Labour Market, Scottish Economy

The third sector as an employability partner for people with barriers to employment: Insights from Community Jobs Scotland

Evidence on the impact of policies is a critical part of building evidence-based policy in Scotland, particularly at transition points when funding or delivery decisions are made. Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) is an employability programme that funds work placements in the third sector for young people with significant barriers to the labour market to gain experience and on the job training within the third sector. It has been in operation in Scotland for a decade and is funded by the Scottish Government and run by SCVO, who have provided the data analysed in this report.

This report analyses quantitative data from 2016/17 to 2019/20 and insights from a small number of in-depth interviews of account managers to provide evidence on impact, value for money, and the lessons learnt that could be applied elsewhere. The findings suggest that the scheme has been able to help around 40% of participants to move into paid work after the placements finish, with slightly higher rates for people with disabilities.

This analysis includes some disaggregation of data by different disabilities, including learning disabilities, where rates of employment are understood to be very low on average in Scotland. After involvement in CJS, the rates of employment for people with a learning disability are in line with the average across the whole cohort and much better than in the other employability scheme for which we had broadly comparable data: Fair Start Scotland (FSS).

The cost of CJS is higher on average than for Fair Start Scotland but, given available data, it is difficult to know how comparable cost-effectiveness estimates are. We also do not know the counterfactual, for example, whether the young people who succeed in CJS would be successful in other employability programmes such as FSS. In the qualitative research, all those interviewed pointed to the suitability of the third sector for supporting people with sometimes complex additional support needs in their first step into the labour market due to the empathy they demonstrate and the flexibility they can offer.

Funding for CJS will transfer to local programmes under No One Left Behind later this year. In the absence of a fully resourced evaluation exercise (which was not commissioned), this report aims to provide evidence and insights that will hopefully inform local areas considering whether to proceed with or expand their employability schemes in partnership with the third sector. We also reflect on how they could think about their monitoring and evaluation in the future to ensure that they can continually build on and improve their employability offer and ensure that those with additional support needs are indeed not being left behind.

The full report is available here.

Note: the report includes revised figures on the cost of Fair Start Scotland following a revised methodology published by the Scottish Government in March 2022. See here for more details.


Emma Congreve is a Senior Knowledge Exchange Fellow and Deputy Director at the Fraser of Allander Institute. Emma's work at the Institute is focussed on policy analysis, covering a wide range of areas of social and economic policy.  Emma is an experienced economist and has previously held roles as a senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and as an economic adviser within the Scottish Government.