Publication - Research and analysis

Evaluation of the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund: interim report

Published: 23 Apr 2019
Housing and Social Justice Directorate

Iconic Consulting is conducting a formative evaluation of the core funding awards made by the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund.

Evaluation of the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund: interim report
Emerging impact and challenges among funded organisations

Emerging impact and challenges among funded organisations

This section assesses the emerging impact of the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund on the 118 third sector organisations supported by it. The section also highlights some of the ongoing challenges faced by the organisations.


Evidence is emerging on the positive impact of the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund on the third sector organisations it supports. The self-assessment exercise focused on key issues addressed by the Fund and the findings suggest some improvements in the way they operate, with the qualitative findings provide supporting, and in some cases, additional evidence of change. This emerging impact may be, at least partly, attributed to the Fund alongside that of other funds, internal developments at the third sector organisations and broader policy developments.

“It’s the first time that we’ve had a really long term investment into our core infrastructure, so it’s really helped us develop the work that we do over the last few years and we feel like we are just in a much more stable place as an organisation as a result of this funding and it means that as a staff team we’ve been able to grow and to take on other opportunities that we wouldn’t have been able to take on otherwise”. (Third sector organisation)

The self-assessment form gathered evidence on seven operational areas that the Fund aims to strengthen among third sector organisations. The November 2017 survey findings show ratings varied from a high of 9.0 (out of 10) for equalities, and prevention and early intervention, to 6.5 for financial sustainability and funding. Since the baseline survey in May 2016, third sector organisations reported an improvement in four of the seven operational areas. The greatest improvements were evident in third sector organisations’ involvement in local and national groups (+0.5) and interaction with Scottish Government (+0.4). Improvements were also reported in equality issues (+0.2) and organisational knowledge, capacity and skills (+0.1) although they were minor and could be due to natural variation. No change was reported in two of the seven operational areas: prevention and early intervention, and financial sustainability and funding. A slight decrease was reported in joint working (-0.1). Each of the operational elements are discussed in more detail below.

Figure 2 - Changes Across Operational Areas

Figure 2 - Changes Across Operational Areas

Involvement in local and national groups

Funded organisations’ involvement in local and national groups has improved by the greatest margin (+0.5) of the seven operational areas covered by the self-assessment form. The overall change was the result of a marked increase in involvement in local groups (+0.8) and a slight increase in involvement in national structures (+0.2). While there has been a notable change in this area since 2016 it should be noted that the overall rating of 7.6 is the second lowest of the seven operational areas suggesting third sector organisations involvement in local and national groups could potentially be greater.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
Your organisation's involvement in national structures 7.9 7.7 +0.2
Your organisation's involvement in local groups 7.3 6.5 +0.8
Overall 7.6 7.1 +0.5

Many third sector organisations reported extensive involvement in national structures and local groups, in part facilitated by core funding from the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund, as illustrated by the following example.

“We are actively involved in: Learning Link Scotland, Voluntary Action Fund Cluster Groups, Glasgow Local Integration Networks, African Housing Forum, BEMIS, CEMVO, Big Lottery Networking Events. Money Advice Scotland, Early Years, CLD and CAD”. (Third sector organisation)

Feedback from funded organisations identified some of the key factors aiding their increased involvement in national structures and local groups. The first was the additional staff time and capacity resulting from CYPFEI & ALEC funding. Another important factor was the Fund’s focus on core services and infrastructure that frees up senior staff’s time to engage with national structures and local groups compared to other funding which tends to be project-focused and less conducive to such activity. Increased awareness, particularly of national structures, was also identified by some funded organisations that highlighted the importance of their interaction with Scottish Government, Education Scotland and the Corra Foundation as an important factor in their improved awareness of such structures and groups.

In terms of challenges, despite CYPFEI & ALEC funding providing additional capacity, several funded organisations reported that capacity was the main constraint on their involvement in national structures and local groups (this may have contributed to the overall rating of 7.6). Some national organisations reported specific challenges trying to achieve or maintain involvement in local groups. Conversely smaller organisations reported challenges engaging in national structures.

“Our involvement is restricted due to pressure on staffing resources”. (Third sector organisation)

“As a small national intermediary organisation we would like greater involvement locally but don't have the resources to achieve this so focus on ensuring a national voice and involvement”. (Third sector organisation)

"Our work is community based so our staff teams interact with local structures. Due to capacity (lack of staff working at national level) it is difficult to have the impact that we believe we are capable of”. (Third sector organisation)

Interaction with Scottish Government

Funded organisations reported an improvement (+0.4) in their interaction with Scottish Government and Policy Officers appear to have been an important factor in this. The overall improvement in this issue masks a more complex situation involving improvements in information sharing but a reduced rating in terms of policy influence.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
The way the Scottish Government / Education Scotland disseminates information and intelligence to your organisation 7.4 6.7 +0.7
The way your organisation shares information and intelligence with the Scottish Government / Education Scotland 8.2 7.8 +0.4
Your organisation's ability to influence the development of Scottish Government policy 7.3 7.8 -0.5
The extent to which your organisation's core services align with National Outcomes 9.1 9.0 +0.1
Overall 8.0 7.6 +0.4

Third sector organisations reported a two-way improvement in information sharing with an increased rating of 0.7 in the way the Scottish Government and Education Scotland disseminates information and intelligence to the organisations, as well as an improvement of 0.4 in the opposite direction i.e. the way they share information and intelligence with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland. For many funded organisations, communications were channelled via their Policy Officers although several organisations also reported good communications with other Scottish Government and Education Scotland staff. A number of funded organisations reported feeling increasingly valued and respected by Scottish Government and Education Scotland.

“You can think you’ve got good contacts with the Scottish Government but what we’ve found is our Policy Officer has opened up new opportunities. This relationship has definitely taken us closer to them. For example, we’ve had discussions with the Policy Officer about the most appropriate named person for children and the role of health professionals”. (Third sector organisation)

“We are very pro-active in sharing our progress with the government and responding to their requests for evidence and consultation responses. Through our participation in a number of working groups and committees we receive information from the government and can begin to inform policy and shape practice”. (Third sector organisation)

Despite the apparently healthy two-way information and intelligence sharing, funded organisations rated their ability to influence the development of Scottish Government policy lower (at 7.3 out of 10) than the other aspects, and this rating was 0.5 less than it was in 2016. Communications and staff changes within the Scottish Government, as well as funded organisations’ capacity were raised as challenges in achieving greater policy influence. Several funded organisations stated that they would welcome greater interaction with the Scottish Government around policy development.

“We engage with various colleagues from across Scottish Government, and appreciate the opportunities we have to contribute to discussions regarding national policy. We do, however, find it frustrating at times that communications within Scottish Government can be fragmented”. (Third sector organisation)

“For charities, it is all about the people you know. As the teams change on a fairly regular cycle in the Scottish Government, we have some links that were well established and then the personnel changed and we lost that key contact”. (Third sector organisation)

“As a small team we are limited in our capacity to influence national policy”. (Third sector organisation)

Several funded organisations described quite extensive engagement with Scottish Government officials and Ministers. It is possible they may be unaware of the extent to which their contact and information exchange has influenced government policy development.

Respondents from a diverse range of third sector organisations reinforced the view that their core services align with National Outcomes. This issue was highly rated at 9.1 out of 10, a very slight increase of 0.1 since 2016.

“Our planning cycle starts with articulating Scottish Government outcomes with our own outcomes as part of a filter mapping exercise. The next filter is local community needs, so we believe our alignment is strong”. (Third sector organisation)

Equality issues

Understanding and integration of equality issues remains highly rated at 9.0 out of 10, a slight increase of 0.2 since 2016. The extent to which equality issues are integrated in the way funded organisations’ core services are planned and delivered both improved by 0.3 since 2016 to stand at 8.9 out of 10 in 2017. Understanding among staff was unchanged at 9.1.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
The extent to which your organisation's staff understand equality issues 9.1 9.1 0.0
The extent to which equality issues are integrated in the way your organisation's core services are delivered 8.9 8.6 +0.3
The extent to which equality issues are integrated in the planning of your organisation's core services 8.9 8.6 +0.3
Overall 9.0 8.8 +0.2

Overall equality issues appear to be embedded in the way funded organisations operate. The organisations highlighted some of the specific actions they had taken with the aid of CYPFEI & ALEC core funding to integrate these issues such as in staff and volunteer recruitment, undertaking equality assessments for projects, and in roles and responsibilities.

“The organisation has human resource policy and protocols at the core of our activity. We have ISO 9001 quality assurance status and all staff have equalities training. We equality proof all of our services”. (Third sector organisation)

“We are aware that we need to address potential barriers people may have in accessing our service and a staff member has been appointed to help us with these issues”. (Third sector organisation)

“Recent investment in management information has enabled us to have a much more accurate picture of participation, and the associated gaps through a geographic and demographic lens. With this level of accurate data we are able to pinpoint areas for priority - we have increased our overall participation in this areas by 3% in the last year alone based on this targeted approach”. (Third sector organisation)

A small number of funded organisations identified specific equalities issues that they are seeking to improve in the future. These issues included broadening staff understanding to encompass all equalities issues, helping service users overcome language and cultural barriers, and improving equalities monitoring.

Some funded organisations identified organisational size and capacity as challenges to fully embedding equalities issues. Some smaller organisations or those with limited capacity reported challenges in enhancing staff knowledge or fully integrating equalities into service delivery.

Organisational knowledge, skills, and capacity

Numerous funded organisations reported that CYPFEI & ALEC funding had enhanced organisational capacity, particularly among senior staff, which in turn aided the development of staff knowledge and skills. The Fund’s multi-annual awards were regarded as important factors here as they aided staff retention and organisational stability which can otherwise be significant challenges for third sector organisations reliant on short-term funding. Several organisations commented on how the core funding and enhanced capacity allows them to be more strategic in their decision making.

“The extra capacity in the centre means we can look across the organisation. For example, using evidence gathered by our Policy Officer (CYPFEI & ALEC funded) and the local workers, our Depute Director (also CYPFEI & ALEC funded) secured external funding of £1m to address low level mental health issues”. (Third sector organisation)

“Our strategic work would slip off the radar without this funding as it provides us with the extra capacity to do it. As part of this we have a higher profile now and there’s been a change in attitude among local authorities, the NHS and other third sector organisations – people now acknowledge that we know what we are talking about”. (Third sector organisation)

“The senior post that is funded by the Fund has spent some time working with managers on how to capture the lived experience of the children and young people who use our services. Our approach now is much more about listening and writing up their lived experience, it’s an art that involves listening and encouraging young people to share their experiences. In the past we’ve maybe not always been orientated as an organisation in listening to service users, we always had a strong policy side but lived experience lagged behind a bit. We’re now documenting that and using the evidence to strengthen services and develop new ones”. (Third sector organisation)

“It (the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund) allows us to be strategic in Scotland, otherwise we’d just be part of a UK-wide organisation. It gives us the ability to work on policy and influencing”. (Third sector organisation)

The cases studies shown in Appendix 2 demonstrate how three CYPFEI & ALEC funded organisations benefitted from enhanced organisational capacity, as well as benefitting in other ways.

Funded organisations rated knowledge, skills and capacity relatively highly at 8.2 out of 10 on the 2017 self-assessment survey; this was a very slight increase (of 0.1) from May 2016. Staff knowledge and skills were highly rated at 8.9 and 8.7 out of 10 respectively. Capacity was not as highly rated at 7.1 despite the qualitative evidence summarised above about improved capacity among funded organisations. It is worth noting that capacity was rated higher in 2017 than it was previously (albeit only 0.2 higher) and it may be that wider concerns about capacity still influence their rating of this issue despite the additional capacity brought about by the Fund.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
The knowledge available in your organisation to deliver your core aims 8.9 8.8 +0.1
The skills available in your organisation to deliver your core aims 8.7 8.5 +0.2
Your organisation's capacity to deliver your core aims within an organisation including staff, buildings and equipment 7.1 6.9 +0.2
Overall 8.2 8.1 +0.1

Although funded organisations rated staff skills and knowledge highly, especially those related to supporting beneficiaries, they also identified challenges and potential areas for improvement. These included generic skills such as IT and communications as well as specialised skills such as evaluation techniques, marketing, fundraising and database management. A small number of organisations also highlighted stress as an issue facing staff in the sector which can be exacerbated where capacity is limited.

“We are trapped in that classic catch 22 situation, whereby we have the skills and knowledge to expand our offer to our service users but we do not have the capacity to do so fully and without more capacity to bring in the funds, or manage those funds, we cannot develop that capacity”. (Third sector organisation)

“We are quite well placed at the moment but as we develop and grow the core business more in-depth skills and knowledge will certainly be required”. (Third sector organisation)

Prevention and early intervention

Funded organisations consistently reported how prevention and early intervention are at the core of what they do and stressed that CYPFEI & ALEC core funding helped them to maintain this focus. Several organisations emphasised their efforts to break a cycle of problems or disadvantage.

“Virtually every service and project we deliver is either prevention or early intervention”. (Third sector organisation)

“Our users typically come to us because things have already started going wrong for their children or families, often seriously wrong. Therefore, our interventions are more accurately described as helping to avoid or minimise a worsening of the situation, and then slowly starting a process of repair and rebuilding, rather than being strictly speaking 'preventative', as such”. (Third sector organisation)

“We cannot prevent the disability, but what we really try hard to do is to let people know that we're here when they do get a diagnosis, or we help people get an early diagnosis, so we can prevent the development of comorbid disorders and the onset of depression both of which are common in people who don't get a timely diagnosis and/or don't get timely support. (Third sector organisation)

The continuing importance of prevention and early intervention was confirmed by the 2017 self-assessment survey as funded organisations rated the issue highly at 8.9 out of 10 (in 2016 the issue was also highly rated at 9.0 out of 10). Third sector organisations continue to recognise the importance of prevention and early intervention (unchanged at 9.3), though the extent to which they are embedded in the delivery of core services was marginally lower at 8.6 (a very slight decrease of -0.1 since 2016).

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
The importance of prevention and early intervention to your organisation 9.3 9.3 0.0
The extent to which prevention and early intervention are embedded in the delivery your organisation's core services 8.6 8.7 -0.1
Overall 8.9 9.0 -0.1

A small number of funded organisations reported that challenges making and receiving referrals from statutory partners can impact on their efforts to deliver early intervention to disadvantaged children and young people or families.

“Our home-visiting volunteer delivered service is based on a philosophy of asset based community development with engagement as early as possible before problems become entrenched. But we are limited by the referral system and the lack of timely access to other services - if families fall beneath the radar and referrers do not engage us until problems are acute or mental health services are not available, we cannot always have the impact we'd like at a really early stage. In short we are often referred families in great difficulty who have not been able to access support sooner”. (Third sector organisation)

Some of the funded intermediary organisations emphasised the importance of their campaigning, representation and research work to the early intervention and prevention agenda. They added that CYPFEI & ALEC funding helped them to fulfil this role.

Financial sustainability and funding

The funded organisations warmly welcomed the financial support provided by the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund. They specifically highlighted the multi-annual commitment (subject to satisfactory performance) and the Fund’s support for core services and infrastructure that were difficult to fund from other external sources.

“We are very grateful for this fund as it has allowed us to expand and grow as an organisation. To feel confident that our core staff and office costs are covered means that we can concentrate on our work with children and families and not having to constantly worry where we are getting funds to continue”. (Third sector organisation)

“The three years gives us the confidence and time to plan what we do, to stabilize and develop, and be more strategic”. (Third sector organisation)

“Core funding is extremely difficult to source and would be very problematic if we did not have support of Scottish Government”. (Third sector organisation)

“It (the Fund) is uniquely flexible and it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to fund our core costs”. (Third sector organisation)

Several funded organisations also acknowledge the added importance that financial support from the Scottish Government gives them. They reported this can reassure other funders and provides a mutually beneficial link with the Scottish Government.

“Our Scottish Government funding has been very influential in our ability to bring in other funding. One of our major individual donors wanted reassurance that the Scottish Government had invested prior to making an award”. (Third sector organisation)

“Having the stability of three year core funding and a strategic partnership with the Scottish Government enables us to operate”. (Third sector organisation)

“The Scottish Government grant provides a key plank of being able to develop a broader supporter base whilst maintaining and engaging at national level”. (Third sector organisation)

One organisation suggested Scottish Government funding had “helped to attract good quality Board members who can see we are a well-run organisation”.

Although CYPFEI & ALEC funding was warmly welcomed and is having a positive impact on funded organisations, financial sustainability and funding remain ongoing challenges for third sector organisations. This is evident in the self-assessment survey findings which show that financial sustainability and funding was the lowest ranked of the issues at 6.5 out of 10, a rating which was unchanged from 2016.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
How equipped your organisation is to apply for alternative sources of funding 7.2 7.1 +0.1
The financial sustainability of your organisation 4.8 4.9 -0.1
Your awareness of alternative sources of funding for your organisation's work 7.0 7.1 -0.1
The extent to which your organisation has been successful in securing external funding to date 6.9 6.9 0.0
Overall 6.5 6.5 0.0

For the purposes of the self-assessment survey, financial sustainability was defined as follows: an organisation is financially sustainable if its core work will continue even if Scottish Government core funding was withdrawn. In 2017, funded organisations rated their financial sustainability at only 4.8 out of 10 and this was the lowest rating given to any of the statements covered in the survey; this rating was very slightly lower than it had been in 2016. Many organisations commented on the importance of CYPFEI & ALEC funding towards their core services and infrastructure costs, and described how withdrawal of the funding would affect their organisation including, in some cases, threatening their continued existence. One organisation suggested the situation would be worse for intermediary organisations which can be particularly difficult to fund; another organisation suggested securing funding (core or project) for adult learning organisations was challenging. Some smaller third sector organisations raised concerns about service commissioning including block commissioning or call off contracts and the impact this could have on their sustainability.

“Like many organisations our core/infrastructure funding is likely to remain dependent on Scottish Government funding”. (Third sector organisation)

“We are successful in funding applications but would not be able to survive without core funding as none of the funding we receive covers this”. (Third sector organisation)

“As an intermediary securing funding from other sources such as trusts can be more challenging as they wish to fund direct service provision, although we are able to earn some income from our work but without government support we wouldn't be able to continue our core services as they are at present”. (Third sector organisation)

“We’re a national organisation. Our Policy Officer suggested we look to local authorities and Health Boards for funding but there are 32 and 14 of them respectively all with separate and different approaches to funding and why would they fund a national organisation. Surely there’s an obligation on government to fund organisations with a national remit. Everyone thinks third sector organisations need to be trained to be sustainable but that’s just not the case”. (Third sector organisation)

“It’s that core infrastructure funding that enables us to leverage everything else. If you take away that core infrastructure funding, then there simply isn’t enough ways of generating sufficient contribution to sustain the organisation in terms for the projects that we’ve got…. we would at a stroke become unsustainable”. (Third sector organisation)

Several funded organisations explained how they were aiming to improve their sustainability. Their actions/plans tend to include controlling or reducing costs, developing income generating activities, and diversifying income streams. Other organisations were pursuing different approaches:

“Currently we are 100% Scottish Government funded and realise that this is an unsustainable position. Accordingly, we have been preparing to become more sustainable. The first step on this journey has been to become a SCIO so that we can apply for funds in our right and we heard recently that we have been awarded charitable status. We will now be working on developing a sustainability plan which attracts additional resources”. (Third sector organisation)

“We’re confident we’ll be able to sustain our impact in this area as we’ve delivered trained to professionals across Scotland. So rather that role out a short-term project across Scotland we’ve transferred learning to professionals. We also developed e-learning resources for professionals so they can access information in the future – again we’re trying sustain learning”. (Third sector organisation)

“We’ve been upskilling some of our previous service users to provide peer support to current beneficiaries. It’s a logical way for us to increase our capacity as if they can provide a couple of hours practical or emotional support to someone it makes a huge difference to us as we’re a really small team. We’ve around thirty peer supporters now”. (Third sector organisation)

Several funded organisations commented on how time consuming fundraising can be although some highlighted the benefits of multi-annual awards via the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund in reducing the time involved in fundraising. Other funded organisations explained how CYPFEI & ALEC funding had allowed them to dedicate staff resources to fundraising. Some organisation highlighted, and very much welcomed, the support of Policy Officers and the Corra Foundation in identifying alternative funding sources. The case study in Appendix 3 provides an example of how this support has benefitted one of the funded organisations.

Numerous funded organisations expressed a strong desire for further multi-annual funding from the Scottish Government for core services and infrastructure beyond March 2020. Funded organisations recognised this was likely to involve the submission of a new funding application which led many of the organisations to call on the Scottish Government to provide information on the process at the earliest opportunity. Some consultees questioned the validity of setting outcomes where funding was entirely focused on infrastructure, and to a lesser extent core services, although they acknowledged the broader outcome-focused approach adopted by the Scottish Government. There was a suggestion that in future the outcomes should focus more directly on the Fund’s aims of supporting and developing organisational capacity, resilience, and sustainability.

Joint working

Funded organisations report on partnership working as part of their quarterly reports. They have highlighted significant partnership working with numerous examples of new or sustained joint working.

Joint working was the only issue that funded organisations rated lower in 2017 than they had the previous year although the decrease was very minor (-0.1). The overall result stems from small decreases (-0.2) in the rating of informal partnership working with other third sector organisations and the way organisations share information with other third sector organisations. This was partly offset by an increase (+0.3) in the rating of formal partnership working with other third sector organisations. Informal partnership working with other third sector organisations was scored higher (8.2 out of 10) than formal partnership working (7.5) and several funded organisations commented on the relative merits of the former.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… 2017 rating 2016 rating Change 2016 to 2017
Your organisation's informal partnership working with other third sector organisations 8.2 8.4 -0.2
Your organisation's formal partnership working with other third sector organisations 7.5 7.2 +0.3
The way your organisation shares information with other third sector organisations 7.8 8.0 -0.2
Overall 7.8 7.9 -0.1

Funded organisations shared their experiences of joint working which were predominantly positive. They highlighted the extent and benefits of joint working.

“There are members of our organisation who are part of various fora that helps be a conduit for information sharing between the third sector such as Third Sector interfaces, or Children and Family Forums. My experience with such fora is positive and it has been rich in information sharing and support to one another at times, including co-delivering multi agency training on GIRFEC for example”. (Third sector organisation)

“As a third sector organisation we recognise that resources are squeezed but the need and gaps in communities remain. As such, partnerships provide the opportunity to explore creative and innovative ways to meet those needs and fill those gaps - an opportunity to do things differently”. (Third sector organisation)

“Our best work comes when likeminded groups get together to make something work - whether this be strategic policy work or collaboration”. (Third sector organisation)

“Almost all our projects and services are either delivered in formal partnership or use informal partnerships”. (Third sector organisation)

In addition, funded organisations also provided an insight into some of the challenges faced in joint working with other third sector organisations. The process was seen by some as time consuming whereas others reported competition for funding and contracts could discourage joint working. For example, one organisation described how its information was misused by another in funding bids to demonstrate expertise which they did not have. Another organisation commented on how their efforts to be a good partner were not always reciprocated.

“We often find that the willingness to work in partnership is stronger than capacity to do so”. (Third sector organisation)

“Our operational partnerships, formal and informal are good. What we are less good at are strategic partnerships and this is a challenge we will be working on in the future. The ALEC fund networking meetings have helped highlight this and also begin to make more fruitful strategic alliances”. (Third sector organisation)

A small number of funded organisations highlighted examples of how the Corra Foundation had facilitated contact with other CYPFEI & ALEC funded organisations.

“We raised the challenges we were facing in delivering sessions to carers of disabled children and young people. Our Corra Foundation contact recommended getting in touch with organisations with this kind of expertise and they gave us five or six suggestions. Our Development Officer took this up, met one of them and we ended up having a couple of learning exchange sessions with them”. (Third sector organisation)