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 Investing in Communities Fund –  Slippage in Decision-Making 

The following letter is written to Ms Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government on behalf of SCVO, The Third Sector Employability Forum, and The Third Sector Interface Scotland Network to raise our concerns about the delays in communicating the outcomes of the Investing in Communities Fund (ICF)

The below letter, signed by Anna Fowlie (SCVO), Anthea Coulter (Clacks TSI), Lesley Kelly (Midlothian Voluntary Action), Bridie Ashrowan (EVOC), and Pegs Bailey (TSEF), outlines the concerns our organisations hold and the steps that need to be taken to address the slippage in decision-making.

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News & Information

Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund – second year of funding announced

On Saturday 7th May the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Kevin Stewart MSP, announced that the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund has been awarded a further £15 million to support mental health and wellbeing in communities across Scotland.

TSI Scotland Network is delighted that the fund will continue being delivered and managed by Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) in partnership with local integrated health authorities and other partners including Community Planning Partnerships and local authority mental health leads.

Over the past year, the fund has supported nearly 2,000 community projects including sport, outdoor initiatives, arts and crafts and nature, and covering groups such as older people, those with long-term health conditions or disabilities, people living in rural areas and the LGBT community.

More information about this fund will be made available in due course, with TSIs publishing details of eligibility criteria and the application process on their own respective channels. Prospective applicants are advised that applications will be made via their local TSI.

To find your local TSI, please visit our directory.

Details of the application processes in each area will be published here when available.

Read the full announcement from Scottish Government here.

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Statement on decision on Single Intermediary Body supporting Social Enterprises in Scotland

TSI Scotland Network represents the third sector close to communities across Scotland and in particular this covers the range of organisations that trade solely for community benefit – social enterprises and social entrepreneurs, charities, development trusts and community benefits societies. The Network often also provides leadership and support directly or indirectly to local Social Enterprise Networks (SENs). In both capacities, it is keen to work closely now with the newly-agreed single intermediary body, Social Enterprise Scotland, to ensure the central values of the third sector are retained at the core of the work led by Social Enterprise Scotland (SES).

The TSI Scotland Network looks forward to building beneficial relationships with SES that will champion the principles of the third sector around community wealth building, social justice, ethical and environmental benefits to communities, in line with government policy and by doing so protect the community assets established and delivered by social enterprises as a continued legacy for local people and communities. We also hope to see the recognition of volunteering as key part of the role and success of social enterprises highlighted and the integral way that TSIs support volunteering in communities.

Anthea Coulter, Chief Officer of Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface on behalf of the TSI Scotland Network added, “ The TSI Scotland Network has worked more closely with SENScot over the last twenty years in community settings in particular and I would like to thank them on behalf of the TSI Scotland Network for their huge contribution to the development of the sector. The Network is keen to see their expertise and wealth of knowledge that they have within their organisation not be lost but built on in the future. SENScot developed out of their own social enterprise membership and the services they offer including SENScot Legal and P4P, as well as the support to members is critical for social enterprises and the sector more widely. We look forward to entering into constructive discussions with SES on these points along with starting positive planning on how we can work together on behalf of the SEN communities across Scotland going forward and the wider third sector.”

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Introducing Scotland’s Voluntary Sector – A briefing

The TSI Scotland Network was delighted to be a part of a joint event with SCVO where we connected with MSPs to highlight the key role third sector organisations play our local communities.

Our jointly produced guide provides details of the size and scale of the sector, and the ways in which it can support you and your constituents nationally and locally.

#ScotVolSector

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Statement on Community Renewal Fund

The TSI Scotland Network welcomes the announcement of the successful Community Renewal Fund applications and offer our congratulations to the successful Scottish bids.

We recognise that this has been a transitional year and significant work went into making the move from European Structural Funds to a UK-based distribution. The TSI Scotland Network has reflected on their members’ experience and urge the Government to consider the following when developing the new programme:

  • The need to go through local authorities puts an additional barrier in the way of third sector organisations accessing the funding. We urge the Government to consider an application process that allows the third sector to apply directly, without the need to go through local statutory structures;
  • It was unclear how decisions were made on the existing Fund. We urge the Government to be explicit on the criteria it will use in allocating funding;
  • There were unfortunate slippages in the timescales for distributing the funding. We urge the Government to be flexible with the new June deadline, as it will be a tight timescale for projects to recruit new staff and deliver the outcomes that the Government and applicants are seeking to achieve.
  • Greater clarity over the contract arrangements is required – a wide number of questions have been raised over procurement, consortia and evidence of delivery already, which are proving difficult to get answers on and it would be beneficial to ensure these are worked up to be reflective of and achievable in the timescales in future.
  • We further urge the Government to take steps to ensure a more timely distribution of the 2022/23 funds.
  • We look forward to working in partnership with the Shared Prosperity team, and hope that strong channels of communication will be developed between the team and the TSI Scotland Network. Using the TSI Scotland Network is a highly effective method of engaging the third sector at a local level in the design and delivery of funds due to our local bases and understanding of local areas; the funding will be weaker without our input. We would welcome an early meeting to discuss how these might be developed.
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Third sector resilience and recovery post COVID-19 pandemic

TSI Scotland Network is pleased to have been invited to contribute to the Scottish Parliament’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee session on third sector resilience and recovery.

We are delighted to have an opportunity to highlight the crucial role third sector has played during the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to discussions on how to best support its resilience.

Below is the briefing we have submitted ahead of appearing at committee on 9 December 2021.

Our submission

About TSI Scotland Network

The TSI Scotland Network is a body of charities that support the third sector across Scotland. There are 32 TSIs – or Third Sector Interfaces in Scotland, one for each local authority area.

Each TSIs is embedded within the community it serves and has a deep localised knowledge of the third sector in their area. We have trusted relationships with voluntary organisations and community groups on a local level and across the whole range of policy areas. As a network, we work together to enable and facilitate third sector involvement in creating a fairer, wellbeing society which also tackles the climate emergency.

TSIs have played many significant roles during the pandemic. We have coordinated the third sector’s crisis response – connecting people, organisations and resources with a focus on key areas such as food, isolation, medicine collection, and parenting support. We have supported TSOs in challenging times, helping them to access funding and reboot their business models. And we have had a key role in involving the third sector and partners in resetting the agenda both locally and nationally, in areas such as vaccine roll out, economic recovery, and employability.

Introduction

TSI Scotland network welcomes the opportunity to highlight key challenges facing the sector as a result of the COVID19 pandemic and contribute to discussions on long-term resilience.

Scotland’s third sector stepped up in an unprecedented way during the Coronavirus pandemic. Charities, social enterprises and community groups supported people in their homes and communities, delivering food, medicine, digital devices and activities for the young and elderly to get through both lockdowns.

It is essential that the third sector remains at the heart of recovery planning.

For this to happen a longer view of third sector resilience needs to be considered and issues affecting its financial stability addressed. The pandemic has not only highlighted the sector’s contribution to the Scottish society and people’s wellbeing; it has also given us an opportunity to re-evaluate our practices and re-imagine the structures that affect the sector’s ability to achieve best outcomes for communities.

Below are key emerging priorities that would support third sector’s resilience as identified by TSI Chief Officers across Scotland.

Key priorities

Sustainable and long-term funding

The COVID19 pandemic has negatively impacted all areas of income generation in the third sector, and the biggest drops were more extreme than past recessions. Areas that were most impacted included trading, fundraising and donations.[1] Over a half of third sector organisations saw a decrease in turnover compared with pre-pandemic levels.[2]

Moreover, the crisis has exacerbated the fragile nature of the third sector funding systems.  Approximately a third of charities has already been considered vulnerable at the onset of the pandemic as it had less than three months of expenditure in reserves. [3] The Social Renewal Advisory Board (SRAB) highlighted that the sector’s reliance on short-term funding and ongoing lack of secure funding has meant some organisations struggled to survive during the pandemic – when services have been most needed.[4]

The Scottish Government’s initial support of the voluntary sector, a £350 million cash injection, was a welcome recognition of the value of sector’s contribution. Short term emergency funding enabled the sector to deliver in communities at pace in a time of need but it can be prohibitive to addressing ingrained multi-generational inequalities.

Recovery requires a move away from short term funding arrangements to a new way of funding the third sector by building long term relationships, including minimum of 3-year contracts to enable long term sustainability and best outcomes for communities.

Fair work and staff wellbeing

The pandemic has increased demand for third sector organisations, services and activities, with 57% of organisations reporting an increase.[5]

This trend is key in understanding how staff in the sector have been affected. Earlier this year, an in-depth study which explored the immediate and emerging risks faced by organisations in the charity sector, found that 44% saw staff ‘burnout’ and challenges related to the pandemic as a major threat to their ongoing operations. [6]

Historically, the third sector has offered lower levels of stability and pay to staff, in comparison to the statutory sector due to reductions in funding. The COVID-19 pandemic and realities of remote working have made it even more challenging for third sector organisations to compete for talent. The lack of ability to offer competitive employment conditions contributes to high staff turnover and loss of historic knowledge and experience.

Recovery requires government commitment to invest strategically in the third sector locally and nationally in years ahead to enable it sustain, improve and evidence its contribution. This should include a recognition of the need for fair work for third sector employees and honouring inflationary uplifts and pay awards.

Volunteering recovery

As the crisis unfolded volunteers stepped up to the numerous and complex challenges of Covid-19, and they did so at pace. However, while some sections of the population were suddenly free to help out, others were shut out through restrictions and/or shielding. Many inequalities in volunteering participation widened.  It is crucial to support people to return to volunteering including older demographics and those who were shielding.

Enormous community effort enabled effective emergency response, especially during the initial outbreak of the pandemic. As we learn to live in a world with COVID19, it cannot be expected for informal community supports to substitute essential statutory provision as this makes volunteers feel fatigued and undervalued.

Similarly, structured, long-term volunteering can only be enabled with the right support. This includes effective recruitment, safeguarding and engagement to provide positive experience for volunteers. Recovery requires investment in volunteer management to ensure people, communities and society as a whole can experience its benefits.

Our shared ambitions for the national Volunteering for All framework and for a fairer, sustainable, wellbeing economy can only be maximised if we address both (a) the volunteering policies, programmes and services required and (b) a range of necessary developments in economic, social security, childcare, education and community empowerment policies too.  The approach adopted by Government to the development of the framework action plan – to fully understand the complex system of factors that impact on the national outcomes in order to then arrive at a plan with the “optimal combination of programmes, investments and interventions” – is therefore very positive.

Further factors impacting third sector’s resilience

  • Increase in UK minimum wage (6.62% and real living wage of 4.2%) and NI (1.2%) is expected to have direct impact on the charitable sector. There is a need for statutory contracts to reflect these increases as otherwise charities and social enterprises might not have sufficient incomes to carry on.
  • Social Enterprises have been severely affected by the pandemic. 81% of social enterprises have experienced a reduction in income from trading.[7] The wage increases and lack of predictability of income streams puts a significant pressure on this segment of the sector.
  • Young people volunteering has been negatively impacted as they have not been able to access opportunities during the pandemic. This causes concerns around wider resilience and young people’s active contribution to civic engagement.
  • Third sector childcare sector has been severely impacted due to remote working and Brexit, with childcare becoming a less appealing career option. This creates future risks for when more activity resumes, and affordable childcare is needed.
  • There is confusion and lack of guidance available for re-opening of some services i.e. lunch clubs which is hindering the process.
  • Third sector plays an active role in supporting grassroots action on climate emergency. There is a need to invest in the sector to support community climate action.

The sector’s infrastructure

The pandemic has highlighted the important role intermediary bodies play in supporting and developing the third sector. The Scottish Government has recognised our vital contribution to identifying emerging needs, supporting organisations in challenging times and directing money to people and communities who need it most. We have welcomed being a trusted partner, among other intermediaries, and supporting third sector resilience needs through initiatives such as Wellbeing Fund and most recently Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. We hope we can build upon this as we continue on the road to recovery.

Conclusion

Resilient voluntary sector is essential to narrowing the inequalities gap, helping those who need it most and ensuring that our communities thrive. Yet, there are several long-standing issues that affect the sector’s financial stability. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have crucial roles to play in supporting the third sector’s resilience and thus enabling it to achieve best outcomes for communities and people.

For further Information

Contact: Kaja Czuchnicka, Senior Development Officer, TSI Scotland Network

Email: kaja.czuchnicka@tsi.scot




[1] TSI Scotland Network, Coronavirus Survey Report, July 2020; SCVO, Scottish Third Sector Tracker, Summer 2021.

[2] OSCR, COVID-19, Impact on Charities (wave two), November 2020.

[3] Alasdair Rutherford, Alan Duggan, Financial vulnerability of Scottish Charities during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021.

[4] If not now, when? – Social Renewal Advisory Board report: January 2021.

[5] SCVO, Scottish Third Sector Tracker, Summer 2021.

[6] The Charity Risk Barometer, Ecclesiastical ( January 2021).

[7] TSI Scotland Network, Coronavirus Survey Report, July 2020

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News & Information

New Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund Announced

On Friday 15th October 2021 the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Kevin Stewart MSP, announced that the launch of the new Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund which has been established with £15 million allocated to support mental health and wellbeing in communities across Scotland.

This new fund will be delivered and managed by Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) in partnership with local integrated health authorities and other partners including Community Planning Partnerships and local authority mental health leads.

The fund aims to support adult community-based initiatives to help address the impact of distress and mental ill health caused by social isolation and loneliness, as well as addressing the mental health inequalities exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Grass roots community groups and third sector organisations will be able to benefit from the funds to deliver activities and programmes to people to reconnect and revitalise communities building on examples of good practice which have emerged throughout the pandemic.

The TSI Scotland Network is delighted to be leading on this new fund. With our reach into local communities across Scotland, TSIs will be able to effectively deliver this funding direct to community-based initiatives that promote and develop good mental health and wellbeing, as well as mitigate the impact of the rising demand for mental health support.

More information about this fund will be made available shortly, with TSIs publishing details of eligibility criteria and the application process on their own respective channels. Prospective applicants are advised that applications will be made via their local TSI.

To find your local TSI, please visit our directory.

Read the full announcement from Scottish Government here.

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Report Highlights Positive Response to New Funding Model Involving TSIs

A new report, published today, Monday 11th October, highlights the positive response received in an evaluation of the Response, Recovery & Resilience (RRR) Funding Scheme, which was distributed locally by Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) across Scotland.

The Foundation Scotland funding offered additional financial support to community groups, charities and third sector organisations (TSOs), to enable them to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their services and to help facilitate their work in supporting communities during challenging times.

Working in partnership with the TSI Scotland Network, Foundation Scotland piloted a new means of grant distribution for this fund, in the hopes of reaching local organisations who were on the frontline of the community response to the pandemic. In this first of its kind funding scheme, TSIs were a direct facilitator for the funding, providing grants through a mix of open and closed funding processes.

Leveraging both local knowledge and reach into communities, 30 participating TSIs made a total of 267 awards to TSOs across the whole of Scotland with a total award value of £292,000.

Highlighted in the report is positive feedback from both TSIs and grant recipients.

TSIs reported that the speed of response and ability to reach into local communities were the main benefits of this new approach. TSIs also felt that smaller organisations had more confidence to apply via a local process and that they were able to identify relevant organisations due to their deep local knowledge.

The report also highlights how the fund supported mainly smaller organisations, with majority having an annual turnover of less than £25k and the secondary group being organisations with turnover between £25-100k.

Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations (ACVO), alongside Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS) and Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (EVOC), were the three TSIs who took on a leading role on various elements of distribution and supported the wider network during the process.

Maggie Hepburn, Chief Executive of ACVO, said that “the positive findings of this report show that the way TSIs work at a local level alongside communities is beneficial in reaching smaller third sector organisations and communities who may otherwise be distanced from funding processes, or less likely to engage.”

Grant recipients had equally favourable feedback for this new funding distribution mode. Overall grantees showed a high level of satisfaction from the experience of securing the grant via a TSI with 80% agreeing that this opportunity saved them time, 95% stating that the TSI was approachable and listened to their needs and concerns, and 98% saying that the application process was easy and proportionate.

Furthermore, 30% of grantees said they would not have been able to provide services has it not been for this grant.

Reflecting on the new funding process Helen Wray, Head of Programmes at Foundation Scotland, said “When the TSI Scotland Network approached us for support during the pandemic, we were delighted we could help. Offering the Network a strategic grant from our Response, Recovery & Resilience Fund enabled local TSIs to respond swiftly to their local areas’ most immediate needs. Small local organisations needed help fast, but many lacked the time, resources, or experience for completing grant applications. Working in hand with their local TSIs, organisations could easily access financial support vital to their services, often needing just a few hundred pounds.

 Through local awards and strategic grants, Foundation Scotland supported over 1400 charitable organisations right across Scotland through the Response, Recovery & Resilience Fund. The total distributed exceeded £7.3 million but, more importantly, reached over 2 million people in need. Thanks to our strategic partners like TSI Network Scotland, BEMIS, and SAMH, we were able to reach the hearts of so many different communities in need.”

Coinciding with the publication of this report is a week-long social media campaign highlighting key findings and success stories from grant recipients sharing their own experiences of community response and how this new funding enabled them to continue their services.

You can follow the campaign via the TSI Scotland Network twitter account @TSIScotNet.

For further information about the new report, please email info@tsi.scot.

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New Report Published Highlighting the Work of TSIs Throughout Covid-19

A new report published today, highlights the key findings and recommendations of following a review of Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) and the roles they played during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The aim of the review was to better understand the role of Third Sector Interfaces during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been funded by Scottish Government and prepared in partnership between Third Sector Interfaces and Evaluation Support Scotland. The review included a desk review, case studies of six TSI areas, and independent interviews with local partners.
The review identified the types of activities undertaken by TSIs during Covid-19, the effectiveness of different approaches, and lessons for the future of TSIs. The findings of the review are now available within the report.

Based on the findings, the report highlights 5 critical recommendations:

  1. Celebrate the role of the third sector and volunteers during Covid-19
  2. Build awareness locally and nationally of the role and impact of TSI’s
  3. Invest in the capacity and reach of the third sector in local decision-making
  4. Build on the opportunities that have come out of Covid-19
  5. Review funding for TSIs

An Executive Summary is available on page 3 of the report.

Follow our campaign to promote these findings on Twitter: @TSIScotNet

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Scottish Labour response to TSI Scotland Network Manifesto

TSI Scotland Network believes that the third sector should be at the heart of the journey to recovery from the COVID19 pandemic. Recently, we have reached out to political party leaders to highlight issues vital to the sector and were delighted to receive a response from Scottish Labour. Thank you for taking the time to engage with us.

Please see below.

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Thank you for highlighting the TSI manifesto. This document was considered by our Policy Forum and influenced the final manifesto.

Scottish Labour recognises the importance of a strong voluntary sector in our plans to decentralise powers and democratise the economy. We will support a continued partnership approach between government, charities, social enterprises and other sectors, modernise charity law, strengthen governance, and provide longer-term financing for projects delivered by the voluntary sector. We support ‘Volunteering for All’ outcomes and will promote employer engagement with awards and training, as well as support for community organising.

A fairer wellbeing society is at the core of our manifesto and community wealth building has been pioneered by Labour local authorities in Scotland. Our focus is on delivering a Parliament focused on a national recovery to create a fairer and stronger Scotland.

You can find the full details of our National Recovery Plan here.

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We look forward to continuing the conversation on the crucial themes affecting our sector and communities.

#fairerfuturescotland