Publication - Research and analysis

Regeneration Capital Grant Fund: evaluation

Published: 20 Dec 2019
Directorate:
Local Government and Communities Directorate
ISBN:
9781839604072

Evaluation which assessed whether and how the fund achieved its aims as well as considering community involvement, social outcomes and success factors.

Regeneration Capital Grant Fund: evaluation
4. Social outcomes

4. Social outcomes

4.1 Introduction

This chapter explores the social outcomes achieved through the RCGF. It is based on interviews with project leads, partners and communities within a sample of 14 focus projects.

The RCGF requires that funded projects contribute to supporting the outcomes within the Scottish Government regeneration strategy – Achieving a Sustainable Future. The social outcomes that projects are expected to contribute towards are listed below in Figure 4.1, grouped into seven main themes. Projects select the outcomes they aim to achieve. The number of the 14 focus projects that selected each outcome is also shown.

Figure 4.1: Social outcomes selected by focus projects

Figure 4.1: Social outcomes selected by focus projects

The first theme - community involvement and empowerment - is covered in detail in Chapter Two.

4.2 Theme One: Community identity, networks and aspirations

This section focuses on the following outcomes:

  • communities have a positive identity and future aspirations (selected by 11 projects)
  • strong and effective community networks are in place (selected by 10 projects)
  • communities are fair and inclusive, where all have a voice and can participate (selected by 8 projects)

4.2.1 Positive identities and aspirations

Where completed, most RCGF projects had a significant impact on how communities felt about their area.

"It is changing kids' perceptions of their area. No-one will say anything negative about the place now."

(Community member)

"The community have generally taken the project to their hearts. There is now a real pride in the community for the building and what it is being used for now."

(Partner)

Communities highlighted that the new facilities were bringing visitors to the area, who would not have come before. For example, people were coming to neighbourhoods in the outskirts of towns and cities to visit cultural facilities, cafes and sports facilities. In some projects, this was because the facilities had a national or regional importance, in others it was because there was a gap in existing services in the wider area, or the quality of building and services was high. Communities felt that this helped to develop and support local businesses, helping to create a more positive feel in the area.

Some community members felt that in the past, their neighbourhood had a poor reputation, was seen as a tough area or had suffered from a lack of investment. In almost all projects, community members and partners believed that the new facility had helped to build a much more positive identity for the community.

"It did suffer from a bit of a reputation. It was a perception; it wasn't always true. But people are coming into the area now. That perception is gone."

(Community member)

"I think it improves the image of the area, and how people feel about coming here."

(Community member)

Community members also indicated that through learning more about the culture of the area and sharing this with others, they had changed and developed their own perception of the area. For example, one project had art installations developed by a local community art project that depicted the area's history, and another project integrated the history of the area into the building design and streetscape. This has helped to inspire and motivate people and change how they feel about the area.

"It has changed how people feel about the area. The change is unbelievable. In the garden you could be anywhere."

(Partner)

"It has helped connect local people to the building and they now recognise the value of heritage and the arts."

(Project lead)

Example: Understanding the local area and heritage One project set up a programme for people who want to explore local history and culture, with curators and artists providing expert knowledge and support. This helped people to gain a better understanding of the area and to promote the positive aspects of the locality.

In addition, seeing investment in the area had made some research participants feel valued and worthwhile.

"To have seen the investment in the building has brought people into a sense of value… that the area is worthy and so they are valuable."

(Community member)

This sense of value and pride was enhanced where community members had been involved in designing and planning the building. For example, community members felt particularly positive and proud when they saw their own suggestions developed within the building. This involvement also meant that people were more able to speak to others about how the area's heritage and history had been incorporated into the design of the building.

Some of the projects were part of wider regeneration work happening in the area. However, in some of these projects, community members felt that it was the RCGF funded facility itself which had led to positive changes in perception of the community. Some felt that the RCGF funded facility had created a domino effect – with more investment in other buildings, public realm and streetscaping works and new services coming to the area.

"(the town) is becoming a real centre again."

(Community member)

"The community has a much more positive focus. The community hub is open, the environment is fabulous, there is a good local school and the stigma has gone."

(Community member)

In some projects, community members believed that more people were choosing to live in the area – pointing to new homes being full and a reduction in empty homes in the area.

However, one community member felt there were still issues with self-esteem in the community. Another was concerned that it may be people from other areas, rather than local people, who used the facility most.

"Some people think the building is too posh for them. That makes me weep."

(Community member)

4.2.2 Community networks

In some projects, the new facilities had helped to develop and strengthen community networks.

Examples: Developing and strengthening community networks

  • a few organisations with better facilities, more space or a new local base as a result of RCGF projects have focused on developing community networks, acting as an anchor organisation and proactively developing links with and between community groups.
  • a few projects have more space, allowing more volunteers, and better connection between different volunteer teams. Having a local base has also connected some organisations with new volunteers, who are able to volunteer within their own communities.
  • a few projects act as hubs or focal points for community activity, building greater links between groups, avoiding duplication and supporting one another.

In some projects, the new facilities have also helped to improve links between local groups, by providing shared spaces and opportunities for joint working and shared events.

In some projects, the RCGF facility has helped community organisations to become more sustainable. For example:

  • some organisations have seen increased service user membership, due to having more space, better facilities, a local base and a wider range of times for service delivery
  • some organisations have more opportunities to generate revenue through the new facilities – for example through charging rent, running community cafes or hosting events
  • some organisations have seen an increase in community involvement or board membership, as local people see the facility as a clear example of what can be achieved

"We are delighted when we get 40 or 50 people turning up for our AGM. There is a real buzz, people get a chance to chat and socialise too."

(Community member)

Example: Expanding community organisations One club connected to a new facility previously had one adult men's team, and one adult women's team. It now has two adult men's teams, two adult women's teams and four youth teams. Originally teams were drawn from all over the region. Now, there is a very strong engagement with local people – particularly for the youth teams. This fits absolutely with the values of the club, which focus on community identity, teamwork and inclusiveness.

A few community organisations indicated that they had been able to access other funding sources, as they became stronger and more sustainable. For example, one community organisation went on to achieve regular funding from Creative Scotland, around the time of completing the RCGF project. Having a fit for purpose building has positively impacted on what they can achieve across all intended outcomes. Another community project received funding from the Scottish Government Climate Challenge Fund, as their new facilities were completed. The facility provides the space for them to develop their climate challenge work, and a strong base from which to engage with the community.

However, in some projects sustained community involvement has been a challenge. More detail on this is provided in Chapter Two.

4.2.3 Fair and inclusive communities

In a few projects, research participants highlighted that the new facility brought together people with lots of different backgrounds. A few felt that through the process of community involvement in the project, they had become more open to hearing and understanding other viewpoints. A few had proactively worked to engage with a range of equality focused organisations.

A few projects specifically focused on fairness and inclusion:

  • one project was focused on equality, with targeted work with equalities groups, a vision around equality, and a key role in connecting a range of equality groups in the area.
  • one project was specifically designed to be accessible and welcoming for people with mental health needs but is not branded as a place particularly for people with mental health issues. This means that a wide range of people come to the café for its peaceful and welcoming environment. People from across the region are successfully using the facilities in an inclusive way – including people with mental health needs, learning difficulties and physical disabilities, local children, families and workers.

"It is somewhere people can come and feel comfortable, with all different capabilities."

(Partner)

4.3 Theme Two: Access to facilities and services

This section explores the outcomes in relation to access to facilities and services. It covers two of the regeneration outcomes:

  • people have access to appropriate community facilities and places to meet (selected by 13 projects)
  • people have access to effective local services and facilities, including health, education and early years support (selected by 9 projects)

4.3.1 Community facilities and places to meet

Most projects which were completed at the time of the fieldwork had provided local people with new or improved places to meet and connect. Most felt that the project had provided a space which had not previously been available.

"If it wasn't for this place, there wouldn't be anything for local people to do here."

(Community member)

The facilities were used by communities in a range of ways – including running community gardens, community cafes and community shops; clubs, lunch clubs, youth clubs and bingo nights; sports activities and fitness classes; and creative activities, arts activities and film nights. Communities also used the spaces to run charitable activities, such as food banks and free meals; and enterprise activities such as plant and book sales.

"It makes our community feel even better, and it gives something for our kids to do."

(Community member)

In some projects, the facilities provided space which could be rented by communities for social events, parties and celebrations.

Some projects enabled communities to access to the facilities free of charge or for a reduced rate. For example, in one project communities could use the facilities for free for 12 days a year.

Example: Informal free community use In one project, local people and schools are able to use the sports facilities for free, when they are not being used by paying users. This approach has led to an increase in local people using the facility and more interest in local clubs and organisations.

Projects also provided spaces for people to develop their skills through community based learning opportunities – including classes on healthy eating, cookery, computing skills or English language. In one project, learning new IT skills had helped some older people to build connections with their family in other countries.

Example: Skills development opportunities In one project, the facility has allowed the community to access skills development opportunities. There are arts classes and workshops in the centre, involving community members and pupils from local schools. The project has also worked jointly with the community learning and development team to provide opportunities for young people aged 16 to 25 who are not in education or employment. There are four-week artistic skills development blocks available for these young people free of charge.

Some mentioned how important it was that the new facilities were within their community, and easily accessible by walking or public transport. This was particularly important for disabled people, people with long term illnesses, young people and older people.

"I can see the importance of providing things in the local area, people will turn up. It is much harder for people if they have to travel into the town centre."

(Community member)

For some, the facilities helped people to get out of the house. Some research participants reported that otherwise they would not have had a reason to go out.

"Without the centre I wouldn't leave the house or see anyone."

(Community member)

"It gets us out of the house… The [facility] gives us a reason to go out and meet people."

(Community member)

Some indicated that the facilities were very well used and had an active programme of events and activities. For example, one project indicated that it had a footfall of 30,000 in the first 18 months. As well as formal events, the projects were well used informally – for example by nurseries and schools walking through the grounds or groups of friends meeting at community cafes.

"People now have somewhere to go and there is a full programme of events held at the centre throughout the year."

(Partner)

"There are now places to meet and use local services."

(Project lead)

Some felt that the new facilities helped to bring the communities together, acting as a focal point for the community. Facilities helped to build a sense of community, providing people with places to eat, watch films, play sports, undertake cultural activities, meet friends and socialise.

"It acts as the focal point in the community. It has been very positive for the community."

(Community member)

"It brings people from all walks of life together to learn, share ideas and inspire each other."

(Partner)

In some instances, communities got involved in enhancing and developing the spaces themselves. For example, in one area the local tenant and resident association arranged a bingo night to raise funds for outdoor seating – so that people could make more use of the garden space outside the new facility.

In some projects, space was available for community groups to let, allowing for a wider range of services and activities. One project was particularly careful about renting space only to people and groups which shared the project's values, particularly in relation to promoting equality and fairness.

One project was largely focused on office space provision (with long term public sector lets) and provided limited additional opportunity for communities to meet. This had been an original ambition, but was impacted by resources and availability of janitorial staff at times when communities may wish to use the facility.

4.3.2 Access to services

In some projects, the new spaces provided a hub or shared space in which services could be co-located. This included services such as health, housing, education, social work and employability, as well as nurseries and schools.

Community members said that they found this useful, as they could access a range of services in one place. One community member particularly liked that people could walk into the building, and because of the range of services available, other users would not necessarily know what the person was there for.

Similarly, service providers found it beneficial to be part of a hub. Partners felt that being based with other services helped them to build their joint working arrangements and be more easily accessible for local people. Some found that being based locally helped them to gather and share local knowledge and connect better with the community.

"Being based at the hub has helped us to capitalise on and strengthen local partnerships."

(Partner)

"We are now at the heart of the community and have access to a wide range of people, as well as local knowledge and intelligence."

(Partner)

This approach has facilitated joint working initiatives, data sharing and better partnership working.

Some partners felt that having more space available in the right location allowed them to improve the services that they were able to offer, while also being more efficient in their ways of working. For example, in one project having more space available helped to empower staff to deliver training services themselves, rather than contract services to consultants.

Example: Empowering staff and enhancing service provision In one project, the new facility provided enough space for council staff to provide training for clients, rather than contracting this out to consultants. This has empowered staff and enabled them to provide a more holistic service. Sharing the building between similar providers has helped improve service provision. Employability services have started to provide joint programmes, share data and work in partnership with other providers. This was facilitated by early 'speed networking' sessions between partner staff in the building, to allow them to liaise and better understand each other's roles. The local authority also hosts a monthly employability practitioners forum, to share good practice between partner agencies.

A few partners also felt that having services based in the same place helped to reduce isolation for staff and provide a better and more modern working environment.

Example: Co-locating services In one project, local authority services that were previously spread across five different buildings and three towns were brought together. Now the community can access a wide range of local authority services in one place. Bringing local services together has also helped to integrate services, such as housing and social work, improving communication and reducing isolation for staff.

4.4 Theme Three: Safety

This section focuses on the following outcome:

  • communities and people are protected and feel safe (selected by seven projects)

Overall, project leads, partners and communities felt that the projects helped to create safe places where the community was supported. Most facilities were described as welcoming, open, relaxed, friendly and easy to access.

"It is a safe, welcoming and inclusive place where I feel safe and cared for, and which offers somewhere where everyone is welcome and treated with respect and care."

(Partner)

Some spaces were carefully designed to be inclusive and approachable, and to reduce stigma for people accessing services. Some projects have taken measures to ensure that the community would feel safe, such as better lighting, safe play areas and CCTV. One project has worked to nurture the night time economy by providing well-lit spaces for people to use safely in the evenings.

"The centre is more open, if feels safer and better to walk through."

(Community member)

In some projects, research participants reported that previously they didn't feel they had safe spaces in the community, but that the new facility had helped to change that. In one area there were local issues with sectarianism and some local people said that they could feel the tension and did not feel safe. The project introduced an artistic programme and heritage walks with guided trails and maps, to encourage people to walk in the area. Getting to know the area and people within it has helped community members feel safer.

"Before it felt like a scary place, it feels much safer now."

(Community member)

"The town centre feels safer. It is more open, and there is less anti-social behaviour now."

(Community member)

In some projects, facilities have helped people who are new to the area feel safer and more confident. For example, one woman who had moved to Scotland from another country found that the project and facility helped her greatly in terms of building confidence and connecting with others.

"I am a newcomer here, so I was scared. But they welcomed me, and all my fears vanished. I feel safe under this roof."

(Community member)

In one project, there were reports that the process of community involvement made people feel safer using the area and enjoying it – even though the project itself has stalled.

4.5 Theme Four: Health and wellbeing

This section focuses on the following outcome:

  • people have good physical and mental health (selected by eight projects)

4.5.1 Mental health and wellbeing

In some projects, programme delivery was focused on mental health and wellbeing.

Example: Mental health and wellbeing One building was designed from a mental health perspective, to make sure everyone in the community can take part. People using the new spaces, both indoor and outdoor, commented that their mental health and wellbeing had improved. For some, this was because the new facility provided a place to go and to be part of the community, taking part in shared group and volunteering activities, particularly in places where there was previously no opportunity to do so.

"If it wasn't for (the centre) I'd go mad… This place has saved me. I'd be lost without it."

(Community member)

"All of the young people who have been on the courses have said that it benefited their mental wellbeing."

(Partner)

"It has opened up lots of new opportunities, and it's on my doorstep."

(Community member)

For some people who had previously felt isolated, the space helped them transition back into community life.

"It has vastly increased mental health."

(Community member)

"People in the houses nearby didn't get out. The buses stop at 6.15. We needed something, primarily for the older ones – although the schools and nurseries are also getting involved."(Community member)

A few projects had introduced work which focused specifically on mental health. This included projects focused largely on sports and cultural issues, as well as mental health focused projects.

Example: Health and wellbeing activity One project runs a weekly story café with a focus on health and wellbeing. The café is designed to be a safe space for people to discuss any issues, and sometimes there are specialist authors to focus on a theme such as mental health or menopause.

Some projects reported that they provided community members with opportunities to volunteer. The opportunity to volunteer, work and develop skills helped provide structure, and contributed to improvements in mental health. Research participants who were working or volunteering said that they felt the buildings provided a good environment and they felt good about coming to the place. It was often particularly important to people that opportunities were available locally and were easily accessible. Some were anxious about travelling, going outwith their own neighbourhood, or walking through other unfamiliar areas.

One volunteer – at a mental health focused project - commented that coming to the facility had a significant impact on her life, providing a place to do supported, structured, positive activity.

"I suffer from major recurrent depressive disorder… I found myself completely lost in despair and depression. Working at [project] gave me back a purpose in life – with structure in my day again; feeling motivated to do something for the first time in a long time; rekindling an interest in learning; feeling satisfaction and pleasure again; and boosting my self-esteem and self-confidence."

(Volunteer)

In a few projects, staff found the new working environment positive for their mental health.

"I love working in the building! It makes me happy being here and being heard… It's a place of comfort, inspiration and learning."

(Staff member)

4.5.2 Physical health

Outcomes around physical health were mostly reported by participants at one project, which focused on sports facilities. Few physical health outcomes were reported in other facilities. However, some partners emphasised that facilities were designed to be accessible through public transport, walking and cycling, which encouraged physical activity.

In the project focused on sports, the new facilities have also provided increased opportunities for people to take part in physical activity. Sports clubs have been able to encourage increased activity by delivering targeted or more inclusive sessions (e.g. women and girls, or football for all). Clubs have also become more accessible by offering a wider range of more flexible sessions. More people have been encouraged to attend and be part of the community through social events, making creative use of new indoor spaces.

"We have increased our training from two one hour sessions, to two 90 minute sessions for each team."

(Community organisation)

"We are now better able to cater for families. They can all train together, people of all ages."

(Community organisation)

In one sports club people are now able to join as a social member, rather than a playing member, which has encouraged increased membership and engagement. In another club there is a scheme to allow local community members to play, regardless of their ability to pay.

"We have also tried to accommodate non paying users, local kids. Usually that means they can play up until 6, although some evenings people are using the pitches. They just come off if a paying user comes."

(Community organisation)

Community members and sports organisations indicated that the new facilities had become popular and were well used. They also felt that there had been a positive impact on young people using the facilities, as they were spending time with positive role models in the adult teams. One sports club found that more young people were engaging in education relating to physical activity, such as Higher PE, coaching courses or college courses, due to the interest they had developed through the club.

"We stay over the road. At the weekends, he's always wanting to come round with his dad. There's a bit of a buzz."

(Service user)

"I definitely do a lot more physical activity."

(Service user)

4.6 Theme Five: Vibrant towns and high streets

This section focuses on the following outcome:

  • towns and high streets act as a focal point for social and economic interactions (selected by nine projects)

Research participants from some projects indicated that the new facilities, programmes and services helped to develop vibrant, active towns.

New or refurbished buildings helped to improve the appearance of towns and high streets and provided a central point for activities and services. The new spaces have encouraged increased activity in the local area, bringing the community together and encouraging visitors.

"The town seems busier at the weekends. More people are coming into the town."

(Community member)

One project has been included in signage from the local train station and cycle route and is working to receive brown heritage signs to signpost visitors to the facility. In another project, project partners felt that the development of office space had led to the development of a number of local cafes in the town, and an increase in use of public transport to the town centre.

"There's something on every week. It is bringing people to the town centre."

(Elected member)

One project established an active café in a previously derelict building, used by people working in the area. The café has built contacts and networks among people working in the area, including a large number of creative and arts organisations. Approximately 50 creative organisations are now associated with the project or wider arts and music activities in the building.

Research participants also said that they enjoyed using new civic spaces, such as town squares, and they valued the improved aesthetics of their area.

"The town looks and feels so much better. It is modern and friendly."

(Community member)

Example: Restoring an iconic building In one project, an iconic building in the town has been restored and brought back into use. As a result, the local authority has also been able to attract funding for street scaping, art works and work on the train station – building an attractive route from arrival in the town by train, through to the facility. The building is very visible in the town and can be seen clearly by visitors arriving by car or train. The building is now a focal point for events involving the local community, such as when the Christmas lights are switched on.

4.7 Theme Six: Employment

This section covers the following outcome:

  • sustainable employment to tackle worklessness (selected by six projects)

Monitoring information gathered by Scottish Government indicates that the 14 projects collectively anticipated supporting 413 constructions jobs, creating 143 new jobs and supporting 318 existing jobs. Interviews with project leads indicate that the new jobs include a range of roles in project management, catering, horticulture, culture, event support and administration. It is not clear whether these estimates were realised as not all final reports and completion forms were submitted, which means it is not possible to compare anticipated outcomes with actual outcomes.

The projects have helped to facilitate a range of employment and employability outcomes for people in the community. These include:

  • employment for local people as part of the building construction and landscaping
  • paid employment or apprenticeships in service delivery and management
  • internship opportunities
  • volunteering opportunities – in building, landscaping and service delivery
  • business space – available to let
  • opportunities for skills development

Example: Employment opportunities for local people One project used a small to medium sized enterprise for the building works, which used local trades as much as possible. They supported the development of over 30 construction jobs during the build and five jobs within the completed facility, three of which are local people. Another project created two training places and six jobs for local people as part of the construction contract.

The new facilities have provided employment opportunities in service delivery. Local people have taken on roles working in community cafes and bars, community gardens and servicing at events. In some projects, existing staff have expanded their hours due to the new facility, while in others the facility has provided opportunities for new members of staff, apprentices or interns.

The new facilities have also provided valuable volunteering opportunities, which have helped develop people's skills and confidence to do more. In some instances, the opportunity to volunteer or complete an apprenticeship gave people the confidence to move into further positive activity or employment.

"People see the work they've done and have more confidence to try out another wee job."

(Staff member)

Skills development activity at some of the new facilities has also often been focused on skills for life, work or learning – including literacy, English language, translation, digital skills, librarian skills, crafts, gardening and landscaping. Some facilities also offered specific training or the opportunity to gain qualifications, such as CV development or access to CSCS card training.

"I've known all my life that my reading is poor. After coming here, I was advised to go to the Big Plus and that's helped my reading come along."

(Community member)

Community members appreciated having these opportunities available locally so that they could improve employability skills while still meeting other commitments.

"Having this place on your doorstep means that you have time to pick the kids from school."

(Community member)

Having a range of local skills development opportunities was particularly valuable for young people, showing them a wider range of potential careers and helping them to develop a wide range of skills.

Example: Skills development Partners in one project felt that it offered young people the opportunity to learn new skills, how to make things, build their confidence and self-esteem and meet new people. They felt that the creative activity had been good for mental health and wellbeing. The project was supported by the Community Learning and Development team, who attend and support the activity. Young people reported that it was beneficial and would help them as they progressed beyond school. "It will help with my application for university." (Community member)

Example: Employability opportunities One project which provided space for an employability project has supported 1,000 job outcomes since the new facility opened.

A few facilities have been able to offer space for businesses to let, encouraging entrepreneurship and providing an accessible place for people to work. In one project all the business units have been let and there is now a waiting list.

"The business units have given people confidence to set up their own businesses in the area."

(Partner)

Longer term, one project aimed to set up an incubator programme to attract artists to the facility, who could then set up their own businesses and stay in the area.

In addition, in some areas there has been a subsequent improvement in tourism or business opportunities, because the new facility has attracted more people to the area. For example, one project reported a 30% increase in trade among local businesses over the period of a large project event.

4.8 Wider social outcomes

The projects also contributed to wider social outcomes, which have had a positive effect on the local community. In a few projects where buildings were restored, the building has been nominated for or has received awards. These have helped to raise the profile of the projects and the local community.

In one area, the development of a new RCGF funded centre was part of wider development of a site, which included a small number of new affordable houses in a very rural area. Community members and partners report that this has helped to increase the population base and build a new community. Alongside wider changes locally, this has helped the population to grow - particularly the school population. However, the success has also increased house and land prices across the area, bringing both positive and more negative impacts in terms of affordability.

Few research participants identified any other negative unintended outcomes. In wider discussion, a few mentioned that new facilities could be perceived to be not for local communities, because they were new, high quality, and attract people from other areas. When discussing experiences of community engagement, in a few projects, community members felt tired out from their experience or demoralised because their views had not been heard.


Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot