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Frequently asked questions about Fair Start Scotland

Q: What is Fair Start Scotland?

Fair Start Scotland (FSS) is Scotland's first fully devolved employment support service. It aims to support those further removed from the labour market who want help to find and stay in work.

FSS delivers one of the first powers to be devolved under the 2016 Scotland Act, providing flexible and tailored support that is responsive to the needs of unemployed people and businesses across Scotland. It is an opportunity to deliver a Scottish approach to employment support that is more flexible, and responsive to a changing labour market, tackling income inequality and growing Scotland's economy by helping more people into work.



Q. Who is delivering Fair Start Scotland?

The then Minister for Employability and Training awarded contracts in October 2017 to providers and delivery partners who deliver Fair Start Scotland. This recognised the strengths of a mixed economy of third, private and public sector partners in  delivering better outcomes for unemployed people in Scotland. There are nine Contract Areas and further details of these can found here.


Q. What was the rationale for the 9 Contract Areas?

The nine Contract Areas reflect Scotland's geography, labour market and local economy areas, and existing delivery boundaries. It was determined following  substantial stakeholder engagement, both through the 2015 consultation 'Creating a Fairer Scotland: Employability Support' and a number of supplier engagement events in late 2016.


Q: What makes Fair Start Scotland different?

Fair Start Scotland (FSS) is entirely voluntary for people to participate, which means that people can choose to take part without fear of benefit sanctions.

Fairness, dignity and respect between provider and participant is at the heart of the service.


  • Has been developed by listening to the views of people who rely on employment support.
  • Is funded by the Scottish Government
  • Is delivered in 9 areas across Scotland, reflecting the reality of Scotland's geography, regional economies and population spread
  • Encourages Service Providers to commit to the Fair Work, Workforce and Community Benefits agendas (for example by promoting living wage employment, no use of zero hours contracts or umbrella companies and supporting the Scottish Business Pledge).   
  • Includes an offer of supported employment - an internationally recognised 'place and  train' model enabling disabled people to learn on the job with support from colleagues and a job coach.  Individual Placement and Support is available for those with severe and enduring mental health problems.   


Q: What are you doing to integrate Fair Start Scotland with other services and support?

Fair Start Scotland providers continue to build and maintain working relationships with key stakeholder organisations and groups at a local and national level to help provide effective and joined up support for participants.


Our key priority remains FSS participants receiving a quality service in their journey towards finding and sustaining fair work. We continue to work in partnership with local government and the third sector to improve services and move towards our No One Left Behind ambitions.


The No One Left Behind Delivery Plan published on 24 November, outlines the next phase of work, reaffirming the commitment to deliver a Scottish approach to employability that focuses on the needs of the individual first and foremost, tackles inequalities and grows Scotland's economy . 


Q: Fair Start Scotland was due to end in March 2021, what were the reasons for extending the service?

On 16 July 2020 the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills announced the extension of FSS delivery with the current contractors up to 31 March 2023, providing stability and continuity for FSS participants and allowing us to manage the anticipated COVID-19 related increase in demand for support from the most disadvantaged in our communities.


Extending FSS services will allow further development time to deliver on our No One Left Behind ambitions. Building on the successful implementation of Fair Start Scotland, we are working with local government partners and the public, third and private sector to develop an employability system that delivers joined up, flexible, responsive, person-centred provision. 


Q: Where can I learn more about how Fair Start Scotland has performed?

The Scottish Government publishes statistics on its devolved employability services on a quarterly basis. On 9 November 2020 we also published the second Fair Start Scotland Annual Report highlighting how the service has matured, alongside the

the Fair Start Scotland Evaluation Report 3: Overview of Year 2. This is the third FSS evaluation report, and details the research that supports the second year of service delivery up to 31 March 2020. The report includes findings from a telephone survey of over 1000 participants; local area case studies; feedback from the Scottish Government Social Security Experience Panel and analysis of management information on participants’ outcomes.


The findings from both reports allow us to identify and implement areas of continuous improvement within the service extension period.


Links to these reports can be found at the links below.

Scotland's Devolved Employment Services: statistical summary - (

Fair Start Scotland: annual report - year 2 - (

Fair Start Scotland - evaluation report 3: year two - overview - (


 The next evaluation reports are due to be published in late September 2021.


Q: How many people has Fair Start Scotland supported?

Statistics published on 26 May 2021 show just over 32,500 people have joined Fair Start Scotland (FSS) in the first three years of delivery (April 2018 to March 2021) and more than 10,000 people have been supported into work.


These statistics releases are published quarterly in February, May, August and November on the Scottish Government website.


Scotland's Devolved Employment Services: statistical summary - (


Q: Have you made any changes to Fair Start Scotland?

We continue to apply a “test and learn” approach to Fair Start Scotland (FSS) incorporating user feedback and research from the FSS Evaluation Reports to help drive continuous improvement activity.

We have also undertaken activities to enhance our reach to and delivery for people who are currently under-represented by the service. Working with our providers, we have developed plans to strengthen engagement with local support groups and engagement with representative organisations to enhance our understanding of participants needs and their experience of support.

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