people sustaining employment at 3 months (26% for 16-24; 21% for 50+), 6 months (20% and 17%) and 12 months (16% and 12%).
23% of those with a long-term health condition that limited daily activities a lot went on to start work, compared to 42% of those with a health condition that did not limit daily activities. The difference between these two groups was also observed in the proportions of people sustaining employment at 3 months (16% for those limited a lot, and 28% for those not limited at all), 6 months (13% and 22%) and 12 months (10% and 15%).
35% of minority ethnic participants went on to start work, compared to 33% of white participants. 3 month outcomes were 3 percentage points higher for minority ethnic participants, and 6 month and 12 month outcomes were 4 percentage points higher. Thus 18% of minority ethnic participants sustained a job for 12 months compared to 14% of white participants.
Figure 8: Percentage of people staying in work for 3 months after joining Fair Start Scotland, broken down by equality characteristic group
Figure 9: Percentage of people staying in work for 6 months after joining Fair Start Scotland, broken down by equality characteristic group
Figure 10: Percentage of people staying in work for 12 months after joining Fair Start Scotland, broken down by equality characteristic group
How many parents have been supported
Data on FSS participants who are parents has been published for the first time. Cumulative totals for years 1 to 3 should be interpreted with caution and comparison of data between years is not possible, due to the way that the collection of data developed over time. In total, over the 3 years of FSS, 4,973 participants have been reported as parents. In year 3, 2,300 people (22% of participants) were reported as parents. Of these 2,300: 29% were disabled, 41% were lone parents, 5% were mothers aged under 25, 15% were parents with three or more children, 16% had a child aged under 12 months, and 6% were from a minority ethnic background.
For those parents who had started on FSS by December 2019 and therefore had the full time to achieve outcomes, 23% sustained employment for at least 3 months, which is the same proportion as FSS participants overall. 18% of disabled parents sustained employment for three months, compared to 21% of disabled people who were not reported to be parents, and 26% of people who are not disabled and not reported to be parents.
Proportions of other priority parent groups achieving three month job outcomes were similar to those achieved by FSS participants overall, but these figures should be used with caution as some percentages are based on very small numbers. Three months sustained employment was achieved by 21% of lone parents, 22% of mothers under 25, 28% of parents with three or more children, and 23% of minority ethnic parents.