Tower Hamlets Council has committed to co-producing its new Grants Policy with local VCS groups and community members. THCVS is supporting this work and has been running events, taking notes, and updating these pages with information. We would like many people as possible who might be affected by, or who might want to apply for council funded grants to get involved.
UPDATE, March 2018:
The work we have done so far has produced a policy framework for the grants programme which will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on 20 March 2018. A draft version of this framework is available here. From 13 March you can read the full report Cabinet 20 March 2018 - Agenda.
The policy framework sets out:
- The rationale for grants
- Initial themes for different funding streams within the grants programme
- Eligibility criteria
- Levels of funding
- Decision making and accountability
You will find details of all the sessions which have taken place so far, copies of presentations and feedback below.
The second phase of the development of the grants programme has started and we are now looking at:
Priorities and outcomes for each funding theme;
The application process;
How applications will be assessed;
How projects will be evaluated and monitored.
We will be discussing the grants programme at the following meetings:
Please book a place if you are intending to come along.
You may not be able to attend any of the sessions – we appreciate there is a lot going on at the moment. However, you can still contribute to the development of the grants programme by completing a short questionnaire which asks for your views and suggestions, available here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/councilgrants .
Please complete the questionnaire and pass on the link to others, particularly if you are part of an organisation or community group which feels it has not had the opportunity to get funding from the Council in the past.
If you prefer a face to face conversation but cannot attend any of the events, David Freeman from Tower Hamlets Council will be holding two drop in sessions, one at the Town Hall in Mulberry Place on 9th April from 1.00 to 5.00 in room MG4 (on the ground floor) and the second on 11 April from 11.00 to 2.00 at the Brady Arts and Community Centre, 192, Hanbury Street, E1 5HU. You don’t need to make an appointment but it would be helpful if you could send an email to let him know you are coming.
We are planning feedback sessions after Easter to bring together all of the comments and suggestions we have received and publish a summary of them alongside the draft programme. There will then be a short opportunity for further discussion before the final draft of the programme is presented to Councillors in June.
Tower Hamlets Council expects the grants programme will be launched officially in the summer and applications invited for projects starting in April 2019.
Over 70 organisations took part in the development of the grants policy framework before Christmas which shows a tremendous interest in and commitment to developing a grants programme which will meet the needs of small and emerging voluntary and community groups in the future. Please contribute to the second stage of developing the grants programme and help make it a truly co-produced project.
The grants project has two phases:
1.) The Framework
In the last part of 2017, Elvis Langley (then employed as Interim Development Manager at THCVS) worked with a wide range of organisations to gather experiences and ideas about
• What should be funded through grants rather than commissioning
• What the eligibility criteria for grants should include
• What works at the moment and what could be improved on
The work was conducted through a series of workshops, one to one meetings and a follow up survey. You can read a write up of the events and findings in our blogs section.
All the evidence and feedback has been utilised to create a Draft Grants Framework, which will be taken to the LBTH Cabinet for agreement this spring.
The initial grant themes are:
- Innovation: to encourage innovation or pilot something new,especially where there is a gap;
- Prevention: to promote grass roots activity to reduce the need for statutory services;
- Neighbourhood action: to promote local neighbourhood initiatives
- Community cohesion: to develop community resilience, promote cultural opportunities and reduce social isolation
- Capacity building: to enable smaller organisations to become more sustainable, where appropriate providing core funding to lever in other resources
- Partnership working: making the sector more effective through closer partnership working within the sector and across sectors.
In addition, there will be two cross cutting themes:
- Community cohesion - developing community resilience, promoting cultural opportunities and reducing social isolation in the context of the theme, and
- Equality and diversity - demonstrating how people with protected equalities characteristics will be included
2.) The detail
The next phase, in 2018, is looking at how the new grants programme should work. This will mean developing an application and assessment process. We want to look at how applications are structured and what questions should be asked, how decisions should be made and who should be involved.
Stay informed & share your views
The second phase of the work will be be run by Gemma Cossins (now back in the Development Manager role.) Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions about the development of the grants process. We want to hear from you about how to get the best feedback from the people you work with, so everyone's interests are represented.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Which grants will be affected?
The new policy will apply to all grants made by the Council to VCS organisations and, as far as possible, they will form part of one corporate programme. All current small grants programmes will be affected, including the Events Fund and the Small Grants to Pensioners Groups budget.
Most funding from the Council in the future will be through commissioning. This piece of co-production is not about Mainstream Grants.
The Council expect that most of the current Mainstream Grants programme will be commissioned in the future. you can find more about this in the Community Commissioning section of our website.
Why do Tower Hamlets Council want to change their grants policy?
The Tower Hamlets Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Strategy outlined that the Council are moving towards funding through commissioning but also set out strategic reasons to retain grants in clearly defined circumstances in the borough.
These might include enabling smaller local groups to engage in grant applications through capacity building, responding better to local need and streamlining the current grants processes, in response to other changes outlined in the 2016-19 VCS strategy.
What does this mean for VCS organisations and groups in the borough?
Once the new grants policy has been implemented it will replace existing grants schemes. Organisations and groups that have been applying for council run small grants will apply under the new grants programme in the future. Therefore it is really important that the new grants framework works for everyone.
What is the timeline for the changes?
The process of co-production will be in two stages. In winter 2017 we asked about the broader policy framework and in early 2018 we are asking about the process of measuring impact, application forms and other details.
The Council anticipate making decisions on the policy framework at the March 20th Cabinet meeting and then the development of the detailed scheme and processes will be agreed later in the year in time for a summer launch of the new grants programme.
Will my current grant be affected?
No - your current grant will continue as normal.
Is this about cuts to grants?
The future grants budget is not decided. We have room in the VCS to influence policy decision via our involvement and the arguments we make for (or against) budgetary decisions that elected officials make. Although we may not always get what we want, this part of our role in representing the communities that we work with. The Council has said the grants policy is intended to stimulate greater and more effective support for the VCS, not reduce it and that this principle will inform the final amount allocated to the grants budget
By working on this project we have a chance to state our case for the future shape of grants in Tower Hamlets. This is why it is so important that the council and everyone involved works together.
Why should I get involved?
You know best the needs of people in the borough and also what works and doesn't work as far as funding is concerned. By getting involved you offer your experience and wisdom to ensure the new grants policy and process works for you.
What is THCVS's role in deciding the new grants policy?
THCVS won't get to decide what the new grants policy will be, but we want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to influence the changes that will happen. We will be putting on a series of events, surveys and focus groups to involve as many people and organisations as we can.
As facilitators, we will provide forums where you can talk directly to council officers and other people who will be affected by the grants. We are also available to speak to directly, if you would like to give us feedback. Once we have collected responses we will represent you.