Future Support and Advice to Rural Communities

This report explores the nature and level of existing support and advice available to rural communities in Scotland.


10.1 Our most important recommendation is that, in terms of providing advice and information on funding, there are roles that are best carried out at the national scale and others that are best carried out locally. We recommend that these national and local components should form an integrated approach which ensures that the information and advice offered is accessible, accurate and of a consistently high quality.

10.2 Firstly, we make recommendations for those aspects of information and advice on funding that are best carried at the national level. This should focus on supporting front line staff who are providing advice locally and by ensuring easy local access. There should be a number of aspects to this:

  • In principle, the Third Sector Interfaces are the most obvious 'first port of call' for locally accessible funding advice because of their specific role and remit. However, in practice, these are at different stages of development and have varied local profiles. In addition, Local Authorities and LEADER have an established role to play as a 'way into' information and advice and many communities have well established and valued working relationships with them. We therefore recommend that the Scottish Government should encourage and support the development of a strong partnership approach to the promotion of advice and information on funding in each Local Authority area which takes into account local profile and resources.
  • There is an important role to be played at the national level in improving and ensuring the quality of local advice provision through these local partnerships. We recommend that a national quality standard for advisory staff should be developed and implemented by the Scottish Government.
  • There should be a single, national, high quality source of information on available sources of funding for advisors and rural community groups. We therefore recommend that steps should be taken to ensure that the SCVO Funding Scotland resource is suitably usable and sufficiently well-maintained for rural community groups. In addition, we recommend that there should be a regular assessment of the provision that other online resources (such as open4community sites) play in particular areas in Scotland and they should be promoted to local advisors where appropriate.
  • A key source of support should involve promoting learning by sharing good practice amongst local advice providers, both in terms of funding advice and in terms of community group success stories - e.g. how and why community groups were able to achieve funding through access to high quality funding advice. We recommend that this should be spread through existing networks.
  • Working with funders (e.g. public funders) to understand the scope that exists for improving the way that their systems of application and claims processes are managed, with a view to better ensuring that the complexity of funding requirements are truly proportionate to the scale of funding requested and are not stifling the entrepreneurship of rural community groups seeking to improve their communities.

10.3 We recommend that at the local level:

  • Third Sector Interfaces should work with Local Authorities and other locally established sources of information and advice to develop locally coherent approaches to the promotion and provision of advice and information on rural funding. This approach should be clearly disseminated, particularly to those communities and groups who may not have been reached by previous efforts, and to groups who face local needs but lack experience in taking forward and funding local projects.
  • The form of provision should involve quick tips and advice / signposting and specialist advice, and also the provision of intensive support for those groups who need it, especially community groups who are at an "early stage" of development. This service could be delivered in person, with telephone support a suitable alternative (as per community groups' expressed desires).
  • The local partnerships will need to ensure a consistently high quality of adviser support and should work closely with national support to implement, maintain and build on a national standard for staff providing advice. In each Local Authority area this should involve all those staff who provide information and advice to rural groups.
  • The service should develop a strong focus on peer mentoring from other community group members who have "been there and done it". This will be required to provide the local capacity to provide intensive one to one support for those that need it. Support from such individuals was often cited as being valuable by community groups, and there was support for the idea of peer mentoring at advice provider workshops. For peer mentoring to work, there needs to be a well-designed brokerage and support process to allow this to happen. This will need to include an effective matching process - or needs/situation with experience/expertise, advice on how to provide effective peer support, and an effective system of provision of expenses for mentors.


Email: Liz Hawkins

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