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Scotland's Devolved Employment Services: statistical summary October 2023

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FSS is Scotland’s devolved employability support service which aims to help those further from the labour market move into and sustain fair work. FSS launched on 3 April 2018 with funding to support a minimum of 38,000 people into work over an initial three year period (Fair Start Scotland Statement – opens in a new window). The service has been extended to March 2024. Further details on the nature of Fair Start Scotland can be found in table 3 in the Background Information.

This report refers to the following groups throughout:

  • People – unique individuals counted only once. If a participant has joined the service more than once, they will only be counted once under the people metric.
  • Starts – number of starts on the service. As people can now re-join, the number of starts may not equal the number of unique people. For example, if a participant has joined the service on two separate occasions, this will be counted twice under starts but only once under people.
  • Re-joins – refers to starts that are not first time starts. It should also be noted people may re-join more than once. The sum of the people metric and re-joins equals the number of starts on the service.

Most of the statistics in this report cover the period since FSS was launched in April 2018 up until the most recent quarter (April – June 2023). However, for some data items such as job outcomes, it is more appropriate to only consider those participants where enough time has passed that we have complete data. This varies depending on the metric but is noted within the relevant sections of the report.

See Fair Start Scotland background section for further details.

There were 90,918 referrals to FSS between its launch in April 2018 and the end of June 2023. Of the total referrals to FSS, 60,763 started receiving employability support, including 5,076 re-joins to the service.

In the most recent quarter, referrals decreased by 18% from 5,439 last quarter to 4,487 this quarter. Compared to the equivalent quarter in 2022, referrals are 3% lower. Starts have decreased by 11% from 3,557 last quarter to 3,160 this quarter. This is 1% lower than the equivalent quarter in 2022.

Figure 8: Referrals and starts on Fair Start Scotland decreased this quarter

Referrals and Starts on Fair Start Scotland, by Quarter, April 2018 to June 2023

Of 60,763 FSS starts, 55,687 people have started on the service, with the difference reflecting participants re-joining the service. The following breakdown of equality groups are based on the characteristics of those 55,687 people when they first joined FSS.

Gender

Most people joining FSS are male (62%; 34,325) while 38% (21,224) are female. The proportion of females has increased from 35% in year 1 (2018/19) to 39% in year 5 (2022/23). In the most recent quarter (April – June 2023), 37% of participants were female.

Age

The most common age group of people joining FSS is 35-49 years (29%; 16,213), followed jointly by 50 years old and over (25%; 13,738) and 25-34 years (25%; 13,854). The lowest proportion is the 16-24 years old age group (20%; 10,896).

The proportion of participants in the youngest and oldest age groups tends to show larger fluctuations than those in the 25-34 and 35-49 years age groups. Those in the youngest age group represented 16% of all participants in year 1 (2018/19) compared to 25% in year 3 (2020/21). In most recent quarter, the proportion was 22%. In comparison, the oldest age group represented 30% in year 1 (2018/19) compared to 20% in year 3 (2020/21). In the most recent quarter, the proportion was 21%.

Ethnicity

Overall, 7% (3,856) of people joining FSS were from a minority ethnic background and 74% (41,190) were white with ethnicity unknown for the remaining 19% (10,641) of participants. In the most recent quarter, 16% of participants were from a minority ethnic background and 79% were white. This continues an increasing quarterly trend in the proportion of participants from a minority ethnic background.

Monitoring changes to ethnicity can be challenging due a high proportion of unknowns. However, there has been continued improvement in response rates for this variable. In the most recent quarter, unknowns represented 5% of all participants. This compares to the higher proportions observed in earlier years (year 1: 17%, year 2: 31%, year 3: 29%).

Please see Data Quality in background information for more details on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on equality response rates.

Disability

Disability is defined based on answers to two questions related to long-term health condition (LTHC) and ability to carry out activities. Please see Methodology in background information for more details.

Overall, 44% (24,404) of FSS participants have a disability compared to 48% (26,459) who do not. This was unknown for the remaining 9% (4,824) of participants.

The proportion of disabled people has varied across years with the highest proportion (55%) in year 1 (2018/19) and the lowest (32%) in year 3 (2020/21). The collection of equalities data in year 3 was impacted by the move away from face to face service delivery and policies such as shielding during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the proportion of disabled people accessing FSS has subsequently increased from this low point, it continues to fluctuate. In year 4 (2021/22), the proportion increased to 47% but decreased to 43% in year 5. In the most recent quarter, 40% of people reported a disability.

Figure 9: Most people starting on Fair Start Scotland are male, white and live in an urban setting

Equality Characteristics of People Starting on Fair Start Scotland, April 2018 to June 2023

Stacked bar graph of percentage of people supported through Fair Start Scotland, by equality characteristic group. More men (62%), people aged 35 and over (54%), white people (74%), people unemployed for 24 months or more (37%), claiming a benefit (79%), living in an urban area (90%), living in the 85% least deprived areas (63%), and not reporting a conviction (89%) have joined Fair Start Scotland; 44% were disabled and 48% were not disabled.

Long-Term Health Condition

Overall, 61% (34,072) of people joining FSS reported a LTHC, 33% (18,542) reported no LTHC, with 6% (3,073) unknown. In the most recent quarter, the proportion was 51% for the third quarter in a row. This is the lowest proportion to date.

Many LTHC can impact upon a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment without additional support and participants can report more than one LTHC. The most commonly reported LTHC by participants joining FSS was a mental health condition (33%; 18,350), followed by a long-term illness, disease or condition (17%; 9,199).

Figure 10: Mental health condition is the most reported long-term health condition for people starting on Fair Start Scotland

LTHC Reported by People Starting on Fair Start Scotland, April 2018 to June 2023

Bar graph of percentage of people starting on Fair Start Scotland reporting long-term health conditions. A mental health condition (33%) is the most reported long-term health condition by Fair Start Scotland participants.

Parents

Annual data on parents was first published in May 2021. From August 2022, quarterly parent data covering year 5 onwards has been published.

Cumulative totals should be interpreted with caution and comparison of data between years is not advised due to the way the collection has developed over time. Please see Methodology in background information for more details.

Of people joining FSS for the first time 11,968 were parents, while there has been 13,052 total parent starts on the service since its launch in April 2018, including re-joins.

In the latest quarter, of the 792 parent starts on FSS there were 683 people who were parents accessing FSS support for the first time. These 683 parents represented 26% of all 2,581 people accessing FSS support for the first time in this quarter. While lower than the proportion in the previous quarter, it is the same as the equivalent quarter in the previous year.

Parents and families from certain groups are at higher risk of being affected by child poverty (see background information on priority groups). Of the 683 parents accessing support for the first time this quarter:

  • 33% were disabled (37% overall),
  • 35% were lone parents (44% overall),
  • 2% were mothers aged under 25 (4% overall),
  • 19% were parents with three or more children (18% overall),
  • 37% had a child aged under 12 months (26% overall), and,
  • 22% were from a minority ethnic background (12% overall).

Convictions

People with a conviction may find it harder to enter employment. There has been 6,024 people (11%) joining FSS that reported having a conviction. In year 4 (2021/22) this peaked at 13% but reached a low point of 8% in year 5 (2022/23). In the most recent quarter, 189 people (7%) reported having a conviction.

Benefit Claimants

The majority of people (79%; 43,716) joining FSS are benefit claimants. This proportion was at its lowest in year 1 (2018/19) at 74% and peaked in year 4 (2021/22) at 87%. It should be noted that the proportion of unknowns was higher in the first few years of the programme but has improved since. In the most recent quarter, 2,042 (79%) people reported claiming benefits.

Length of Time Unemployed

People who have been out of the labour market for a longer period of time may find it more difficult to find employment. Most people (37%; 20,555) joining FSS have been unemployed for 24 months or more. A similar proportion have been unemployed for less than 6 months (18%; 9,970), between 6 – 12 months (16%; 8,983) and 12 – 24 months (15%; 8,533). This information is unknown for the remaining participants (14%; 7,638). In the most recent quarter, 804 people (31%) reported being unemployed for 24 months or more.

Deprivation

There has been 19,716 people (35%) joining FSS who lived in one of the 15% most deprived areas. This has remained consistent across years with the highest proportion (38%) in year 1 (2018/19) and the lowest proportion (33%) in years 3 (2020/21) and 5 (2022/23). In the most recent quarter, 930 people (36%) lived in one of the 15% most deprived areas. Geographic information was unavailable for 1% of participants.

See background information for more detail on deprivation.

Urban/Rural

People living in rural areas may be more limited for job opportunities compared to those living in urban areas. There has been 4,680 people (8%) joining FSS who live in a rural area, while 50,226 people (90%) live in an urban area. This has remained consistent across years with the highest proportion (91%) in years 1 (2018/19) and 4 (2021/22) and the lowest proportion (88%) in year 3 (2020/21). In the most recent quarter, 221 people (9%) reported living in a rural area. Geographic information was unavailable for 1% of participants.

See background information for more detail on Urban Rural classification.

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 12 months but can last up to 18 months in some cases, though this has only applied to a small number of people to date.

There have been 28,770 early leavers from the 60,763 FSS starts (including 5,076 re-joins). As time passes, there is a more complete picture of the proportion of starts that stay on FSS or leave early.

Where we have a complete picture, based on participants with a start date one year ago or longer, 25,276 (52%) of starts have left early. This rate is based on a cohort of 48,228 starting between the period April 2018 and June 2022 (including 3,017 re-joins).

The percentage of early leavers was higher for those reporting a disability, particularly for those who have a LTHC that limits daily activities a lot (58%); compared with those with a LTHC that did not limit daily activities at all (47%). Younger participants (16-24) were also more likely to leave early (55%) compared to the older participants (50%) (50 years and over). There is little difference between male and female participants or between white and minority ethnic participants.

Participants with a conviction were more likely to leave early (60%) than those not reporting a conviction (51%). Those participants who lived in one of the 15% most deprived areas were more likely to leave early (56%) compared to those who lived in one of the 85% least deprived areas (51%). Participants unemployed for 24 months or more also have higher rates of leaving early (57%) compared to those unemployed less than 6 months (43%), 6 – 12 months (46%) and 12 – 24 months (52%).

Figure 11: FSS starts reporting a conviction, living in one of the 15% most deprived areas or are unemployed 24 months or more are most likely to leave FSS early

Proportion of Starts on Fair Start Scotland leaving early, April 2018 to June 2022

Bar graph of percentage of Fair Start Scotland starts that leave the service early, by equality characteristics group. A higher proportion of starts unemployed for 24 months or more (57%), claiming a benefit (54%), living in the 15% most deprived areas (56%), reporting a conviction (60%) and limited a lot by their long-term health condition (58%) leave Fair Start Scotland early.

Overall, there has been 21,351 job starts in total from the 60,763 FSS starts, including the 5,076 re-joins to the service, since the launch of FSS. Of these job starts, so far 14,630 have sustained employment for at least 3 months (13 weeks), 11,219 at least 6 months (26 weeks), and 7,625 at least 12 months (52 weeks), as of June 2023.

When considering job outcomes, to properly assess how participants have progressed, it is more appropriate to calculate this for cohorts of participants where enough time has passed in pre-employment support and for outcomes to be achieved.

For example, pre-employment support lasts 12 months so for a participant to complete this support and also sustain employment for 12 months, a total of at least 24 months is required from their start date. Calculating 12 month job outcomes for participants where this time has not passed will under estimate outcomes for this measure. The following table summarises time periods and denominators for each outcome type.

Table 1: Outcome type by respective service start time period and number of participants covered in each outcome

Outcome Time Required to Pass Time Period of Starting on Service Participants Re-joins

Job Starts

12 month support

April 2018 to June 2022

48,228

3,017

3 month job outcome

12 month support + 3 months

April 2018 to March 2022

45,040

2,450

6 month job outcome

12 month support + 6 months

April 2018 to December 2021

41,850

1,864

12 month job outcome

12 month support + 12 months

April 2018 to June 2021

35,928

689

For those starts where enough time has passed in pre-employment support and for outcomes to be achieved, job outcomes show 37% (17,796 of 48,228) have entered employment, 27% have sustained employment for 3 months (12,211 out of 45,040), 22% have sustained employment for 6 months (9,325 out of 41,850) and 18% have sustained employment for 12 months (6,338 out of 35,928). 

However, when starts enter employment, there tends to be a high level of sustainment. Of those starts entering employment, 73% sustained employment for 3 months (12,211 out of 16,623 job starts up to March 2022 – 12 months support plus 3 months job outcome). Of the starts sustaining employment for 3 months, 82% went on to continue sustainment to 6 months (9,325 out of 11,409 job starts up to December 2021 – 12 months support plus 6 months job outcome). And of the starts sustaining employment for 6 months, 78% went on to reach at least 12 months employment (6,338 out of 8,122 job starts up to June 2021 – 12 months support plus 12 months job outcome).

Gender

There are no gender differences in job starts (37%) but female participants are more likely to sustain employment with differences increasing over longer sustainment periods. For example, 28% of female starts sustain employment for 3 months compared with 26% of male starts, while 20% of female starts sustain employment for 12 months compared to 16% for male starts.

Age

Younger participants are more likely to enter employment compared to older participants, however, there is little difference in job sustainment for 6 and 12 months. The youngest age group (16-24) accounts for the lowest proportion of FSS starts but have the highest job starts (42%). For starts in the oldest age group (50 years and over), 33% enter employment. However, at 12 month job sustainment, all age groups have similar levels of sustainment (range: 17-18%).

Long-Term Health Condition and Disability

The extent to which a LTHC limits daily activities is a more important factor in terms of entering and sustaining employment than simply having or not having a LTHC. For FSS starts with no LTHC, 40% enter employment. However, this is higher for those with a LTHC that does not limit daily activities at all (45%). In comparison, for starts with a LTHC that limits daily activities a lot, 25% enter employment. This general trend is also maintained for sustained outcomes, where 13% of starts with a LTHC that limits daily activities a lot sustain employment for 12 months compared with 21% for starts with a LTHC that does not limit daily activities at all. However, the gap between these groups is narrower for longer sustainment periods compared to shorter periods.

Ethnicity

FSS starts from minority ethnic backgrounds have slightly higher job starts and outcome sustainment compared to white participants, however the difference ranges between 2-3 percentage points. For example, 39% of starts from a minority ethnic background enter employment compared to 36% of starts who are white, while 19% of starts from a minority ethnic background sustain employment for 12 months compared to 17% of starts who are white.

Convictions

Having a conviction is one of the biggest barriers to entering and sustaining employment for FSS participants. For job starts, 30% of starts reporting a conviction enter employment compared to 38% of starts not reporting a conviction. Only 10% of starts reporting a conviction maintain employment for 12 months compared to 19% for those starts not reporting a conviction.

Benefit Claimants

While most FSS participants reported claiming a benefit (80%), 34% of these starts entered employment compared to 57% of starts not claiming a benefit. This gap is similar across each sustained job outcome, for example, 15% of starts claiming a benefit sustain employment for 12 months compared to 31% for those not claiming a benefit.

Length of Time Unemployed

Length of time unemployed is an important factor for entering and sustaining employment. Those out of employment for a longer period are less likely to enter and sustain employment. For example, 57% of FSS starts unemployed for less than 6 months entered employment compared to 23% for starts unemployed for 24 months or more. For starts unemployed less than 6 months, 27% sustained employment for 12 months compared to 11% for those starts unemployed for 24 months or more.

Deprivation

FSS starts living in the 85% least deprived areas have slightly higher job starts and outcome sustainment compared to those living in the 15% most deprived areas, with a 3 percentage point difference across all outcome measures. For example, 38% of those living in one of the 85% least deprived areas entered employment compared to 35% for those living in one of the 15% most deprived areas, while for 12 month sustained employed, this was 19% and 16%, respectively.

Urban/Rural

There is no difference in outcomes between those living in an urban or rural setting with those observed for all participants.

For the 13,052 FSS starts that were parents, job outcomes are only reported where enough time has passed in pre-employment support (12 months) and for outcomes to be achieved, as is the case for all participants. The following table summarises this for each outcome type.

Table 2: Outcome type and respective service start time period and number of parents covered in each outcome

Outcome Time Required to Pass Time Period of Starting on Service Parents Included Re-joins

Job Starts

12 month support

April 2018 to June 2022

9,693

662

3 month job outcome

12 month support + 3 months

April 2018 to March 2022

8,891

543

6 month job outcome

12 month support + 6 months

April 2018 to December 2021

8,052

418

12 month job outcome

12 month support + 12 months

April 2018 to June 2021

6,373

169

For those starts where enough time has passed in pre-employment support and for outcomes to be achieved, job outcomes show 37% (3,603 of 9,693) have entered employment, 28% have sustained employment for 3 months (2,484 out of 8,891), 23% have sustained employment for 6 months (1,881 out of 8,052) and 19% have sustained for 12 months (1,205 out of 6,373). These proportions are comparable to those observed for all participants.

Priority Family Groups

Disabled Parents

The proportion of disabled parents entering employment is similar (31%) to disabled participants who are not parents (32%) but lower than both parents who are not disabled (40%) and participants who are not a parent nor disabled (42%), highlighting the challenge for participants who are disabled regardless of parental status.

Job sustainment was also consistently lower for disabled parents compared to parents who are not disabled. For example, 16% of disabled parents sustained employment for 12 months compared to 20% for parents who are not disabled.

Lone Parents

The proportion of lone parents entering employment is lower (32%) than for all parents (37%). This remains the case for sustained employment. For example, 16% of lone parents sustained employment for 12 months compared to 19% for all parents.

 Mothers under 25

The proportion of mothers under 25 entering employment is lower (34%) than for all parents (37%). This remains the case for sustained employment. For example, 12% of lone parents sustained employment for 12 months compared to 19% for all parents. While job starts are higher for mothers under 25 than disabled and lone parents and 3 month job outcomes are similar, this group note a higher drop-off for longer sustainment periods compared to the other mentioned groups.

Parents with three or more children

The proportion of parents with three or more children entering employment is similar (36%) to all parents (37%). This remains the case for sustained employment. For example, 18% of parents with three or more children sustained employment for 12 months compared to 19% for all parents.

Youngest child under 12 months

The proportion of parents with a youngest child under 12 months entering employment is similar (36%) to all parents (37%). However, job outcomes are 2 percentage points lower for all sustainment lengths. For example, 17% of parents with a youngest child under 12 months sustained employment for 12 months compared to 19% for all parents.

Parents from a minority ethnic background

The proportion of parents from a minority ethnic background entering employment is similar (38%) to all parents (37%). This generally remains the case for sustained employment. For example, 18% of parents from a minority ethnic background sustained employment for 12 months compared to 19% for all parents.

The Scottish Government has identified a number of ‘priority family groups’ at risk of child poverty, further information can be found here: Tackling child poverty priority families overview (opens in a new window). Please also see background information for further details on definitions and data comparisons.

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