Help co-produce Tower Hamlets Council's new Grants Policy

Tower Hamlets Council has committed to co-producing its new Grants Policy with local VCS groups and community members.  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.

The projects 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, which will start in February 2018 will be to look 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 structures 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 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. There is a separate piece of work happening to look at the future of Mainstream Grants and when details are available to us we will let people know more about this here and through our bulletins.

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. First we are asking about the broader policy framework (until mid-December 2017) and in early 2018 we will be asking about the process of measuring impact, application forms and other details

We will be running a series of events and focus groups, to collect as much feedback as possible, up until mid-December 2017.  From January 2018 onward, we will be asking people about their experiences applying for grants and showing impact. This second phase of co-production will influence the monitoring and application processes for grants. 

The Council anticipate making decisions on the policy framework in the New Year 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.