Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults: evaluation

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

This document is part of a collection

3. Findings: Fund delivery and management

In this chapter we describe in more detail the local partnerships, the approaches to designing and administering the Fund and the activities undertaken to promote, encourage and support a wider range of projects to apply for funding. This includes the TSI and project experiences and specific examples of the range of local solutions to Fund administration and management. Although this evaluation focused on Year 1, the evaluation activities took place during Year 2 and so TSIs were asked to reflect on the experiences and changes over the two years of funding.


The Fund criteria set out the broad parameters for how the funding should be allocated, but it was intentionally flexible to allow the local partnerships to identify their own priorities in line with local needs. Each partnership co-produced a local plan which set out spending priorities within the Fund criteria. The purpose of these plans was to ensure that the local approach was tied into existing planning for mental health and community wellbeing, addressed local priorities, took account of current provision, and established a set of community mental health and wellbeing support outcomes.

TSI-led administration of the Fund

Across the 32 TSIs there were differing levels of prior experience of administering grants and funds. This meant that some built on the knowledge and processes that they had used previously whereas others needed to design and implement a completely new system. In all cases, the TSI administration and capacity building grant helped to build new or reinforce existing processes.

Use of the administration and capacity building grant

The administrative grant has been invaluable in allowing us to build capacity to support both the delivery of the fund and providing additional support to the organisations applying. It has also enabled us to provide ongoing support to organisations applying to the fund, whether successful or not, to identify other sources of funding. TSI

The TSIs were asked, in both the survey and the interviews, about how they used the administration and capacity building grant. Their responses showed the various ways in which it was used from building capacity internally to supporting projects through the funding process.

Table 3.1 shows the common uses for this grant and these various uses are described throughout this section and highlight the importance of the grant to ensuring the effective delivery of the Fund.

Table 3.1: Uses of the administration and capacity building grant (multiple response)
% of TSIs
Create capacity within the TSI 84%
Provide bespoke support to help organisations apply 84%
Create fit-for-purpose application and monitoring process 75%
Further developed local partnership approach 59%
Targeted work with seldom heard groups 56%
Other, e.g. fees to third sector partners on the panels, consultancy or independent support to manage the Fund or assess applications 25%

Approaches to managing the Fund

The administration and capacity building grant enabled key fund management activities and this section describes the approaches used and the refinements and changes that TSIs made to the management of the Fund based on their Year 1 experience.

Partnership arrangements

The local partnership plan provided the shape and context for the management of the Fund at a local level and identified governance arrangements. For some TSIs, the local partnership plan was the reference point for all partners, for others it was an aspirational document of which some parts were delivered.

The local partnership plan detailed the wide range of partners involved in supporting the management and delivery of the Fund. The number and range of partners grew as the programme progressed, and as with all elements of this Fund, the level and type of partner involvement at different stages of the process varied across TSIs.

As part of the End of Year 2 reporting, the TSIs were asked to list their local partners and Table 3.2 shows the important role of the HSCP in all partnerships but shows representation from a wider range of public and third sector partners.

Table 3.2: Local partners (multiple response)
% TSIs
HSCP 100%
Local authority 90%
People with lived experience 81%
Community Planning Partnerships 74%
Third sector organisations (not mental health) 68%
Local authority mental health lead officer 55%
Community anchor organisation 55%
Third sector organisations (mental health) 55%
Umbrella groups and representative organisations 45%
Other 36%
Community link workers 32%
Suicide prevention leads 32%
Police Scotland 19%

Multi-agency, multi-sector representatives brought a wealth of mental health, public sector, grant management, community planning and third sector expertise to the table. These partners had various roles - some were on the steering groups, some were on assessments panels, others raised awareness and built capacity amongst community organisations.

To support the delivery of the Fund our TSI seconded a member of staff from Police Scotland into the team for administrative and management support and secured additional capacity through local delivery partners for 1-1 work, while also using a custom process and working in partnership with our CPP and HSCP. TSI

The Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations (ACVO) case study below highlights an aspect of the partnership approach in this TSI.

Case Study - Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations (ACVO) – Partnership working

The Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund has provided ACVO with the opportunity to strengthen relationships with a breadth of third and public sector organisations across the City.

One way these relationships have developed is with the collaborative working between ACVO and Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP). The team managing the Fund worked with the HSCP team responsible for disbursing the Health Improvement Fund which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Aberdeen with project funding of up to £5000.

"We realised that a lot of the same groups would be applying but it was also a time when organisations were trying to get back up and running after the pandemic so if we could link up with ACVO and the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund and try and get as many people to access the funding then that would be really beneficial for the people in Aberdeen". HSCP

The teams at ACVO and the HSCP worked together to create a process then enabled applicants to complete one application form, that could be shared between ACVO or the HSCP if the bid was more suited to the funding criteria of each other's funds. They were able to design their application forms in a way that included similar questions, even though priorities differed, and asked applicants to give permission for their application to be passed over to the other fund, if suitable.

The synergy and the differences between the Partnership's established Health Improvement Fund and the Fund, and the ambition of both partners to streamline their application processes and support projects across the City, has enabled many more third sector organisations to be funded without having to go through the disappointment of their funding application being rejected due to being ineligible and the investment of time writing another application form.

This approach has resulted in a number of other benefits:

  • it reduced the time spent reviewing applications that were not eligible for one Fund but eligible for the other
  • it increased understanding of fund management practices across both teams
  • it Improved awareness and knowledge of what the need was for funding and support across the City

The two organisations are now looking to other funding streams and teams, like the Fairer Aberdeen Fund to see if they can link together and further streamline their processes.

"Collaborative working between funders could be transformative for the third sector. Writing applications is a huge investment in time and can be very stressful for organisations too. Many organisations are volunteer-led and the time spent writing applications is time away from the community they support. If more partnerships between funders could be forged, application processes and 'fundable' projects could be shared (with permission of the applicant), and potentially life-changing community projects could be put in front of the right funder and gain financial support". ACVO

Common to most TSIs was the ongoing reflection and development of the partnership. Following Year 1 of the Fund some TSIs:

  • reviewed the membership of the partnership groups to consider which voices were missing
  • included more lived experience groups to the partnership
  • ensured a balance of partners across the partnership groups

If there is a Year 3 we feel there is still more to be done in terms of looking at the balance of the steering group and ensuring there is enough representation from both statutory and third/community sector colleagues. TSI

Identifying local priorities

There were several approaches taken to identifying the mental health and wellbeing priorities in the local area. This ranged from holding lived experience workshops to gathering their views on need and gaps in provision to using local partner knowledge and understanding of communities. For example, in Renfrewshire, a public survey was promoted across the area that asked participants to identify local needs and these responses were shared with the decision making panel. In Edinburgh, the Community Commissioning process involved Community Needs Assessments that applicants needed to consider when designing their service or project, which is highlighted in the next TSI case study. Whereas in East Ayrshire the key actions and priorities within the three CPP thematic delivery plans (Economy and Skills, Health and Wellbeing and Safer Communities) together with feedback from a local partners workshop shaped how the Fund was used.

They know what's needed [people with lived experience], they know the areas. But they know what works and what doesn't – what would make you want to come out of the house. TSI

Application process

In terms of the logistics of the application process, across the TSIs they again developed their own approaches. The responses to the survey and interviews showed that these were refined for the Year 2 funding round, based on learning from Year 1.

Nearly all the TSIs had structured the funding levels available, usually for small and larger projects but some TSIs had a three tier system that was based on the applicants' annual income.

There were several examples of TSIs that had:

  • adjusted the application process so that it was proportionate to the size of the individual grants "We introduced a small grants scheme for applications less than £3000 in value with a fast-tracked assessment process and shorter application window."
  • adjusted the application form to gather more contextual information to reduce the need to request additional information in the assessment process. "We expanded our application form to give more importance to the inclusion of lived experience in project design, and made additional space for any partnership approaches so that we would better understand the context for applications."
  • removed or added an expression of interest phase as part of the sifting process.

Some TSIs introduced mandatory elements like attending information sessions about the Fund to ensure that applicants had a good understanding of the criteria or training so that delivery and monitoring requirements would be met.

Using the administration grant, several TSIs invested in software packages for administering the Fund. This made the process more streamlined for applicants and, by automating several functions, it also reduced the administrative load for the TSIs teams.

We made a major change to the delivery of the Fund with the development and introduction of our online CVS Grant Funding Portal (GFP). The practical benefits include applicants having access to a more simple and streamlined application process, the ability to easily and quickly upload relevant documentation and evidence in one place and benefitting from notifications that swiftly alerted them to requests for additional information, application progress and decisions made, using contact methods that suited them. Implementing the GFP not only improved the experience of Fund applicants but complements our wider strategy which aims to bring additional accessible funding opportunities to the third sector. TSI

In the TSI case study below, the community commissioning process employed by Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council (EVOC) is described.

Case study - Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council (EVOC) – Community Commissioning

The organisation

EVOC is one of three partners that make up Edinburgh's TSI and managed the Fund on behalf of the partners. EVOC took the opportunity to design an approach where the decision making was undertaken by communities rather than others who may not have a clear understanding of the needs and wants of the local area.

"We were given the space to take this risk and given a budget to put our money where our mouth is and move away from a system where the organisations that can best write applications get funded rather than identifying what communities need and what can you do to meet those needs. So we turned it around; with community needs up front, not organisational aspiration and not organisational agendas." (EVOC)

EVOC also wanted to design an approach that moved away from the competitive structures that regular grant making, and procurement produce, and instead create a process that encouraged collaboration across organisations and with local communities.

Results of the process

The less laborious application allowed more humble, grass roots organisations to apply. The applications were published online and by doing so encouraged community and capacity development, allowing applicants to see how they might contribute to a wider community of practice". (EVOC)

The process frustrated some of the more professional, larger charities who relied on fundraisers, whilst smaller organisations often represented by development workers and practitioners welcomed it". (EVOC)

Stage 1

  • Established governance layers
  • Received expressions of interest and carried out due diligence
  • Consulted with short-life expert groups (with lived experience and priority groups representatives)

"We invited people to submit expressions of interest as opposed to fully formed proposals, and they were intended to be relatively short documents that were used at the consensus building events. We published them all online and we put them on a GIS map. Everybody was able to look and see what was proposed and we wanted people to go away and talk to each other behind the scenes and lots of organisations went off and had a conversation amongst themselves to explore what was needed in that part of Edinburgh that fit the criteria for the Fund and meet the target" (EVOC).

Stage 2

  • Core element of the approach
  • Designed to facilitate honest and stimulating dialogue between all interested parties
  • Discussion focussed on the ambitions for the whole community not individuals or organisations.
  • Process involved - 3 x facilitated discussions with input from organisations, the expert groups and the need in the locality.

"The method used of being an inclusive application process was very good. The openness and clarity was a refreshing way to present the fund, the outcomes and to highlight how we could work together and avoid duplication. This brought many organisations together that otherwise would not have met. This provided excellent opportunities for discussions and highlighted that organisations would maintain their uniqueness and compliment the work of others". (Project)

Stage 3

  • Group comprised of representatives at operational level, e.g. from the local mental health team
  • Take an executive stance and ratify the decisions made during the consensus building stage
  • Explore solutions to areas where agreement not reached

Stage 4

  • Group comprised of senior managers from health and social care, has overall ownership of the whole process
  • Ultimate "fallback" position in the event that agreements are not completed during other stages

TSIs were asked about the actions they took to encourage target groups to apply for funding. Table 3.3 shows that targeted promotion and support and guidance approaches were most common. Activities also included direct approaches to groups or working with specialist organisations to help reach specific communities' groups, e.g. equalities organisations to ask them to offer direct support to apply and and support projects, post-award. There were also a few examples of creating specific funding streams for the smallest community organisations or to ring-fence monies for some types of organisations.

Table 3.3: Actions taken by TSIs to encourage target projects/groups to apply to the Fund
TSI response
Targeted promotion of the Fund 88%
Applicant support & guidance within the community 88%
Direct approaches to projects 56%
Roadshows and network events to raise awareness 56%
Work with specialists to reach communities 50%
Relaxed or extended application period 28%
Other, e.g. social media promotion, community needs assessments, research on priority groups absent from the applications 19%

Involving people with lived experience of mental health issues

The TSI survey responses and interviews with TSI leads highlighted the ways in which people with lived experience were involved in the planning and delivery of the Fund. By Year 2[1] every TSI had ensured that there was involvement, in some way, of those with lived experience.

Table 3.4 Involvement of people with lived experience (multiple response)
% TSIs
Assessment and decision making 94%
Identifying local priorities 81%
Promotion and awareness raising 63%
Design of application process and guidance 59%
Monitoring and oversight 44%

In reflecting on the work that TSIs had carried out to increase engagement and involvement of lived experience from strengthening representation on decision making panels or being part of the steering group, the TSIs identified learning and an increased understanding of the support and activities that could ensure meaningful engagement. For example, to minimise the administrative burden of reviewing full application forms, a few TSIs worked with the lived experience panel to review expressions of interest and their views fed into the decision making. In one TSI, this approach was adopted in response to a preference for a 'lighter touch involvement' so that people with lived experience did not have the responsibility of decision making.

Our biggest success with diversifying partners involved, and voices heard, was the development and facilitation of a dedicated lived experience panel to review and offer feedback on applications. TSI

Project experience of the Fund

In the project survey, questions were posed about the motivation for and experience of applying to the Fund. The mental health and wellbeing-specific funding and the focus on local community-based organisations were the two key factors that influenced organisations' decisions to submit applications.

The organisations' experience of applying to the Fund was very positive with a clear majority of survey respondents indicating that each aspect of the process was considered very good or good.

Table 3.5: Projects' ratings of the funding process
% of projects rating good or very good
Ease of understanding and completion of the application 90%
Timescale for completing and submitting application 85%
Advice and support to complete the application 80%
Timeliness of the funding decision 87%
Communication with the TSI 87%
Monitoring requirements of the funding 82%
Timeliness of the payments 96%

The process was quick and easier to work through and apply. Funding came through in a timely manner and monitoring has been light touch. The system used was very good. Project

Building capacity amongst community organisations

TSIs and their local partners played a key role in capacity building of the community organisations through:

  • developing their skills to apply to the Fund
  • developing their skills to apply for other funding
  • increasing their organisation's capabilities

Developing skills to apply to the Fund

There were wide ranging approaches to support community organisations to develop their understanding of and skills to apply for the Fund. These included:

  • Roadshows - going out to communities and meeting with people in their local communities which helped to encourage groups that the TSI had not come across before
  • 1-to-1 support sessions to organisations that wanted to talk through their project and build their application
  • Drop-in funding surgeries for answering common queries and issues
  • Hyper local workshops in specific communities where support was particularly needed
  • Thematic support sessions on bid writing and project design/development for applications to the Fund.
  • Series of webinars or information sessions outlining the main principles of the Fund, criteria, allocations, timelines and how to apply
  • Training and awareness raising about equalities to reinforce and improve the quality of equality, diversity, and inclusion elements of the applications
  • Bespoke support reviewing draft applications and providing feedback to help strengthen submissions.

We ensured we aligned appropriate training with the application period: we hosted three 'How to write a good application' training sessions in the run up to the application period opening.. We also hosted eight information sessions which were open to all. These sessions encouraged groups to talk about their ideas/applications, on more than one occasion, offers of support were made to smaller/less-experienced groups from those more established. TSI

The extensive support from the TSIs to community organisations, and, as in the example above, the peer support, helped prepare Fund applicants to develop and submit their applications.

Developing skills to apply for other funding

In addition to Fund-specific support, some TSIs provided more general training on writing application bids as well as evaluation techniques.

There were examples of evaluation training and guidance delivered by theTSI but also other organisations like Evaluation Support Scotland, to run workshops on the basics of setting outcomes and indicators.

As a small (and young) grassroots organisation born from lived experience, we don't have a lot of fundraising experience and really needed extra support in that area. It's been a steep learning curve. Project

In most cases this general upskilling around applying for funding was provided to the less experienced groups to help formulate their project ideas into workable proposals with tangible outcomes and to unsuccessful applicants to support them to find alternative funding sources or to strengthen any future application to the Fund.

As part of the capacity building support, many TSIs recognised the importance of providing detailed feedback to unsuccessful applicants to facilitate learning and support future applications. In one TSI, because the Fund had been so over-subscribed, the TSI purchased Grantfinder in Year 2 to enable them to help projects seek other funding sources.

Increasing organisational capabilities

There was a host of activity to help develop the organisations' knowledge and skills. These most commonly focused on governance and operational support to smaller organisations to assist them with creating constitutions, applying for charitable status, strengthening their business planning and reinforcing their volunteering.

As well as improving governance and management capabilities, a few TSIs offered training to increase knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

Overall this access to support and training further enhanced the capacity of these community organisations.

Additionally, a series of training was offered which focused on further building capacity, including, Adult Support and Protection, Suicide Awareness, Inclusion, (incorporating the Active, Connected, Included resource produced by the SCLD) and Measuring Social Impact. TSI

Learning about the improvements to the delivery and management of the Fund

The timeframe of this evaluation came at the end of Year 2 of the Fund and the TSIs were asked to reflect on their learning and to identify any changes that could further enhance their management of the Fund.

Those reflections focused on improvements at Scottish Government level and local partnership level. For the Scottish Government the requests related to timeliness of communications and forward planning:

  • Earlier notification or opening of the Fund to allow for a longer lead-in time, less intensive and compressed periods for administering the process, and where staff have been recruited within TSIs, enabled contracts to continue
  • More timely guidance so that the application process can be developed at the appropriate pace
  • Identifying key monitoring questions when each round of the Fund is released, so that there are no changes to reporting expectations once the process had begun and information could be captured at the time of application
  • Flexibility about timeframe for using the administration grant and some of the funding so that it could roll into the next financial year.

There were also observations about providing more support with 'back end' elements of the fund management process from standardising project application and monitoring forms to providing terms and conditions for grants that could be tailored to clear branding for all TSIs to use in their documentation. It was felt that this would reduce the need for each TSI to produce this information and it would ensure a level of consistency and alignment across the TSIs whilst still allowing for local adaptations.

Learning from other TSIs

The Fund National Network meetings were identified as a valuable source of learning and reassurance for the TSIs. They found it very helpful to hear how other TSIs were addressing their management roles and this sharing of information and often finding solutions meant that for many of the TSI representatives this experience influenced their own TSI's developments or improvements to their processes. The request from several TSIs was to provide greater opportunities within this setting for more peer to peer learning.

While some of the network meeting presentations were useful, including the opportunity for discussion in breakout rooms, there was never enough time for the different TSI administrators and managers of the Fund to come together and discuss approaches and response to challenges, particularly around including people with lived experience and other hard to reach groups. TSI

Learning from community organisations and people with lived experience

The TSIs also highlighted the learning they had gained from working with smaller organisations and people with lived experience. This is discussed in more detail in the next chapter on the impact of the Fund, but the learning points are highlighted here.

Local organisations: For some TSIs, the work highlighted the extent to which grassroots organisations struggled with the process of applying for funding and that, alongside the expertise that the TSI provided, organisations also needed support to build their confidence. TSIs acknowledged that it was important that their administrative processes did not deter smaller groups from applying, or accepting, funds.

Lived experience: A few TSIs recognised the balance of strengthening the invaluable involvement of people with lived experience with approaches that involved appropriate support to ensure equitable and effective participation. For example, a TSI described how literacy and numeracy support was provided to panel members to enable them to review the applications. Another highlighted the importance of safeguarding people with mental health conditions from potential triggers.

Projects' perspectives on learning and potential improvements to fund management

In general, the funded projects were very positive about their experience of applying to the Fund. Some of the improvement aspects they identified were beyond the gift of the TSIs, for example three-year funding so that the project can embed and the benefits could be realised and staff can be maintained in their roles.

Everything has been time-limited one-off funding as usual with no vision from funders and a complete disregard for the unattractive and unsustainable working conditions for third sector staff are expected to work under. Project

However they made suggestions that related to improvements to the process. Each TSI had their own systems so whilst some of these considerations only apply to particular areas, they are helpful reflections for current and future approaches. Projects identified that:

  • a check list of what evidence is required before completing the application would be helpful
  • more consideration should be given to the additional time demands placed on applicants when processes had mandatory training/information elements
  • the varying criteria between TSIs made it challenging for organisations that made multiple applications to deliver services at a local level
  • there should be more awareness of IT skills (if these are limited) of applicants when the funding processes and monitoring are all online
  • there should be clarity of TSI understanding of therapeutic versus clinical pathways for support work and therefore what activities were eligible for funding
  • greater appreciation that many grassroots organisations are volunteer-led and have limited opportunities to complete the bidding process so aspects should be light touch where possible and time frames more realistic (but projects recognised that this reflected the time pressure that the TSI faced)

We received funding from two TSI areas for different projects, but the difference in monitoring and evaluation were stark between the two. One TSI had an interview-style Q&A with us which felt much more personable, like they really knew our organisation and that we were trusted. For one of the TSIs, we submitted a detailed report covering all of the project outcomes but because it wasn't in the right format for them, we had to re-submit information on a specific evaluation form and there was literally no feedback on any of it. It has really put us off. Project

More time to complete the funding. We are a small organisation run by part time volunteers and we felt that there were a lot of admin to do and many meetings to attend. Project


In this chapter, the evaluation findings about the delivery and management of the Fund have shown that:

  • The TSI-led management has worked well and collaboration with multi-sector partners and people with lived experience has delivered a Fund that addresses local needs and priorities.
  • TSIs frequently worked with partners to ensure that they reached as many grassroots community groups as possible, which resulted in a wide range of organisations gaining access to the Fund in local areas. Some of these organisations were inexperienced community organisations that would have struggled to access the Fund without the support provided by the TSI and its partners. This gave greater breadth to the programme and helped to ensure that programme target groups were reached.
  • The administration and capacity building grant was a valuable resource to build TSI capacity and support community organisations by developing their skills to apply to the Fund and other funders and increase their organisational capabilities.
  • TSI and project reflections of their experiences provide opportunities for the Scottish Government and TSIs to apply learning and make small changes to enhance Fund delivery and management.



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