Evaluation of the Communities Fund

In December 2016, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG, then known as the Department for Communities and Local Government) launched the £3.3m Communities Fund, inviting bids from partnerships of local authorities, voluntary and community sector organisations. Bids were invited for initiatives to tackle entrenched social issues, providing better outcomes for communities and improving local public services.

The Communities Fund builds on the legacy of MHCLG’s previous programmes, including the Neighbourhood Community Budget Programme, the Our Place Programme and the Delivering Differently in Neighbourhoods Programme. The Communities Fund supported 54 projects in localities across England, including community-led social prescription projects, domestic violence and family interventions, and neighbourhood-based employment initiatives.

In 2017 SQW was commissioned by MHCLG to:

  • Provide support to the funded projects to help them to develop robust logic models and undertake cost benefit analysis using New Economy's Cost Benefit Analysis tool. The support included workshops, 1-1 tailored support and webinars.
  • Undertake an independent evaluation of the programme and seven case study projects, generating process learning and evidence of the outcomes achieved.

The evaluation ran until Spring 2019, culminating in a report and presentation of the programme level findings, as well as stand-alone case studies with cost benefit analysis findings.

The report was published by MHCLG in Spring 2021 and can be accessed here.

All project leads reported that all or some of their anticipated outcomes and impacts had been achieved, and nearly half reported achieving outcomes and impacts over and above those originally anticipated. The types of outcomes experienced varied by project and thematic area, but the key outcomes identified included:

  • Improved employment prospects, including engagement in volunteering, and previously unemployed people accessing (and sustaining) paid employment
  • Increased or new skills, including social skills, as well as technical (e.g. bike repair or landscaping) and IT skills
  • Improved health and wellbeing, including increased confidence, increased activity rates, and reduced social isolation and loneliness (a significant impact reported by 19 funded projects)
  • Greater access to appropriate services, including earlier intervention to prevent crises and escalation of need, and reduced inappropriate service use.

For more information about the evaluation, please contact Lauren Roberts at SQW.