Case Study - Moray
Tackling Concentrated Disadvantage Case Study
Moray is a relatively small local authority, in terms of population - in 2006 it was home to 86,750 people. In 2006, it had just two data zones in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland (0.2% of the national share) both of which were in Elgin. It had none in the 15 per cent most deprived. Practically all areas which are most deprived are found in the larger towns, with concentrations in the centre of Elgin, the north of Forres and the east of Buckie.
Earnings are relatively low in Moray - the gross annual wage for people living in the area is just £18,621 compared with the Scottish average of £23,908. There are also a significant number of areas where fuel poverty is high.
A 2004 research report commissioned by Moray Against Poverty (a local anti poverty organisation) explored the nature, prevalence and impact of poverty in the area. It highlighted that there are high numbers of "working poor" in Moray, and that geographical hotspots - although small - do exist. They found that particular groups (including children and older people) are particularly affected by poverty, but it can often be hidden as there is a stigma attached to being poor in the area.
"In Moray there are no obvious large visible areas of degeneration typical of poverty through the Central Belt of Scotland. Typically, in Moray it might be a few streets, a few houses in a row in certain villages."24
For 2008/2009 Moray was one of only seven areas to submit a standalone FSF proposal. Their FSF plans were integrated into the SOA in 2009/2010. Moray has been allocated a total of £1.265 million over the three year period of the FSF.
Past Regeneration Activity
Because of the dispersed nature of disadvantage in Moray, partners have taken a thematic approach to tackling disadvantage both through the SIPs and more recently the Community Regeneration Fund.
Between April 2004 and March 2008 Moray received £843,000 from the Community Regeneration Fund. Their Regeneration Outcome Agreement focused on one "regeneration target community" in particular - disadvantaged young people in transition to adulthood and independence (those aged 16 - 24). They used the Community Regeneration Fund to fund activity focused on engaging and supporting young people into work or learning, providing access to appropriate information and advice, and improved access to housing and other services.
Some partners feel the area has made progress in addressing disadvantage, particularly with their target group of young people, and this can be evidenced by the increased number of young people going into education, employment or training. One partner spoke of a lack of "critical mass" however - although progress might have been made, poverty is still prevalent in the area. And the level of concentrated disadvantage has worsened recently compared with other areas in Scotland. In 2004, Moray had no datazones in the 20 per cent most disadvantaged areas of Scotland, but by 2006 they had two.
Partners did feel, however, that progress had been made in how they approach disadvantage. In particular, there was a strong sense across interviewees that partnership working was better. This was partly due to the various partnership structures in place within the Community Planning Partnership but partners also felt the ROA process had helped them to focus on common outcomes. This has meant partners focus attention more on the difference they want to make, rather than protecting their own services.
"If you work together you get better solutions, and better value solutions. It can cut down on duplication".
At the end of the ROA, partnership was particularly strong in the area, and this has been reflected in the emergence of shared approaches to service delivery. For example, the Council, College and other agencies are now delivering English for Speakers of Other Languages together.
Some partners felt that having ring fenced funding has helped them tackle disadvantage in the area as it has focused attention on the issues. But there was recognition that having a ring fenced fund is not enough on its own, and can lead to disagreements over funding. In reality the same organisations planning the approach are also those seeking funding, so interests can conflict.
Some interviewees felt they learned about the need to use a fund like the Community Regeneration Fund and FSF in a catalytic way. Although the projects funded under Community Regeneration Fund were worthwhile, and had positive benefits, they did not necessarily access mainstream funding. There was a perception amongst some partners that funding would just continue from the same source.
"Once projects are funded, there is an expectation you will continue to support them".
Transition to the FSF
Generally, partners have been clear about the purpose of the FSF, and have welcomed the opportunity to use it in a catalytic way.
There was some suspicion to begin with, and concerns that the Council would have too strong a role in allocating and managing the fund. But focusing on shared outcomes and delegating responsibility for the FSF to the Community Planning Partnership has helped alleviate these fears.
The FSF plans were drawn up by Moray Council, based on the strategic assessment produced for the SOA and based on the Council's Social Inclusion Strategy.
Partners were clear from the beginning that they wanted to focus on key outcomes (based on evidence of local needs) and recognised that this might mean reviewing current projects. They chose to treat 2008 / 2009 as a transitional year, and provided continuing funding to the three key projects funded under the Community Regeneration Fund. They provided a further 3 months of transitional funding at the beginning of 2009 / 2010 to allow the new staff on the FSF team to properly review existing funding, and put in place new decision making processes.
In January 2009 the decision was taken to transfer the management and responsibility for the FSF to the Community Planning Partnership. The Board have agreed allocation, management and monitoring arrangements for the fund. There is a Social Inclusion Implementation Group which oversees the implementation of the Social Inclusion Strategy and has a key role in the FSF. This includes making recommendations on the use of the fund to the Community Planning Board who have the ultimate decision. All proposals for funding are channelled through the various theme groups before being recommended by the Social Inclusion Implementation Group. This process ensures that the proposals fit with the key priorities of the groups, and therefore the SOA.
During discussions about the FSF, a number of issues or challenges were identified from the experience of past approaches, and these informed the approach taken to develop the FSF:
- There was a lack of good evidence about the prevalence, nature and dispersal of poverty in the Moray area. Partners wanted to develop research to better understand the reality of poverty in the area. This would help identify priority outcomes and more effective activities.
- There was a lack of relevant indicators about poverty in Moray that would allow partners to measure change over time and set meaningful indicators and targets. There was recognition that the SIMD data was not picking up on the very small geographic pockets of deprivation, or the wider issues. Having a set of meaningful poverty related indicators was also seen as an important step in getting mainstream agencies and services working to tackle disadvantage more effectively.
- Although partnership working had improved in the area, services were still sometimes isolated, and there was duplication in some provision - the new approach should support the development of partnership working, and rationalise service delivery.
- Previous project based approaches had led to a reliance on funding - the new approach would need to be clear about the catalytic nature of the fund, and support successful projects gain mainstream or other funding sources.
Funding Core Staff
To meet these challenges, partners agreed to establish a core team of staff within the Council. Several partners involved in previous work to tackle disadvantage spoke of the importance of having core staff to coordinate and drive forward change. An FSF Team was established early in 2009. The team's remit is to:
- Develop the FS fund;
- Supporting partners to work up ideas for investment in the fund;
- Undertaking research into the key causes of poverty in Moray;
- Engaging with communities in seeking to establish real need;
- Setting accurate poverty indicators for Moray;
- Seeking to establish sustainable solution to tackling poverty; and
- Supporting the ongoing development of linked strategies.
Early in 2009, the Council recruited:
- A Fairer Scotland Fund Manager - this is a strategic role rather than an administrative one. The FSF manager is responsible for bringing initiatives together, managing the partnerships and partnership structures, and working to embed the social inclusion agenda within partner agencies.
- A Research and Information Officer - this post was seen as "crucial" to develop a better understanding of poverty in the area, and develop appropriate and relevant indicators. The researcher is based within the Council's team of Research and Information Officers, which allows them to engage in wider work, and ensure poverty and disadvantage issues are included in other research, such as the Council's Strategic Assessments.
- An Administrator - who is responsible for managing the day to day business of the FSF (like coordinating monitoring data).
About a quarter (23 per cent) of FSF has been allocated to fund the core team.
A Strategic Approach
In 2008 the Council published its Social Inclusion Strategy. It sets out a number of key principles that the Community Planning Partnership are being asked to adopt. It is hoped that this will affect mainstream services, by explaining about social inclusion and deprivation, and outlining how it can be tackled.
More strategic approaches are arising out of the work of the core team. A successful partnership event was held in June 2009 which raised concerns about financial inclusion services. The Fairer Scotland Fund Manager is now coordinating the development of a Financial Inclusion Strategy.
Funding Specific Projects
Despite their strategic approach to tackling disadvantage, partners were clear that there was still a need for specific projects and initiatives as well. During the first few months in post the Fairer Scotland Fund Manager developed a process for allocating funding for this purpose. An outline proposal was developed which set out the specific outcomes which the partnership would fund activities to support. This was finalised and issued in April 2009. Guidance was developed and sent to organisations across Moray and organisations were asked to submit ideas for funding. Partners have tried not to use terms like "bids" or "applications", as they wanted to be clear that the FSF was a different from previous approaches. The various ideas were discussed by the Theme Groups and the Social Inclusion Implementation Group made recommendations to the CPP Board. The Board considered the recommended proposals, and tested them against the agreed priorities. In the end, two projects were approved.
The allocation of funding for specific ideas will follow a rolling programme over the next six months where partners are able to submit their ideas for funding. Following the first round of ad hoc proposals the Fairer Scotland Fund Manager is working to improve this process, making it more streamlined and simpler for partners to submit their ideas. This rolling programme will fit with the dates of the Community Planning Board meetings which are held every quarter.
All the projects approved will be managed and monitored through a Service Level Agreement. The projects will be required to submit quarterly reports on outcomes, outputs and key performance indicators.
Part of the Fairer Scotland Manager's role is to support the projects to think about future funding, and not become reliant on the FSF. This will also be built into the Service Level Agreement.
"With the Community Regeneration Fund that didn't happen. . . projects became reliant on funding."
A Commissioning Approach to Employability and Financial Inclusion
A number of employability ideas were put forward to the Themed Groups for funding. Partners undertook a Strategic Assessment of Employability Services and this was fed back to the Employability Action Group. Drawing on experience from Dundee City, the Fairer Scotland Fund Manager worked with partners to develop an "Employability Pipeline". This involved outlining the key stages an individual might go through (from initial engagement to gaining and sustaining employment), and sets this out through key transition points. Existing services were then mapped against this process, to see where there were areas of duplication or gaps in provision. The Fairer Scotland Fund Manager led this work, in consultation with partner organisations. This work showed that in many cases current services were "uncoordinated and fragmented".
Partners are now in the process of developing a specification for an employability service in Moray and plan to advertise the tender opportunity in July 2009. It is likely that they will commission a key worker service to provide holistic support for all unemployed client groups or those 'at risk'. Firstly, the service will work to ensure positive progress for clients. But it will have a development role as well, and responsibility for working to join up and coordinate existing employability services in the area.
Based on the recent work to develop a Financial Inclusion Strategy, it seems likely that a financial inclusion advice services might be commissioned as well. The current poverty research will help inform what is needed, and where. It is likely that the delivery model for such a service will be quite different to that in a big city. As poverty is more dispersed it will be important to understand the patterns of financial exclusion.
Outcome Focused Planning and Measurement
Partners were generally comfortable with an outcome focused approach to planning, and are mostly using it within their own organisations.
However, they feel more needs to be done to be able to effectively measure the impact of activities on poverty and deprivation. Although Moray's standalone FSF plan was strong in some ways (it was strongly linked to the themes of the FSF, and had a clear "line of sight" to the SOA), there were perhaps too many outcomes, and it included few measurable or time bound targets.
The Research and Information Officer is currently working on developing poverty related targets for Moray. Partners were confident about their ability to be able to develop appropriate indicators and targets in the future, and felt that the current research would help ensure the indicators and targets were meaningful.
Communities are engaged in a range of ways in the Community Planning Partnership in Moray through:
- Moray Citizens Panel;
- Area Forums ; and
- Community Councils.
But most partners interviewed did not feel that communities affected by disadvantage had been well involved in decision making about the FSF so far. Although partners widely recognised the need to engage communities (this was a strong theme in their 2008 / 2009 FSF) there was a feeling that progress had been slow.
"How partners liaise with communities is still not good."
Some partners feel that community engagement is difficult when taking a thematic approach, as the people you are trying to bring changes about for are dispersed (often over a large area) in somewhere like Moray. One partner felt that there are cultural barriers as well - there is a stigma attached to being poor which might prevent people engaging in discussions.
Partners feel it is important to have the right structures and processes in place to do this:
"In some places there are quite loud community organisations or individuals that don't give others a chance. There is a need to develop community engagement in the area in a way that recognises this. It needs a structured approach".
There was a feeling that the Community Planning Partnership was "moving in the right direction" in terms of community engagement, and that the views and priorities of disadvantaged communities are more likely to influence future decision making about the FSF and approaches to tackling disadvantage. Recent progress includes:
- A Community Engagement Group within the CPP has been established.
- Structural changes within the Council will bring together the FSF staff alongside community learning and development staff within a Community Support Team. It is hoped that this will build stronger links between the FSF, community engagement and community capacity building.
- There is significant community capacity building work going on locally. Focusing on disadvantaged groups, it is likely to help them influence a range of decision making in the future.
- The FSF Manager has been meeting with the Area Forums to get an understanding of local needs, seek their ideas on key priorities for the fund.
- A series of focus groups on poverty were recently commissioned with the Citizens' Panel. This research will inform future decisions on how concentrated disadvantage will be tackled.
Last year the CPP established an Equalities Forum, and it is hoped it will be influential in the future.
One respondent highlighted that it is important to engage communities to identify their issues, challenges and priorities, but within an outcome focused planning approach partners need to balance this against the "bigger picture". This means it is important to engage communities at a strategic level, rather than in allocating the funds.
Impact of the FSF
Given that 2008 / 2009 and the first quarter of 2009 / 2010 was treated as a transitional period, partners feel it is very early to know what impact the FSF has had.
But their approach appears to have changed compared with previous programmes - partners have very much viewed the fund as a catalyst. Based on that principle they are both testing new ideas in the short term (through a series of projects and a more strategic commissioning approach to services) and funding a core team (which will work to develop evidence and strategies that can affect mainstream budgets).
It is clear that previous experience has affected this new approach as well - the partners interviewed felt they had learned significantly from past approaches about partnership working, outcomes focused planning and service delivery.
Partners in Moray were agreed that there is still an ongoing need to tackle poverty and disadvantage in the area. This should focus on employability, young people, and financial inclusion.
Generally, there was agreement that the Community Planning Partnership would provide a sound structure for agreeing how poverty and disadvantage would be tackled in the future, and recent work (like the social inclusion strategy and the financial inclusion strategy being developed) would support this. Interviewees highlighted that the new structures needed time to bed in, and some governance issues needed to be resolved now that power to decide about the FSF had been delegated to the Community Planning Partnership.
Partners were generally happy that the SOA could be a tool in tackling disadvantage, although some felt more had to be done to integrate social inclusion into the SOA. Although the standalone FSF plan had a strong focus on poverty and disadvantage, it is much less reflected in the SOA. It is hoped that the current work to develop appropriate indicators relating to poverty will help with this.
There was general agreement that having a core team within the Council was a positive step, and would help keep disadvantage on the agenda, and drive forward work to tackle it within the Community Planning Partnership.
There was, however, concern about the removal of ring fencing. Council funds are under "significant pressure" and "seriously difficult" spending decisions will need to be made. On the other hand, the Council has handed responsibility for the fund to the CPP - it might be difficult to take it back in the future.
Others, however, felt ring fencing was not necessarily an issue. One interviewee felt that it will mean partners have to better demonstrate effectiveness to secure funding. But there were concerns about managing to do this within a short time frame. Another interviewee highlighted that there are opportunities to get better value out of current activities and services, and ring fenced funding has had a divisive effect on partnerships in the past.
Guidance and Support
Partners in Moray were confident about their ability to tackle poverty and disadvantage in the future. But felt strongly that the Government needs to do more to keep poverty on the agenda:
"We should be able to do it, but it needs pressure from above".
"Clarity of message and consistency and constancy are needed".
One interviewee emphasised that poverty and disadvantage has a real and significant impact across policy areas and communities, and work needs to be done both at a national and local level:
"The Scottish Government needs to up its game. It needs to influence government and partner agencies. It needs to be aware of the challenge and contribute to tackling it".
Some interviewees called for more good practice evidence, and support to develop appropriate targets and indicators at a national and local level.
About the case study
This case study has been written on the basis of a review of the SOAs prepared in 2008 and 2009; a questionnaire completed by the Community Planning and Development Manager at Moray Council and interviews with:
- Two members of staff at Moray Council
- One member of staff at NHS Grampian
- Three representatives from local partner organisations
The case study reflects our interpretation of the range of comments made and does not necessarily represent the views of the Community Planning Partnership.