Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults: evaluation

External evaluation of year one of the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults.

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2. Background and methodology:

In this chapter we set out the context and background to the Fund and the approach for undertaking the evaluation.


In October 2020, the Scottish Government produced the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan as part of its response to the mental health impacts of Covid-19. The plan addressed the challenges that the pandemic had, and would continue to have, on the population's mental health. It laid out key areas of mental health need that have arisen as a result of Covid-19 and lockdown. In February 2021, £120 million of funding was announced to ensure the delivery of the commitments set out in the plan.

The Fund

In October 2021, as part of the £120 million Recovery and Renewal Fund, the Minister for Mental Wellbeing announced a new Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults to help tackle the impact of social isolation, loneliness and mental health inequalities made worse by the pandemic. In February 2022, an additional £6 million was provided for 2021/2022 to meet the demand for local mental health and wellbeing projects, bringing total funding in 2021/22 to £21 million.

The intended outcome of the Fund was to develop a culture of mental wellbeing and prevention within local communities and across Scotland improving awareness of how to stay well, help ourselves and others. The Fund also sought to contribute to the four key areas of focus in the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan (with a primary focus on the first two areas):

  • Promoting and supporting the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing at population level
  • Providing accessible signposting to help, advice and support
  • Providing a rapid and easily accessible response to those in distress
  • Ensuring safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness

In 2021/22 (Year 1) the Fund had a particular focus on:

  • Tackling priority issues within the Transition and Recovery Plan, such as suicide prevention, social isolation and loneliness, prevention and early intervention.
  • Addressing the mental health inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic and the local needs of a range of 'at risk' groups including: women (particularly young women, and women and young women affected by gender based sexual violence); people with a long term health condition or disability; people who are or have been on the highest risk (previously shielding) list; people from a Minority Ethnic background; refugees and those with no recourse to public funds; people facing socio-economic disadvantage; people experiencing severe and multiple disadvantage; people with diagnosed mental illness; people affected by psychological trauma (including adverse childhood experiences); people who have experienced bereavement or loss; people disadvantaged by geographical location (particularly remote and rural areas); older people (aged 50 and above); and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.
  • Supporting 'grass roots' community groups and organisations to deliver such activities.
  • Providing opportunities for people to connect with each other, build trusted relationships and revitalise communities.
  • Supporting recovery and creativity locally by building on what is already there, what was achieved through the pandemic, and by investing in creative solutions.

In Year 1, 1842 community projects were funded across a diverse range of community initiatives. Year 2 funding (£15 million for 2022/23) was announced in May 2022, was distributed in August 2022 by the Third Sector Interface (TSI) led local partnerships to 1458 projects and included an emphasis on responding to the cost of living crisis. In April 2023, a further £15 million funding for Year 3 was announced.

More information on Year 2 can be found in the Year 2 Report

Funding delivery model

The Fund was delivered through a local partnership approach to ensure that support to community-based organisations was directed appropriately and in a coherent way. Each of the Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) acted as the lead funding partner and they worked collaboratively with the other local partners, particularly with Integration Authorities (via Health and Social Care Partnerships) to establish local needs and a process to disburse the monies within the Fund criteria and in keeping with local strategies and priorities. TSIs were given an additional administration and capacity building grant to support their local delivery of the Fund.

This delivery model marked a departure from how mental health funding is usually distributed and this partnership approach built on the strengths of the lead partners.

The TSIs were well positioned to provide knowledge and connections to, as well as capacity building support for, community groups. They also had flexibility and agility to disburse funds and build on the work undertaken through the emergency funding during the pandemic.

Involvement of the Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) ensured strategic planning and coherence with existing local mental health plans and strategies and an understanding of how the wider mental health delivery infrastructure can complement community support.

Throughout the funding period there were activities to support communication and engagement around the Fund. There was comprehensive guidance about the purpose of the Fund, how it would be delivered and who could apply. The Communities Team hosted regular Fund National Network meetings (made up of TSIs and other interested partners such as HSCPs and local authority mental health leads) and supported a National Oversight Group (made up of Scottish Government and external experts). TSIs were required to submit monitoring data that included a local partnership plan summary, interim updates and end of year reports on the TSI delivery experience and project level information. Year 1 reporting analysis was published in June 2022 and project level data in March 2023:


In the remainder of this chapter the evaluation approach is described. The diagram below summarises the methodology and further detail of the key elements is provided in the rest of the section.

Figure 2.1 Evaluation methodology
An image summarising the three evaluation stages. stage 1 planning and preparation. stage 2 qualitative fieldwork. stage 3 analysis

Desk-based research

This stage involved rapid desk research in order to gain a strong background understanding of progress to date. As part of this exercise, local partnership plans, and interim and end year reports submitted by TSIs to Scottish Government and summaries of project-level information were examined.

This desk-based activity provided evidence of the activity delivered and progress achieved, helped to identify topics for exploration in the surveys and interviews and informed the selection of case study projects and TSI lead interviews. The information within the reports was also used in the analysis and reporting stage to sense check and add more details where there were gaps in the data.

Online survey of TSIs

An online survey was conducted to increase understanding of the administration of the Fund, the involvement of people with lived experience, local capacity building activity, key learning and wider impacts of the Fund. The survey was conducted using Snap Surveys. An online link was distributed by the Communities Team in Scottish Government, the survey was live for five weeks, and all 32 TSIs (100%) provided a response.

Online survey of funded projects

The second online survey was designed for completion by all projects leads. The purpose of this survey was to gain a clearer understanding of the profile of funded organisations and the range and type of projects being delivered. It included questions about the organisations' experience of the funding process, the use of the Fund and its impact on supporting adult mental health and wellbeing and learning.

This survey was also designed and managed in Snap Surveys. The survey was live for five weeks, the TSIs distributed the survey link to all their Year 1 projects and 660 projects from across all 32 TSI areas responded to the project. This represented a 36% response rate from Year 1 funded projects. As the table below shows, the organisation size, based on annual income, of the survey respondents closely mirrors the profile of the full cohort.

Table 2.1: Organisation size of survey respondents compared to the full cohort of projects
Year 1 projects Year 1 project survey respondents
Small organisations (Income under £25k) 31% 26%
Medium organisations (Income between £25k - £1million) 62% 67%
Large organisations (Income over £1m) 7% 7%

Interviews with selected TSI leads

In addition to the online survey, representatives from ten TSIs were interviewed from a mix of geographical and urban/rural areas. The interviews helped to develop a greater understanding of the TSIs' experiences of leading the Fund, their local partnership approach, and their considerations in developing and delivering a process suitable for their communities. The interviews also explored the impact of the Fund at project, TSI, local partnership and community levels. The interviews were conducted by telephone or Microsoft Teams. 13 people contributed, and Appendix 2 lists the TSI organisations that they represented.

Case studies

The case studies were designed to depict a rich picture of a range of projects' experiences of the Fund.

The data set of Year 1 funded projects informed the selection of case studies to ensure a balance in terms of:

  • geographical spread (urban/rural setting)
  • the projects' priority areas, e.g. social isolation, prevention, early intervention; bereavement or loss, etc, and
  • the projects' target groups, e.g. long-term health condition/disability, older people, socioeconomic disadvantage, people with diagnosed with mental illness, minority ethnic communities or groups

Ahead of the visits, an introductory call with the project lead established the most suitable and convenient approach to undertaking the case studies and which stakeholders could be invited to engage and share their experiences.

The discussions with case study participants explored their experiences of attending the project, supporting the delivery of the project and the difference that had made to them or their local community. The majority of case studies were conducted in person. Appendix 3 contains the case studies and Table 2.2 shows which type of participants contributed to the case studies.

Table 2.2: Case study participants
Number of participants
Staff & volunteers 28
People with lived experience of mental health 25
Other local partners (such as HSCPs and local authorities) 5

National stakeholder interviews

Four stakeholders were interviewed from national organisations to explore the wider strategic context for the Fund, their views on the new model of managing and distributing funding through the TSIs, and the impact of the Fund. All interviews took place via Microsoft Teams. Appendix 2 contains a list of organisations represented by the interviewees.

Observation of Fund National Network meetings

To gain a fuller understanding of the support mechanisms available to TSIs and to learn about their experiences, a member of the team attended two Fund National Network virtual meetings in an observer capacity.

Analysis and report writing

The extensive qualitative data gathered from the interviews, case studies and surveys were analysed in line with the evaluation questions. This involved a process of coding responses to identify key and recurring themes as well as any differences in viewpoints among different groups of participants.

The survey data was also analysed using Snap Survey software analysis functions and collated and analysed using Microsoft Excel.

An internal team meeting to discuss the key emerging themes was held before producing the report outline. This was shared with the Scottish Government for comment before the draft report was produced.

The results of the analysis are presented in this report.

Challenges and limitations of the approach

There were some challenges during the evaluation.

The timeframe for undertaking the work was sub-optimal and fell during the Easter holiday period which impacted on participants' availability. The evaluation also took place during the end of Year 2 reporting period and, although the TSI interviews were timed to occur after the reporting deadline and the TSI survey closing date was extended to accommodate time pressures, the TSIs were particularly busy during this timeframe. The projects that were selected as case studies needed reasonable lead in times to make arrangements for the research team to visit. This meant that the fieldwork period continued into May whilst the analysis and reporting was taking place.

The nature of the services and support, and the reasons for accessing them, meant that for some case study visits it was not appropriate to talk to service beneficiaries. Either the participants did not want to talk about their experiences or the project staff were concerned that talking to the researchers could trigger the sensitive or difficult issues that they had experienced, or were experiencing. As a result, the majority of contributors to the case studies were project staff and volunteers.

As is frequently the case with qualitative research, the projects that responded to the survey (660) and project participants that were involved in the case studies are a selection of those involved in delivering funded projects or accessing services and support. Their views and experiences are therefore not necessarily representative of the wider funded projects or project participants.



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