SCVO and The Third Sector Interface Scotland Network have written to Natalie Don MSP, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise, to raise concerns about the administration of the Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund (CYPFAL TSF), and its predecessor funds, the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention (CYPFEI) Fund and the Adult Learning and Empowering Communities (ALEC) Fund.

The letter is signed by Anna Fowlie (SCVO), Anthea Coulter (Clacks TSI), Lesley Kelly (Midlothian Voluntary Action), and Bridie Ashrowan (EVOC). It follows our previous correspondence to the former Minister, Clare Haughey MSP, on 20 December 2022.

Dear Ms Don

Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund

Congratulations on your new post, and I’m sorry that our first contact is on such a negative note.

We are writing to express significant concerns and frustration around the Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund (CYPFAL) and its predecessor funds, the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention (CYPFEI) and the Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund (ALEC).

The administration of these funding streams has been subject to many challenges, delays and changes over their lifetime; you will find a chronology of this funding in Appendix 1 which sets out what has happened over the last 7 years.

We have also enclosed copies of our previous correspondence with Ms Haughey and officials in December and January, when we raised concerns about the most recent delays in decision-making and their impact on voluntary organisations.

We are writing to you to raise further concerns about the way in which decisions about the fund have been made and how they’ve been communicated.  It is unfortunately no overstatement to say that these recent developments have confirmed the administration of this fund by the Scottish Government as one of the worst the voluntary sector has experienced, impacting on children and families as well as the organisations that support them.

Much has changed since 2016, when the first applications were submitted to the CYPFEI & ALEC funds were submitted, yet the series of decisions made to delay and ultimately cancel successor funds means that in some cases organisations who were successful in 2016 are being funded for projects which, seven years later, may not be meeting the most pressing needs in their communities.  Furthermore, budgets for these projects have been at a standstill for seven years, while expectations around service delivery have remained the same, meaning that many organisations are subsidising the delivery of these services.

Organisations in receipt of CYPFEI and ALEC funding were given 9 days to accept the extension, before any notification of the outcome of their application to CYPFAL.

Many of those voluntary organisations have put significant time and effort into applying for funding first from the Families and Communities Fund and most recently from the CYPFAL fund, only to be told on each occasion that these new applications have been effectively withdrawn, with CYPEIF & ALEC funding being carried over instead.  This is a significant waste of scarce voluntary sector resources, and incredibly demoralising for the organisations involved. It’s also a waste of time and effort within the civil service.

Organisations applying to the new funds have faced periods of incredible uncertainty – waiting to hear the results of those applications, and for some organisations facing eight separate notifications of delay to the stated timetables. 

All of this also holds true for organisations making applications for the first time to the Families and Communities Fund or CYPFAL, who not only faced periods of uncertainty and delay, and who were disappointed to see a fund simply deleted, but saw no recognition of the considerable investment they had made.

Third sector organisations play a key role in supporting children, families and communities, particularly at times of crisis. Statutory services rely on them for specialist interventions. Voluntary organisations are particularly good at early intervention and prevention – more necessary than ever when councils are having to focus more and more on statutory, high tariff activities.

While the voluntary organisations involved are reeling from the way this process has been rolled out, the message that we’re hearing most often is a desire to ensure that lessons are learnt from this experience and mistakes are not repeated.  I will be making contact with your colleagues in other parts of Scottish Government to discuss this, but would urge the Children and Families team, in recognition of how badly this has been handled, to commit to a reflection exercise involving funded organisations and applicants which should not only improve future funding streams from this department, but also inform wider learning across Scottish Government.

Yours sincerely

Anna Fowlie, SCVO

Lesley Kelly, Midlothian Voluntary Action

Anthea Coulter, Clacks TSI

Bridie Ashrowan, EVOC

On behalf of SCVO and The Third Sector InterfaceScotland Network

Appendix 1: Chronology

  • Original fund:Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund (2016)
  • New fund 1:Families and Communities Fund (2019)
  • New fund 2:Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund (2023)

Original fund and new fund 1

2016:The Scottish Government established the Children, Young People & Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning & Empowering Communities (CYPFEI & ALEC) Fund in 2016 to enhance the core services and infrastructure of third sector organisations in relevant policy areas. In total 118 third sector organisations were awarded core funding of approximately £14m for 2016/17 with subsequent funding dependent on satisfactory progress towards their stated outcomes and Scottish Government budgets. Further annual core funding awards of £14m followed in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

2018:In March 2018, Scottish Government announced the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund would continue for a fourth year to the end of March 2020.   

2019:Applications were invited for the Families and Communities Fund to replace the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund 

Dec 2019: delay in decision on funding due to UK general election and impact on Scottish budget 

Feb 2020: fund delayed to July 20 due to delay in Scottish budget (with decisions to be announced March 20)

March 20: further 3-month delay in announcement due to Covid 

April 20: extension of CPFEI &ALEC until end March 2021 and plan to announce Families and Communities in September 20 

October 20: In light of the uncertainties associated with the continuing pandemic and the need for stability, Ministers have decided not to run the Family and Communities Fund in the financial year 2021/2022. Arrangements for funding from April 2022 will be outlined in due course.  Due to these ongoing challenges the CYPFEI/ALEC fund would continue until the end of March 2022.  

2021:Subsequent to the publication of Scottish Government’s Programme for Government in 2021, a further announcement was made in December 2021 that the CYPFEI & ALEC fund would now continue until the end of March 2023. 

New fund 2: Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund

In September 2021 Scottish Ministers committed to introduce the Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund. The fund is planned to run for two consecutive financial years from April 2023 until March 2025 providing up to £16m for each year. 

Expected timeline for delivering the Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund.

December 2022 – CYPFEI & ALEC funding extended for 3 months (April – June 23), orgs advised they would hear in March 2023 about CYPFAL funding to commence in July 2023 

20 March 2023 – CYPFEI & ALEC funding extended for 2 years to March 2025.  CYPFAL still to go ahead and further info on process/budget before end of March