Community Fund Review

 

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Community Fund Review

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Community fund review March 2015

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Contents Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Executive Summery Overview Panel Members/ Introduction Background Publicity/ Fund Criteria/ Fund Policy International Standards Organisation (ISO901) Pre-bid stage objectives / Review of Applications Strengths/ Recommendations Action plan Conclusion Appendix 1 Appendix 2 Appendix 3 1|Page

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Executive Summary • • • • • Cobalt Housing community fund aims to improve the capacity of community groups and organisations Empower community groups to engage with residents to deliver projects and activities that support the current needs of the community Provide financial support to community groups and organisations Create successful partnerships, by working together with local community and voluntary organisations and key stakeholders to improve he lives of residents. Maximise the use of local resources in delivering services in the community The community fund can be applied for by community groups and organisations operating in Clubmoor, Croxteth, Norris Green and the Fazakerley area. The groups need to be an organised and recognised group which are constituted. The rounds for the community funds are allocated at the end of February and the end of September every year. The groups have to fit one of the following criteria to be considered for funding. • • • • Digital Inclusion, for example projects encouraging or enabling people to access the internet Employment, for example projects that support people into employment or training Health and Wellbeing, projects promoting exercise and cooking on a budget Community events in the area which promote breaking down cultural or other barriers, promoting pride and a positive image of the Cobalt neighbourhood, encouraging residents to get to know their neighbours or the reduction of anti-social behaviour or incidents of nuisance. If an applicant is successful they will be subject to a pre-condition of receiving funding and have to agree to distribute existing information leaflets regarding one of the following: • • • • • • Health awareness Free internet and WIFI access in the community Local training courses Encouraging the reporting of anti-social behaviour and crime Raise awareness and signpost tenants to employment services available at Cobalt A member of cobalt staff or guest speaker coming to talk to the group about any of the above issues or neighbourhood issues or services on offer at Cobalt. The maximum funding is £500. If the funding amount requested is for £250 - £500, a panel made up of tenant representatives will make the funding decision. If the request is for less than £249.99, the decision will be made by Cobalt staff. The decision process for funding applications under £249.99 is made by Cobalt staff to help tenants who may need the funding as a matter of urgency. The tenants on the panel have to sign a confidentiality paper. Groups can apply for more than one project per round. The Regeneration team will perform spot checks to verify the activity happened as described on the application form. 2|Page

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Unsuccessful applicants are, in most cases, signposted to other funding that may be available from other external agencies. The community fund is publicised via newsletters, Facebook, twitter and Cobalt’s Website. Panel Members taking part in this Scrutiny Larry Shelbourne (Chair). Phyllis Booth (Vice Chair). Sandra Tynan (Secretary). Debbie Mottram Rhona Parker. Janet Heckingbottom. Joan Johnson. Sophia Muncaster Beryl Robinson William Tynan Ronnie Thomas. (Treasurer). Edith Hodge. Alex Kania Introduction Tenants and Residents Associations and Neighbourhood Committees requested that the scrutiny panel look at how Cobalt Housing Community Fund is allocated. It was felt by certain sections that the allocation of the community fund was not reaching the wider community Background How was this service identified? Tenants and Residents Associations and Neighbourhood committees requested that the scrutiny panel look at how the community fund is allocated. The approach we decided to adopt in scrutinising The Community Fund is as follows: • • • Fact finding: reviewing service standards, policies, procedures and tenants’ views. Challenge and compare: examining and bench marking what other landlords do and try to identify good practice Recommendations: analysing our findings and making recommendations to Cobalt’s Board, followed by asking Cobalt Housing to produce an action plan demonstrating how our recommendations will be addressed Monitor and evaluate: once we have an action plan, we will monitor progress and evaluate the outcome for tenants • In conducting our review, we have: • • Received an initial overview from the service manager Produced a scope for the review Our intention for this review was to -: • • Talk to the service director Review processes and policies 3|Page

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• • • • • • • Benchmark with other associations Data collection Community fund Publication Check ISO processes are being followed Review any statistical data Visit three different applications who have applied How is the Fund panel chosen Things to look at: • • • • • • • • • • • Check best practice Review the criteria for fund allocation is fair Review any statistical data Evidence gathering Value for money Review what information is sent to the applicants How long does it take for the application to clear Look at how the community fund is allocated Desk top audit with a cobalt officer Evidence checks, penalties for not complying. Are the panel impartial and from the all areas of Cobalt Housing Publicity The panel were very disappointed by the way the Community Fund is publicised. The information is of a poor quality and left a lot to be desired. The poster advertising the fund was poor, tired, old and boring. Cobalt housing website (at the time of writing December 2014) is still showing “deadline for applications is Friday 26th April 2013.” The panel feel that successful projects are an ideal way to publicise the community fund. An example of this was Invergarry Tenants Association obtained funding to stage a flower arranging course for local tenants, this proved be a huge success. Photographs were sent to the fund managers but were not used to publicise this successful community fund event. Fund Criteria The panel observed that the criteria set out for funding was confusing. Funding for other activities such as sport should be removed from the community fund and put in another category. There is no title on any of the grant criteria’s. The panel suggest that the wording on the grant criteria needs reviewing to make it more understandable to the applicants. For example the wording on employment section should read “leading to employment”. Also include an estimate for the cost of the event. 4|Page

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Cobalt Housing reading panel should be used to review and bring the funding criteria up to date (See Appendix 3) Fund Policy Panel members noted that the policy was introduced in March 2010. A focus group consisting of tenants and community fund members reviewed the policy in November 2012 and the Cobalt Housing board passed the updated policy in February 2013. Scrutiny panel members reviewing the policy found that there were a number of changes they would like implemented into the policy. (See appendix 2 and panel recommendations) International Standards Organisation (ISO901). (See Appendix (1) There are three areas in the International Standards Organisation (ISO901) that the panel felt community fund should address, these are set out in the eight core quality management principles of ISO listed below. Improved consistency The Community fund should improve the consistency, effectiveness, and efficiency that come with updating the website updating the policy, the criteria and posters. This is set out in the funds process map PR18, QR 450 and QR362 (see appendix 4) The poster GR450 is reviewed every 3 years, but the panel felt that this needed attention urgently and needed reviewing annually. PR18 was reviewed in July 14 and does not have no date for the next review. This also needs improving urgently. Enhanced customer focus. If the objective is to enhance the value of the community fund service in a tenant’s perception, it is crucial that tenants understand exactly how and when they can apply for funding Continual improvement The community fund procedures, policy and criteria have stagnated and are in need of continual improvement and constant change. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Improved consistency Enhanced customer focus Focused leadership The involvement of people A system approach to management Continual improvement A factual approach to decision making Mutually beneficial supplier relationship 5|Page

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Benchmarking The panel viewed a number of other social housing websites and found that the policy, criteria and the application forms were similar (in some cases identical). However, there was a disparity to who and when payments are made and the amounts involved. Who payments are made to; throughout the country different associations make available certain funds for community initiatives. However unlike Cobalt’s community fund being only obtainable to registered tenants groups, other associations allow outside agencies to make an application for funding as long as they adhere to the criteria and rules of the fund and engages the local community with its activities. When payments are made; all over the country different associations distribute their fund at different times of the financial year. Some choose to make payments all year, quarterly and in Cobalt’s case every half year. Size of the total fund; the limit of different associations funds differs around the country. Some associations have a very large limit of £10,000 per application, were as others just say small grants available. We have found that the average is £1000 per application. In one case a local Liverpool landlord with only 450 homes had a budget of £10.000 per financial l year. One association (Bourneville Village Trust) also offer residents the opportunity to apply for grants from their fund for essential household items such as bed, fridge and floor coverings Pre-bid stage objectives 1. To involve local people and local communities in the identification, evidencing and interpretation of community fund needs and requirements 2. To incorporate the ideas of local people in community fund bids and delivery plans: • • • Resourcing the working up of local ideas Including ideas from marginalise communities Raising awareness of community fund bidding and planning preparation. 3. To ensure that local people understand language, process and information: • • bidding guidance should be produced in an accessible form communicate the importance of local input so that people feel confident they can make a difference 4. To build a strong community body to coordinate the regeneration programme: • • ensuring inclusive involvement and meaningful representation at all levels providing effective models/guidelines for the development of an involvement strategy 6|Page

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Review of Applications The panel were supplied with a selection of thirty six applications, thirty three successful and three unsuccessful applications. Of the thirty six applications reviewed by the panel eighteen that were successful came from the Croxteth area? There were multiple grants awarded to different associations, including seven from one association with grants totalling £4.300. Eleven successful grants from Norris Green, five from the Fazakerley area and three from others. The fund policy allows associations to apply for more than one grant per round and it appears a number of associations are taking advantage of the policy and applying for multiple grants. The panel observed that a number of applications forms still had the February closing date on the top of the form crossed out and pencilled in the September closing date. All applications were within the closing date a number were submitted the day before. There were three successful applications that were unsigned and undated. One association informed a panel member although they were aware of the fund they were never informed or contacted on how and when to apply. They argued “It looks like the same groups who are aware of the funds procedure are the most successful applicants.” Help should be provided to individuals and groups who are not experienced in filling in these forms, Produce a short guide and offer help and guidance on how to fill in the forms would help as it looks like the same groups are mainly the successful applicants. Community fund panel The selection of the community fund panel appears to be by word of mouth with no formal application form. However, the panel were satisfied that the community fund panel are impartial. If a panel member’s group or association has made an application the pa nel member will withdraw to avoid conflict of interest Strengths Panel members looked at how data is recorded and acted upon. They were impressed with the spreadsheet that records all applications for the community fund whether successful or rejected, the spreadsheet as over 50 columns most with drop down access When information is received from applicants it is entered on this spreadsheet with the following headings       date of receipt of application date of returned application date of any additional information required whether application was successful or rejected breakdown of expenses any photographic evidence of event 7|Page

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  completed monitoring sheet all Q letter that have been sent (all standard letters have a special code and number) Panel members found the spreadsheet to be an excellent tool and to quote panel members observations “the spreadsheet is amazing” Recommendations Publicity The panel felt that the publication for the community fund was poor and out of date The fund poster needs reviewing it does not have enough information on it and it is boring. Suggestions were that it should show completed projects with pictures. More email addresses should be collected It states in the application packs that the projects may be used for publication. Why isn’t it? Successful projects are an ideal way to publicise what can be done with the community fund grant and highlight the successes that Cobalt have funded. An example of this was Ranworth Schools seasonal and themes cookery club. This used food that was grown by the school children and lessons were given to the parents on how to cook healthily. Parents from different BME families were invited and they taught parents how to cook their national dishes. Criteria On the criteria is says that the community fund will sponsor football. However there is a different funding pot for sporting activities. The panel think that this should be removed from the community fund as it is confusing for applicants. The grant criteria should have a title on it. The criteria needs reviewing to make it more understandable for groups. See (Appendix 3) The employment section on the criteria needs rewording for example “leading to employment” All the forms in the pack that are sent out to the groups needs reviewing and put to a reader’s panel. Put in “estimate of cost” in the letter that is sent out. Fund Policy Scrutiny panel members reviewing the policy found that there were a number of changes they would like to be implemented into the policy, and recommend a readers panel scrutinise it and bring it up to date (See appendix 2) The panel recommend that Cobalt should use all success stories through the various methods of advertising to promote the community fund 8|Page

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Help should be provided to individuals and groups who are not experienced in filling in these forms, Produce a short guide and offer help and guidance on how to fill in the forms would help as it looks like the same groups are mainly the successful applicants. The corrections the panel of the fund policy and the criteria are in red in the Appendix Action plan As agreed with the Board, we require Cobalt Housing to produce a SMART action plan, setting out how and when they will implement our recommendations. We will monitor progress against this action plan and monitor outcomes for tenants through the feedback we receive from customers. We will require Cobalt to produce an action plan by the time of our monthly meeting in May 2015, so that we can commence monitoring. We would expect all our recommendations to be thoroughly considered by Cobalt Housing officers and completed within six months after the board’s approval. If for any reason is not practical for all our recommendations to be completed within six months, we will require a full explanation in writing to the chair. We will also require the officer to attend our monthly meeting to explain why our recommendations have not been completed. We require monthly updates from officers regarding progress in implementing our recommendations. These updates can be in writing to the chair or attendance at the panel’s monthly meeting We will send letters immediately after the board meeting, to thank everyone who took part in this review. The panel feel that it is important let people know how their involvement has made a difference, as well as thanking them for their input Conclusion Publicity of the fund is inadequate as there are groups and associations entitled to apply for grants from the community fund who don't know the procedure how to apply for grants, or don't know they can apply. The application form the fund policy and the criteria could be made clearer to what area's groups can apply for. The panel was supplied with seven applications that Fazakerley Neighbourhood Committee, who triggered this review. In the September round of grants 2014. Five were successful and two were rejected, of the two that were rejected there seemed to be a considered and valid reason under the terms of the fund policy and Criteria for their rejection. 9|Page

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Acknowledgments The Scrutiny panel would like to acknowledge the support offered by Rachel Wright community regeneration manager and Didi Messerli community regeneration assistant The resident’s involvement team (in particular Jackie Hart) helped enormously arranging interviews and material required to complete this review, without sacrificing the panel’s independence. The Senior Management Team and the Board for their continued support. 10 | P a g e

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Appendix (1) The 1994 version (ISO 9000:1994) was an attempt to break from the practices which had somewhat clouded the use of the 1987 standard. It also emphasised quality assurance via preventive actions and continued to require evidence of compliance with documented procedures. Unfortunately, as with the first edition, companies tended to implement its requirements by creating shelf-loads of procedure manuals and become burdened with ISO bureaucracy. Adapting and improving processes could be particularly difficult in such an environment. The 2000 version of the standard (ISO 9001:2000) sought to make a radical change in thinking. It placed the concept of process management at the heart of the standard, making it clear that the essential goals of the standard - which had always been about 'a documented system' not a 'system of documents' - were reinforced. The goal was always to have management system effectiveness via process performance measures. This third edition makes this more visible and so reduced the emphasis on having documented procedures if clear evidence could be presented to show that the process was working well. Expectations of continual process improvement and tracking customer satisfaction were also made explicit in this revision. A new set of eight core quality management principles, designed to act as a common foundation for all standards relating to quality management, were also introduced; namely: • • • • • • • • Improved consistency with traceability Enhanced customer focus Focused leadership The involvement of people A system approach to management Continual improvement A factual approach to decision making Mutually beneficial supplier relationship The fourth and current edition of the standard (ISO 9001:2008) arrived on November 14th 2008. This revision contains minor amendments only. The aim of this revision is to clarify existing requirements and to improve consistency of approach with other management standards, like ISO 14001:2004. It has been announced that ISO are working on the ISO 9001:2015 revision of the standard to bring it up to date and reflect latest quality management good practice. However, fundamentally the standard will stay the same and, as such, migration to ISO 9001:2015 will be straightforward 11 | P a g e

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Community Fund and Employment & Training Fund Appendix (2) Cobalt Housing is committed to providing equal opportunities in accordance with Symphony Group Valuing Difference Framework. Community groups and individuals applying for funding will not be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, sexuality, age, class, disability and history of illness or any of the groups that are covered by the Equality Act 2010. Information about community groups and tenants will be kept confidential. Additional support can be provided to a community group or individual, if they regard themselves as vulnerable or have a disability. Cobalt’s Community Regeneration Team will provide support to the community group/individual to complete an application form, plan the project and identify costs. Applicants applying for the Employment & Training Fund will be requested to provide profiling data which is in line with the Equality Act 2010. Cobalt will take the data into account when assessing the standard of the application form. For example, an applicant with dyslexia may not have completed the form up to standard. Financial Implications An annual budget provision will be made. When approving projects and individual applications, Cobalt takes into consideration whether local partners can provide the service at a lower cost or for free. If partners can fund the activity or service at a lower cost, Cobalt will direct the individual/group to the relevant partner. This ensures value for money. If the full amount of funding requested from Employment and Training Fund is not granted to an individual, Cobalt will sign post the individual to a local credit union for information on responsible borrowing if necessary. Cross-references / links to other policies Cobalt’s Neighbourhood and Communities Strategy Symphony Valuing Difference Framework Benchmark partners Liverpool Housing Trust South Liverpool Housing Monitoring & Reporting At monthly budget meetings the Community Fund and Employment & Training Fund spend is monitored. When the project is complete or a grant is awarded to an individual, a project monitoring form is completed. This gives Cobalt’s Community Regeneration Team 12 | P a g e

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information on what the applicant thought of the application process, how they found out about the award and information on the participants engaged and what impact it had on their lives. A report is produced to Cobalt’s Board of Management on an annual basis hi ghlighting the Community Fund and Employment & Training Fund spend for the financial year. The Board report breaks spend down to a neighbourhood level, identifying particular areas where few groups/individuals have applied for funding, the report will also identify neighbourhoods that have been under represented in receiving funding. The gaps that have been identified will then addressed in Cobalt’s Service Improvement Plan to ensure that there is an equal allocation of funding in proportion to each of Cobalt’s neighbourhood stock size (Clubmoor, Croxteth, Norris Green and Fazakerley), both for the Community Fund and Employment and Training Fund. Review Mechanisms This policy will be reviewed in line with Cobalt’s Policy review process. We will continuo usly update this policy in the light of new legislation, regulatory expectation, guidance, and partner agencies and best practice. Related Procedures/Processes QP 51 Community Fund process map QP 43 Employment & Training Fund process map PR 118 Community Fund Criteria PR 23 Employment & Training Fund Criteria Symphony’s valuing Difference Framework Cobalt’s Data protection Procedure –Health and Safety Procedures Copies of the Community Fund and Employment & Training Policy and criteria are available on request. SMT Date : Policy name : Community Fund & Employment & Training Fund Policy Owner: Rachel Wright Is this a new policy? 13 | P a g e

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Yes  Next Review date 14/1/16 date of last review n/a Reason for Review : Up for 2 yr review Changes to legislation E.I.A. recommendation Other- new policy ............................................ Date of E.I.A . 14/1/13 List below consultation activity Consultation dates 15/11/12 Method of consultation Focus group Who was consultation aimed at? Tenants on the Community Fund decision panel 14 | P a g e

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