Whole Family Wellbeing Funding (WFWF) - year 1 process evaluation: final report

This report presents the final findings from a process evaluation of Elements 1 and 2 of the Scottish Government Whole Family Wellbeing Funding (WFWF) in its first year of operation.

Executive summary

Please find the Whole Family Wellbeing Funding (WFWF) Year 1 Process Evaluation Final Report – Annexes here


The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2021-22 committed to investing £500 million in Whole Family Wellbeing Funding (WFWF) over the course of the parliament (2022-2026). The aim was to transform the way family support is delivered so families can get access to the help they need, where and when they need it.

The WFWF is split into three elements. This evaluation focused on understanding the implementation of Element 1 and Element 2, in the first year of WFWF (2022-2023):

  • Element 1: Funding provided to Children’s Services Planning Partnerships (CSPPs) to support the scale up and delivery of holistic whole family support. This support was to address the needs of children and adults in a family at the time of need, rather than at crisis point (see Annex 3 for a full glossary of terms relevant to the WFWF).[1]
  • Element 2: Support to build local capacity for transformational system change in how families are supported. This included collaborative partnerships between a Scottish Government-led transformation team and three CSPPs. It also incorporated a Learning into Action Network to facilitate collaboration, sharing of learning and approaches, discussions on key implementation issues and peer support.

The evaluation aimed to:

1. Provide an overview of the types of activity the Element 1 and 2 funding was used for.

2. Understand local delivery partners’ views on how Element 1 and 2 funding was used.

3. Understand children, young people, and families’ experiences of the family support services that have received Element 1 and 2 funding, and the extent to which this funding achieved short-term outcomes (within Year 1).

4. Provide evidence of policy and practice relating to the implementation and delivery of the WFWF which would inform future development of the funding and support local level whole system transformational change for family support. This approach to change aimed to enable organisations to deliver a vision for the future of family support by making changes to culture, structure and practice.

The evaluation framework captures all research questions associated with each evaluation aim and is presented in Annex 1. The evaluation aims were met through a mixed-method approach conducted between November 2022 and August 2023. The research included qualitative case studies with six CSPPs, and secondary data analysis of initial plans for WFWF (which set out how CSPPs intended to spend their WFWF allocation for 2022-23) and Children’s Service Plan (CSP) annual reports capturing WFWF progress. Both the initial plans and information on WFWF included within CSP annual reports were written by CSPPs using templates and guidance provided by Scottish Government.

Key findings

The key findings presented below incorporate the results from across all data sources to meet the research aims.

Scottish Government approach to funding, allocation, distribution, and support

The Scottish Government’s primary role as the funder was to set the aims and objectives of the funding, outline the criteria, and put in place processes and guidance to support CSPPs to begin designing their WFWF activities.

The overall vision of Scottish Government was shared by CSPPs and reflected in the aims and objectives described in CSPPs’ WFWF plans, underpinned by Children’s Services Planning duties[2]. CSPPs perceived the funding as an opportunity for innovation in developing ways to support whole families. Key factors of the funding’s approach that CSPPs valued included:

  • Spending criteria which provided the autonomy for CSPPs to tailor activities to the needs of their local area.
  • Scope of the criteria to include activities focused on scaling up, building capacity, or developing new support, to achieve systems change.
  • Flexibility of funding to enable alignment with broader CSPP priorities and funding streams.

During the process of allocating funding (described in full in Section 3), Scottish Government provided CSPPs with an initial plan template to complete to outline their activities, monitoring, and expected outcomes. Most case study CSPPs found the initial plan easy and straightforward to complete. Case study CSPPs developed their plans collaboratively, including with third sector CSPP partners (in all but one case study CSPP). Involvement of third sector partners in the design stage was important as early collaborative discussions made their involvement in delivery possible.

The Scottish Government allocated named WFWF leads to provide support to CSPPs throughout the funding period. The WFWF leads worked in the Scottish Government policy team. They were a dedicated point of contact for CSPPs if they had any questions about the WFWF or wanted to seek advice (e.g. on their monitoring and evaluation plans). Where ongoing support for Element 1 from Scottish Government had been accessed, this was perceived as helpful. CSPPs were positive about the responsiveness of the WFWF Scottish Government leads.

Some strategic leads and local WFWF leads said they would have liked information about WFWF from the Scottish Government earlier, including a Year 1 funding timeline. They also said they would have benefited from greater clarity on spending criteria, allocation of funding, and funding milestones at an earlier stage (see Section 3). Although the Scottish Government provided this information in July 2022, it was viewed as coming too late, and all the information was not received at the same time.

To further aid their delivery of WFWF activity, CSPPs requested more opportunities to understand the WFWF activity of other CSPPs, and additional support from Scottish Government with data collection for monitoring and legacy planning beyond 2026.

Experiences of designing and planning priorities and activity

In the case studies, plans for WFWF activity were generally led by senior CSPPs leaders. Leaders tended to come from children’s services, but representatives from across CSPP partners were also involved in developing plans, including senior leaders such as heads of children's and justice services.

CSPPs generally planned to focus on improving or expanding their provision of early intervention and prevention support, within the context of their provision of holistic whole family support. However, some CSPPs focussed their WFWF activity on responsive support based on analysis of local needs.

Some activities were tailored towards specific groups including the six priority groups[3] in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan (Scottish Government, 2022b), children at the edge of or in care, parents with substance misuse, and families with children with neurodiversity needs. Most case study CSPPs did not specify any target beneficiaries for their WFWF activity. This was because they intended their WFWF activity to provide accessible support that was more adaptable to the changing needs of the community based on individual assessment.

The extent to which CSPPs included views of children, young people and families in their design of WFWF activity varied. There was some evidence that CSPPs had consulted with children, young people, and families when developing their initial plans, but ongoing consultation on service design was rare. CSPPs recognised that gaining continuous feedback from children, young people and families was important, and shared a sense of duty about their role in seeking out these views in order to make improvements. Common challenges described by CSPP staff included:

  • Encouraging families to engage, especially where they had limited time or capacity due to the complexity of their family circumstances.
  • Difficulties pitching engagement activities at the right level due to the variety of lived experiences and specific support needs of children, young people and families.

All case study CSPPs reported involving CSPP partners to some extent, including those from the third sector, health, and education, in planning and delivery of WFWF activity. CSPPs consulted third sector partners through steering groups, multi-partner workshops and panel consultations. However, third sector partners indicated that more was needed to include their perspectives in WFWF activity, as they believed that engagement with them and their organisations was somewhat ‘selective’ or ‘superficial’. For example, limited or no communication had been received from CSPPs on progress or outcomes after input into the WFWF initial plans from staff in the third sector.

All case study CSPPs were using quantitative data in some form, to help make decisions about WFWF plans and priorities during the early stages of agreeing strategic approaches. CSPPs used data to understand the needs of local families, the impact of current interventions, and gaps in their current provision. However, there was limited evidence of data being used to support service design and delivery among case study CSPPs. More on monitoring and measuring performance can be found below and in Section 6.

Implementation and delivery of WFWF to date

At the beginning of the evaluation, IFF established a maturity model, to help illustrate broadly how far into their family support journey CSPPs were. The model categorised CSPPs by the stage of their journey (‘early’, ‘moderate’ or ‘advanced’) and the types of activities they planned to use WFWF for, see Figure 7 in Section 5. At the end of Year 1, most CSPPs had progressed with implementing and delivering WFWF activity. The number of CSPPs at a moderate or advanced stage of delivery maturity (according to the maturity model) had increased compared with the beginning of the WFWF.

Key enablers of implementation identified were:

  • CSPPs reported that WFWF implementation was easier where they were focussing on expanding existing successful activities. Where an activity was deemed successful pre-WFWF, the funding helped provide CSPPs with the resources needed to scale up.
  • CSPPs having dedicated strategic and operational oversight of WFWF activity. CSPPs leaders’ abilities to develop and strengthen cross-partner links to enable greater collaboration was identified as particularly important.
  • The Scottish Government allocating named WFWF leads to provide support to each CSPP throughout the funding period. Where CSPPs’ strategic leads and mangers had accessed support from their WFWF Scottish Government lead, they reported that having dedicated support and clear lines of communication was key. This was felt to be particularly helpful if CSPPs had any questions about the WFWF or wanted to seek advice (e.g. on their monitoring and evaluation plans).
  • Frontline practitioners being encouraged to look at the ‘bigger picture’ for families (i.e. seeking to support them as a family unit, rather than providing individual support for family members). For many CSPPs, this was an impact of the recent move away from siloed working, improved collaboration, and better working relationships across CSPP partners.
  • The pace of WFWF implementation was faster where strong partnerships with third sector organisations already existed. This included where third sector partners’ views were already aligned with WFWF priorities, and the decisions and direction of WFWF aims were made collaboratively.

Key factors limiting implementation identified were:

  • Some case study CSPP strategic leads reported that WFWF timescales and sustainability concerns had impacted the recruitment of staff to deliver WFWF activities. This limited the pace of WFWF implementation for some CSPPs.
  • The process chosen by some CSPPs for engaging with third sector partners limited the pace of WFWF activity implementation. Reasons for this included:

1. Strategic leads and local WFWF leads noted that third sector organisations tended to offer more fixed packages of support (than other service providers), and those packages may not have the capability to meet the continuously evolving and changing needs of families;

2. Third sector organisations tended to work on a commissioning cycle, which meant they had less control over financial resources (in a competitive third sector space);

3. A couple of the case study CSPPs indicated that there were some difficulties with alignment from third sector organisations. The result was that these CSPPs felt caught in a cycle of inconclusive discussions around how to proceed in a collaborative manner.

Monitoring WFWF delivery

The Scottish Government advised CSPPs to set up monitoring systems to support continuous improvement, to track progress against WFWF intended outcomes and to contribute to the evaluation of WFWF.

It is a positive sign that all CSPPs had begun identifying indicators to monitor performance of WFWF activity. CSPPs with more advanced analytical capabilities had pre-existing data and already had performance groups to manage data collection and establish its use in their planning and strategy.

Data collection for monitoring delivery of WFWF activities was further along than data collection for monitoring outcomes. This likely reflects the stage of WFWF implementation. All CSPPs were undertaking development work to understand the monitoring indicators they would use to evidence the outcomes of their WFWF activity. However, CSPPs had varying levels of confidence in using collected data for strategic decision making.

CSPPs had lower confidence in monitoring intangible outcomes like collaboration between partners, service integration, and shared accountability. They had engaged in ‘thinking work’, but there was no evidence of data being collected or analysed around these aspects of system change. A challenge for any system change initiative is how to evidence contribution to the initiative, and CSPPs were uncertain about how they would do this.

Perceptions of progress towards early outcomes

CSPPs were not expected to achieve all outcomes identified in the programme logic model (see Annex 4) within the first year of delivery. Instead, Scottish Government expected that CSPPs would collectively demonstrate progress towards early outcomes of the logic model at the end of Year 1, with other outcomes expected to be achieved at later stages.

Progress against outcomes among CSPPs varied (from limited to some early evidence) due to differences in types of activities and WFWF activity maturity. Outcomes with early evidence of positive progress were:

  • CSPPs shifting towards non-siloed and aligned family services funding that matched scale of need.
  • CSPPs starting to redesign/design delivery of new whole family support services, including removing barriers for children, young people, and families to accessing support.
  • CSPPs working more collaboratively and with adult services (design and delivery of whole family support, and sharing resources, data, feedback, and information).

Outcomes where evidence of progress was limited included:

  • Embedding key principles for holistic whole family support in local systems and structures.
  • Improving access to services in communities.
  • Increasing whole family support service capacity among CSPP partners – which were scaled and where new services were integrated.
  • Partners beginning to develop a holistic workforce approach.
  • Meaningfully engaging with children, young people, and families, actively and regularly in service design.
  • Feedback analysed by CSPPs informed Adult and Related Services planning/delivery.

Conclusions and recommendations

There is positive evidence that across most CSPPs, delivery of WFWF activity has progressed between developing their initial plan and submitting their CSP annual report to the Scottish Government.

Some activities and outputs are still outstanding in some CSPPs. This includes CSPPs establishing or enhancing processes to gather regular feedback on services from children, young people and families. CSPPs are also not consistently undertaking local evaluations and are still working on developing their performance monitoring systems. A lack of progress in these areas will likely prevent some CSPPs from achieving the intended early outcomes by the end of Year 2.

For CSPPs to progress with WFWF implementation and ensure the foundations are in place to achieve intended WFWF outcomes, Scottish Government and CSPPs should continue to focus on:

1. Mobilising the necessary workforce across the CSPPs to deliver local WFWF plans, embedding the whole family support principles (see Annex 2), and upskilling the workforce with the analytical skills required for whole system monitoring and evidence-based decision making.

2. Collaborating and relationship building within and across CSPPs. This is particularly important regarding the development of a clear, strategic vision for approaching system change and establishing a clear understanding of how this is going to happen as a result of WFWF.

3. Establishing systems for capturing regular feedback and engaging in ongoing consultation with partners across the CSPP, as well as children, young people, and families, to inform transformative family support.

4. Gathering data and evidence to understand the progress and performance of WFWF activities and outcomes achieved, as well as developing the analytical capacity to interpret and use data within strategic decision-making.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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