Youth Employment Scotland Fund (YESF): evaluation report

Evaluation report of the Youth Employment Scotland Fund (YESF) to assess its impact on young people and employers.

5 Delivering the YESF


5.1 This chapter examines the experiences of Local Authorities and partners in delivering the YESF. It draws on evidence from stakeholder and Local Authority consultations and the survey of employers.

Operational delivery

Setting the targets

5.2 Following an ESF call for Stage 1 ESF applications, Local Authorities were asked to submit bids for the YESF in March 2013. There was a workshop on 23 May 2013 involving a number of Local Authorities and representatives from the Scottish Local Authorities Economic Development ( SLAED) group and COSLA to discuss how all partners could work together to support up to 10,000 young people in to work through YESF.

5.3 In the study it was reported that Local Authorities had no consistent method for arriving at their YESF targets. Some reported that targets were based on what they "thought they could achieve". One Local Authority consultee stated:

"I don't know how the target was arrived at…I think that we may have gone with the initial suggested allocation by the Scottish Government, as we hadn't done anything like this before."

5.4 In a number of Local Authorities operational staff were not involved in the process and decisions on setting the local targets:

"I think this was agreed by management with the Government beforehand, before I got involved with the YES Fund [sic]."

5.5 Perhaps unsurprisingly, evidence-based targets were most likely to be in Local Authorities with existing employability programmes:

"We arrived at our target through our knowledge and understanding of local youth employment support, but it was also informed by the appetite of local businesses to take on young people."

"We already had a wage subsidy scheme in place…this partly informed expected take up by age and group."

Marketing the YESF

5.6 The YESF was marketed at local level, with no national marketing activity although ESF and Scottish Government logos had to be used in all marketing materials. Local Authorities used a range of marketing approaches, though not all authorities had a formal marketing campaign. Examples of marketing activities include: direct mail-outs to employers; adverts on local radio, press releases; information events web and social media advertising. Local Authorities also worked with local training providers and employability partners to promote the YESF.

5.7 Local Authorities in the study all reported that their marketing of the YESF was successful in recruiting employers and young people to the programme and noted that shaping the message to the target audience was crucial. These marketing activities were not the only source of referrals and the often supported more direct approaches. Most frequently, referrals came through Jobcentre Plus ( JCP) and other partners; however, marketing did generate self-referrals and also served to reinforce the messages about the YESF.

5.8 Where Local Authorities had existing partnerships for employability support, they were used to promote the YESF for example, JCP, Business Gateway, Scottish Chambers and Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland ( FSB Scotland). A number of authorities held partner events as information showcases, to a varying degree of success.

Employer engagement

5.9 Recruiting employers was most effective where the Local Authority was already working with local employers or had existing relationships. Examples include where an employer was already engaged with employability and business development initiatives:

"Our existing employment programme really helped in driving YESF forwards, giving us a good level of access to employers…and really getting things off the ground through strong existing relationships."

"As well as [using relationships from our] current employability work, we tapped into employer consortia for key sectors, and exploited relationships with employers through existing networks."

5.10 Word of mouth amongst employers was also a useful source of referrals (as discussed in Chapter 6). For example, in Ayrshire, in addition to the pan-Ayrshire approach to marketing, the Council actively encouraged employer peer recruitment including focusing on industrial estates and they reported this as being a successful approach.

5.11 Business Gateway proved to be a useful source of employer referrals, particularly in areas where small and micro businesses, and growth businesses were specifically targeted.

5.12 We found evidence of authorities acting as a recruitment brokerage between employers and young people. For example, one Local Authority reported that through their employability programme, they reviewed CVs and provided a short list of suitable young people to the employer. This was particularly useful for micro and small business who may have more limited recruitment experience and also, lack capacity to review a lot of CVs for one position.

5.13 There was no evidence of unmet demand from employers i.e. where employers were looking to recruit a young person through YESF but were not able to.

Young people engagement

5.14 Similarly to engaging with employers, the evidence shows that Local Authorities promoted the YESF and recruited young people in a number of ways, including social media campaigns and web-based marketing. They also worked with JCP to source referrals, and targeted young people by working in partnership with schools, including through Careers Advisers and Guidance Teachers. One Local Authority sent letters to all school leavers to inform them of the YESF.

5.15 Where there were existing employability programmes, these provided a flow of young people in to the YESF as a key stage in the employability pipeline. In addition, in third sector organisations, young people undertaking CJS placements were frequently referred to the YESF at the end of their CJS period.

5.16 One example of an innovative approach that was highlighted in the study is a Local Authority that produced information cards to give to young people. They were the size of a bank or credit card and included key information about options, including the YESF:

"We developed a 'Golden Ticket' for young people, an initiative to engage them on positive destinations including the YESF, and also to provide information for the young people to carry to prospective employers."

Delivering YESF

Early stages of delivery

5.17 It was widely reported that when the YESF was first launched, momentum was slow to pick up in some Local Authority areas, most notably those with no pre-existing employability initiatives. Early monitoring returns indicated that after three months, only 10% of jobs had been taken up. As a top-down initiative, introduced at relatively short notice and without a high-profile launch, the Local Authorities had to quickly get it up and running, a challenge for those with no existing employability infrastructure, connections or processes.

Supporting delivery

5.18 Where Local Authorities already had employability initiatives and infrastructure, the evidence demonstrates that YESF was easily integrated into existing activities. This was particularly noticeable where there were locally-delivered ERIs. Delivering YESF jobs was a straightforward addition to their current activities, and they could easily establish the processes, capitalise on the relationships with partners and employers and recruit young people:

"We had previously delivered our own wage subsidy scheme…so we had the necessary infrastructure, and we had momentum."

5.19 In the areas with existing employability programmes, Local Authorities could provide wraparound support to YESF participants and integrate the YESF into their wider employability pipeline, so adding value. This included pre-employment training, through-care and aftercare which they reported helped maximise the sustainability of employment.

5.20 There are some interesting examples of localised approaches to delivery. In Renfrewshire, the YESF was packaged with wider business development support through Invest in Renfrewshire. The Council were of the view that this approach helped young people secure sustained employment beyond the ERI:

" YESF is delivered through our Invest in Renfrewshire initiative. YESF was set up as more of a business development offering, and a number of other employability initiatives are also delivered like that. We do this as we see it as being…about matching the right young person to the right job, and getting the right employee for employers."

5.21 Two stakeholders suggested that there may be other ways of delivering employability support to young people, for example through the new Developing the Young Workforce groups, established following the Wood Commission report. Their rationale was that this would facilitate better connections between business and education than can be achieved by Local Authorities.

5.22 There was also a firm body of opinion that senior people in Local Authorities signed up to YESF without understanding the full operational details - meaning that Local Authority officers had to work out how to deliver the targets retrospectively. The lack of clarity this caused at the outset may have contributed to the sense of a slightly "muddled" start. Though Local Authorities were involved in the development of YESF through SLAED, some of the staff consulted perceived a lack of involvement at operational level - one authority suggested that a working group of Local Authority delivery staff from the outset would have been beneficial. In fact, such a group did exist and the Q&A section on the website was extensive which may indicate that not all Local Authority staff involved in YESF were fully aware of the resources and support available, an issue of internal communication.

5.23 That said, of the Local Authorities consulted with during the evaluation, the majority felt that they had started delivering effectively quite quickly and that any delays were not significant. They also felt that they had managed to recruit young people and employers within realistic timescales even though the timing of the launch (just before the school summer holidays) made this slightly problematic:

"We have exceeded our original target… Even though the YESF model was new to us, we had no difficulty in getting things up and running; the demand was certainly there from young people and employers…there was more of a challenge in managing demand than anything else."

5.24 At key points, for example towards the end of the first phase of YESF, Local Authorities boosted their recruitment efforts for example launching a new social media campaign, to attract more young people to participate.

Widening criteria

5.25 When the Scottish Government realised in the early stages that progress was falling short of targets, it extended the eligibility criteria as described in Chapter 3. This helped Local Authorities to widen the potential recruitment pool and make more positive progress towards achieving their targets. Evidence suggests that the key elements of this widened criteria that impacted on recruitment were that Modern Apprenticeships could be delivered through the YESF and that Local Authorities could provide jobs, including to graduates and targeted young people, as interim measures.

5.26 Whilst this helped some Local Authorities to deliver more YESF jobs, others did not believe that widening the criteria had a material impact on their ability to meet targets:

"The change in criteria didn't really help that much. [Our] YESF delivery…was skewed, focused towards younger young people anyway, largely to those aged 16-17, so with the widening of the criteria, we only picked up one or two older young people aged 25 plus."

"Criteria widening didn't really have that much of an impact, the majority of young people engaged across the [employability] piece already fit into the original YES Fund [sic] criteria."

5.27 Two things stand out from the provision of MAs by Local Authorities. Firstly, the 'Modern Apprenticeships and Graduate Programmes in the Public Sector' flexibility was intended as a pilot to provide intermediate employment, coupled with assistance for young people to progress to sustainable jobs in the private sector. This did not always happen as anticipated. The data shows that in a significant minority of cases, young people, particularly those on MAs, have been retained by the Local Authorities that provided the YESF job. Whilst this was not the objective of the programme it was a positive outcome for the young person. Secondly, there is some evidence that Local Authorities retrospectively applied YESF to existing MAs or other jobs. For example, one retrospectively applied the YESF to MAs as well to the graduate placements it offered, being of the view that this was within the scope of the criteria following the change.

Partnership approaches

5.28 Local Authorities successfully employed a number of partnership approaches to delivery. In Glasgow, Jobs and Business Glasgow ( JBG) were responsible for delivering the YESF on behalf of Glasgow City Council. JBG already delivers a range of employment initiatives for Glasgow City Council, and so had the capacity to deliver YESF and the ability to integrate YESF into its wider offer.

5.29 Across Scotland the SCVO engaged third sector organisations to provide YESF jobs, which was a result of its existing management of the Community Jobs Scotland ( CJS) Fund nationally. This allowed for an easy progression of young people from the job training opportunity provided through CJS to the YESF job. This progression from CJS to YESF was a key part of the employability pipeline, targeting young people who are furthest from the labour market.

5.30 As part of the YESF, additional ERI payments of £1,500 were made available to employers who employed a targeted young person ( TYP), along with support from expert agencies such as Barnardo's. As an example, Dundee City Council worked closely with Barnardo's to support TYP and provide jobs. Barnardo's Works Tayside & North East Service acted as a delivery partner for the Council for the YESF more widely, and managed the TYP element, focusing on disabled young people, young carers, care leavers and young ex- offenders. It also offered a small, flexible fund to cover equipment and training costs.

Administration of the YESF

5.31 As discussed, many Local Authorities combined YESF delivery with existing employability initiatives. Having processes in place already helped them to administer and deliver the programme. Nonetheless, the administration of the YESF was reasonably resource intensive and Local Authorities in the study noted that there was no provision built in to the funding to cover set up or administration costs and these were absorbed within existing council budgets. Administration challenges identified in the study are detailed in the following sections.


5.32 Monitoring of the YESF falls in to two strands. High level monitoring recorded the number of young people starting the YESF. The second level provided more detailed data on the characteristics of the young people taking up YESF jobs. National level monitoring of the YESF was light touch and Local Authorities reported that monitoring data was not requested in any specific format, or for the duration of the YESF, at specific times.

5.33 Financial claims were initially required on a quarterly basis. However, following feedback from Local Authorities, the Scottish Government sought to reduce the burden of this claims process and introduced a more flexible approach. To ensure that the Scottish Government was able to monitor the overall number of young people supported by the programme, Local Authorities were also regularly asked to provide updates on their area. This allowed the Scottish Government to discuss the reallocation of places with Local Authorities and to manage the numbers participating in the programme in order to deliver the 10,000 places.

5.34 With regard to the monitoring of the characteristics of the young people and businesses involved in the YESF a number of authorities reported working to their own methods to collect monitoring data, often tying in with how they gathered monitoring data for other employability initiatives:

"[Monitoring] reports were sometimes asked for, but this was not frequent or regular. We did have our own system that we used, this helped us with reporting; it met needs."

5.35 This has had an impact on Local Authorities' monitoring data and the availability of consistent, accurate statistics to assess the outcomes and impacts.


5.36 Many Local Authorities commented that overall, the help and guidance received from the Employability and Skills team at the Scottish Government was very helpful. The team was responsive to ad hoc requests for guidance and support which was highly valued as were the regular FAQ updates on the website. However, there was a feeling that updates could also have been circulated rather than relying on Local Authorities and others to check the website. It was also reported that some of the guidance was inconsistent, such as the change of format for the transaction list between claims for Phase 1 and Phase 2:

"The changing interpretation of monitoring requirements is problematic, particularly the drill down for satisfying ESF."

5.37 Some authorities also considered that much of the guidance was left to local interpretation, such as the progression from CJS to YESF, or whether retrospective application was within scope. As one commented:

"There seemed to be a situation where there were 32 Local Authorities with 32 different sets of rules, and at least 32 different interpretations. A uniform system or structure would have been good…there was far too much deferring to Local Authorities."

5.38 Local Authorities also noted some inconsistencies in the messages from different departments at the Scottish Government. This was particularly the case regarding compliance requirements, where initial messages regarding monitoring and compliance being light touch were in contradiction with more detailed information provided at a later date on the level of rigour required to satisfy claims. For example:

"[We were] told…that things were light touch, for example the rigour of claims and evidence requirements, when it turned out that that was not the case."

5.39 However, some of these issues are a feature of the YESF's evolution and were largely unavoidable, although perhaps could have been articulated more timeously and clearly.


5.40 Compliance for the majority of Local Authorities has been the single biggest challenge in delivering the YESF and it was specifically down to the compliance demands of ESF funding. The complexity of the compliance requirements was exacerbated by the perceived inconsistencies in the guidance and advice:

" [We weren't] impressed with the advice… the compliance grew arms and legs throughout YESF delivery…Fortunately, we got a clean bill of health at audit, due to our own rigorous compliance procedures already in place."

5.41 However, from the outset all parties involved in the delivery of the YESF were aware of the need for the programme to fit with existing ESF rules and compliance requirements. The Scottish Government provided Local Authorities with guidance notes on ESF related compliance requirements. Although everyone in government was aware of ESF compliance procedures in practice it was perceived to be technically more difficult to undertake due to the audit requirement of a wage incentive scheme that supported a large number of employers and individuals, not all of whom were familiar with EU rules.

5.42 Local Authorities, particularly those with no previous ESF experience, were surprised by the level of detail required to make claims:

"The governance is forensic, and way beyond reason. It's not like [we] don't have governance in place for existing delivery; but the real surprise was the extreme level of drill down. In many cases [it] was difficult to audit, and determine eligibility."

5.43 Local Authorities found that the administrative burden in terms of officer time was significant and whilst the general administration demanded considerable time, they also needed to commit significant resource to help employers claim the ERI. One Local Authority estimated that their employability team were spending in excess of 50% of their time solely on YESF delivery for significant periods of time. Anecdotally, micro and small businesses required the most support, and these were frequently the types of employers targeted through the YESF.

5.44 Where Local Authorities supported employers to make their claims, it resulted in lower rates of non-claimant employers however the cost of doing so, in resource terms, was significant, albeit it difficult to quantify:

"There has been a challenge in not only trying to assess what happens if or when the funding is not in place, the counterfactual, from an employer perspective, but also in assessing the true costs of delivery since the funding didn't cover any of the administration."

5.45 One Local Authority reported that non-claimant employers were removed from YESF monitoring, and the ERI notionally allocated to them was redirected to fund other YESF jobs.

5.46 YESF was delivered without ESF funding in the Highlands and Islands, and was co-funded by the authorities themselves. Evidence in the study suggests that Highlands and Islands Local Authorities found compliance less onerous as a result, because ESF was not part of the equation:

"[We have] not [had] much of an issue with non-claiming, just some difficulty with getting invoices sent in first instance."

5.47 This was particularly clear in Moray, which had both Highland and Lowland delivery and so could compare the two:

"Lowland Moray got ESF, Highland didn't. We found the ESF requirement much more strict [sic]. We had no real problems though, [it] was just more time-consuming…More ESF compliance guidance would have been helpful."

5.48 There is no doubt that the compliance issue was largely a result of the requirements of ESF funding. Some Local Authorities suggested that the delivery model may have been incompatible with ESF compliance processes and one authority questioned whether such an approach at scale was valid:

"A high-volume programme like does not fit the funding requirements [of ESF]."

Performance and impacts

5.49 Despite some of the issues around compliance and administration of the YESF, Local Authorities believe that the YESF has been successful, and they valued it highly. In many cases, Local Authorities see additional jobs that have been created, and a relatively high rate of job sustainment (this is discussed in Chapter 6). Monitoring data indicates that whilst some areas have exceeded their agreed targets, the overall target for Scotland has not been reached, at the time of evaluation, although the final figure may be higher as the final phase comes to an end.

5.50 It is worth noting that in the case of Ayrshire [ 6], Dumfries & Galloway and Eilean Siar, three of the 12 Local Authorities consulted with in depth, the performance figures reported in Table 5.1 include anticipated beneficiariesto the end of the programme. This boosts the figure to 9,940 from the 9,396 figure in Chapter 4 ( Table 4.1) which is based on actual starts reported at the time of the research. It is possible that a similar increase may be expected in a proportion of the authority areas not consulted, in which case the national target may well be reached by the end of delivery.

5.51 At the time of evaluation Local Authorities overall have seen a reduction in youth unemployment in their areas, and in a small number of instances have been able to draw parallels between YESF participation rates and an equivalent drop in youth unemployment. Having said that, establishing a causal link and attributing falling youth unemployment to YESF is very difficult given the changes that we have seen in the labour market and economic context and the other initiatives that may have impacted. However, the following comment indicates the potential link to the YESF:

" YESF has certainly helped [address] youth unemployment. Year on year figures for youth unemployment for those aged 16-24 have dropped by almost exactly the same amount of YESF jobs; it is almost bang on."

Table 5.1: Local Authority YESF delivery to date against targets (number of young people to have participated in the YESF), including anticipated performance to Programme end

Local Authority Target Performance to date Local Authority Target Performance to date
Aberdeen City 195 37 Glasgow 455 446
Aberdeenshire 39 39 Highland 113 116
Angus 51 52 Inverclyde 281 276
Argyll & Bute 105 105 Midlothian 151 151
Ayrshire* 1,924 1,893 Moray 141 125
Clackmannanshire 140 136 North Lanarkshire 892 994
Dumfries & Galloway 416 407 Orkney 50 54
Dundee 447 423 Perth & Kinross 355 344
East Dunbartonshire 106 109 Renfrewshire 520 555
East Lothian 176 178 Scottish Borders 174 153
East Renfrewshire 89 79 Shetland 52 30
Edinburgh 373 344 Stirling 61 60
Eilean Siar 135 160 South Lanarkshire 964 1,036
Falkirk 591 600 West Dunbartonshire 454 411
Fife 577 392 West Lothian 420 235
Total 10,447 9,940 [ 7]

Source: Monitoring data provided by Local Authorities and includes anticipated beneficiaries to the end of the programme

* This covers North, East and South Ayrshire Local Authority areas.

5.52 YESF has also brought a range of benefits to the Local Authorities themselves. For many, the main benefit has been the volume of young people that they have been able to put through any type of employability scheme and into employment, therefore contributing to local strategic objectives on youth unemployment. Others reported an increase in and better engagement with employers which has enhanced their employability work and benefitted other functions such as economic development.

"It is one of the best programmes I have been involved in, certainly most successful. I'm disappointed to see it finish."

"We see YESF as being very successful. It has also allowed us to broaden our own wage subsidy programme, [and it has] worked well in tandem with our business grants too…The added value is the scaling up of our own scheme, being able to get more numbers through."


5.53 Overwhelmingly, Local Authorities have valued the YESF as an effective tool for assisting young people in to employment and addressing youth unemployment. In particular the additional financial resource at a time of challenging budget pressures.

5.54 The YESF complemented existing schemes in Local Authority areas. It reinforced them rather than duplicating any local or national efforts. Where existing programmes and infrastructure were already in place, it enabled Local Authorities to gain momentum at the start of the delivery and it made engagement and delivery more straightforward. However, Local Authorities who came from a standing start in terms of employability worked hard to get YESF up and running and there are many examples of where neighbouring councils worked together to maximise the benefits to young people.

5.55 Widening of the YESF criteria had a limited impact for some authorities, but allowed others to more easily deliver against targets. A downside is that it resulted in the criteria not always being applied as intended.

5.56 There is no doubt that the formative approach of the YESF had many strengths as it allowed for issues to be identified and address by flexing the Programme. It led to some issues including where guidance was revised but not necessarily communicated clearly although the strengths far outweigh these downsides. Local delivery was also a key strength of the YESF and it is an approach that should be retained for future, similar programmes.

5.57 The light-touch approach to monitoring resulted in variations in the data collected by Local Authorities and the quality. This has impacted on record-keeping and reporting, and subsequently on the ability to assess impacts at a national level.


Email: Sharon Hamilton,

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