This report presents the findings of an evaluation of the Wellbeing Fund Open Applications Process, which was set up to distribute grants of between £5,000 and £100,000 to third sector organisations to deliver projects of up to 12 weeks' duration which would respond to needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. The fund was managed by a partnership including Scottish Government, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Corra Foundation, Inspiring Scotland, and the Hunter Foundation, with support from Scotland's 32 third sector interfaces (TSIs).
The report is based on application and awards data, end-of-project monitoring data, and interviews with stakeholders involved in the management and implementation of the funding scheme. It consists of two parts:
- First, an outcomes evaluation examining the distribution of funding across Scotland, whether the funding was used as intended, what the funding was used for, and who was supported by the funded projects;
- Second, a process evaluation which examines how well the design, management and implementation of the fund worked, and what lessons could be learned for the development of future similar initiatives.
Distribution of funding
- In total, there were 1,563 applications to the fund. £21,582,333 was distributed to 955 organisations with an application success rate of 61%
- The average award size was £22,599
- More than half of awarded projects (59%) were focused locally – either within a single local authority area or within a specific community. 23% operated across multiple local authority areas, and 18% were Scotland-wide
- Overall, these data suggest that the fund reached many smaller and local organisations seeking support for small-scale interventions within their local communities
- Organisations based in all of Scotland's local authorities received funding through the Wellbeing Fund. In absolute terms, organisations working in Glasgow City and the City of Edinburgh received the most funding – £4 million and £2.25 million respectively. This reflects the high concentration of both population and third sector organisations based in these cities.
- The highest rate of awards per 100,000 people went to organisations working in Na h-Eileanan Siar (64), Midlothian (58), East Lothian (55), Orkney (54) and Clackmannanshire (54).
- The lowest rate of awards was to organisations working in Dumfries and Galloway, with 15 applications approved per 100,000 people; other local authorities with low rates of awards per 100,000 people included Moray (16), Fife (18), Highland (19) and Perth & Kinross (19).
- In terms of amounts received by organisations working in different local authorities per head of population, relatively higher levels of per capita funding went to organisations working in Na h-Eileanan Siar (£9.68), Glasgow City (£6.40), and Orkney (£5.01)
- The lowest levels of funding per capita went to organisations working in East Renfrewshire (£0.92), South Ayrshire (£1.12), and Falkirk (£1.18).
- Analysis of a subset of awarded organisations in relation to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) found that awards to organisations working in a single local area tended to be distributed to areas of relatively high deprivation. Among organisations for which SIMD data was available, over 72% of the funding went to organisations working in the two most deprived SIMD quintiles. 48% of funding went to organisations working in the most deprived SIMD quintile (the most deprived 20% of Scottish postcodes).
- For the proportion of organisations for which relevant data were available (organisations working in a single local area), awards were strongly directed towards areas with populations most vulnerable to the negative impacts of Covid-19, according to the British Red Cross Covid-19 Vulnerability Index. 40% of the amount awarded went to organisations working in areas that were in the highest-risk quintile (the 20% of areas where populations were at highest risk of negative effects of Covid-19). Almost 70% of the funding was awarded to organisations working in the two quintiles where vulnerability to the negative impacts of Covid-19 was highest.
- 76% of projects had a focus on mental health. Projects focused on a range of different aspects of mental health support, including: alleviating feelings of loneliness, isolation and boredom; providing emotional support; providing activities and social stimulation; and providing professional services such as counselling, therapy and therapeutic interventions. These projects included both adapting pre-existing mental health services for remote delivery and new services designed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- 44% of projects had a focus on food. Most sought to provide free food in the form or groceries or meals to those in need. Other examples of food projects included doing or collecting shopping for those who were shielding, and supporting people to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs at home. Food projects ranged from small-scale projects to support organisations' pre-existing service users alongside other services, to large community-wide food initiatives open to anyone who needed support.
- 27% of projects had a focus on physical health. Many physical health projects were run by organisations focusing on supporting people with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities to manage their conditions, maintain their health, and stay well-informed about their condition in relation to Covid-19. Other projects focused on: helping service users to stay physically active through fitness challenges, games and activities that they could do at home; adapting existing fitness classes for virtual delivery; and sourcing, making or distributing personal protective equipment (PPE).
- 25% of projects had a focus on home-life and/or housing situation. In most cases, these projects focused on providing a wide range of support to a particular vulnerable group. Support included: activity packs and games for children; educational and home-schooling resources; support with digital connectivity; befriending and wellbeing calls; dog-walking; and deliveries of food, medicines and other essential items. A smaller number of projects focused specifically on support for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and/or domestic abuse, such as providing accommodation, case work, legal advice or financial advice.
- 21% of projects had a focus on money. Support offered included: money/financial advice; advocacy; signposting to financial support; benefits information and advice; discretionary hardship funds; and support paying for costs such as utilities and internet access. In most cases, support relating to money was one part of a much wider range of support being offered by organisations.
- 13% of projects had a focus on employment. Projects included those focusing on employability for specific groups, such as young people, or people with disabilities. Some also set up projects to support people who had lost or were at risk of losing their jobs, or had been furloughed. In most cases, support relating to employment was one part of a much wider range of support being offered by organisations.
- 27% of projects provided activities or services categorised as "other". The most common types of services in this category related to: digital inclusion; provision of recreational activities; spending on operational activities (e.g. recruiting and training volunteers); provision of essential items other than food; providing guidance, information and advice; projects relating to education and/or training; and making social, befriending and wellbeing calls.
- 30% of projects reported supported people with or living with people with Covid-19 symptoms. 71% reported those who were shielding, and 72% supported those financially at risk as a result of the pandemic.
- 68% of projects reported supporting people with mental health problems. 43% reported supporting people with disabilities, and 32% reported supporting people with substance dependencies
- 49% of projects reported supporting people at socio-economic disadvantage; 44% supported younger people; and 40% supported older people
- Most projects (65%) reported supporting fewer than 500 people, including 26% which supported fewer than 100 people. 23% reported supporting over 1,000 people.
- 85% of organisations had spent the full grant amount by the time they completed the monitoring form. Common reasons for being unable to spend the full amount were: lower costs than anticipated; lower demand than anticipated; and slower implementation than expected
- 91% of organisations reported using the grant in the way they had proposed at the application stage. The most common reasons for not doing so were changes to anticipated needs and demand, and operational challenges
- Funded organisations highlighted a number of emerging needs that they became aware of during the course of their projects. The most common emerging needs highlighted related to health and wellbeing; poverty and unemployment; and digital inclusion
- Asked if, with hindsight, they would do anything differently in the same situation 56% of organisations reported that they would make changes. The most common changes suggested included: changing the nature of service delivery; different approach to digital technology and online services; infrastructure and capacity changes; and applying for more funding or seeking funding with a longer delivery period
- Funded organisations and those responsible for managing the fund highlighted the success of the speed with which the fund was set up, as well as the speed of the application and assessment process, which enabled organisations to rapidly begin working to support people in their communities
- Funded organisations were positive about the clarity of the funding criteria, and the clarity, simplicity and speed of the application process
- Those managing the fund highlighted the importance of bringing together the skills and expertise of SCVO, national funding partners and local third sector interfaces to encourage a robust and effective assessment process
- The fund was generally perceived to be successful in reaching all types of eligible third sector organisations, with a short initial funding round used to analyse the early application and awards rates in order to focus on encouraging applications from groups with lower rates of applications and/or successful applications
- However, it was accepted that prioritising distributing the funding rapidly led to some limitations. These included: a need for better coordination and communication across Scottish Government emergency funds; duplication and under-provision of funding and funded services in certain areas; limited overall assessment of the needs of potential beneficiaries across the country; a need for clearer communication across different Scottish Government funds; and a need for clearer communication between the different bodies involved in managing the fund.