Knowledge, skills, capacity, and equalities
This section focuses on knowledge, skills, capacity and equalities issues in the third sector organisations supported by the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund. It presents baseline findings from the self-assessment survey plus a summary of relevant issues raised during consultations with the sample of funded organisations, Policy Officers and stakeholders.
Knowledge, skills and capacity overview
Third sector survey respondents gave a very positive assessment of the knowledge and skills available to deliver their organisations' core aims, rating these issues as 8.8 and 8.5 out of 10 respectively. A lower, but still positive rating of 6.9 out of 10 was provided for organisations' capacity (including staff, buildings and equipment) to deliver core aims.
|On a scale of one to ten, please rate…||Average rating|
|The knowledge available in your organisation to deliver your core aims||8.8|
|The skills available in your organisation to deliver your core aims||8.5|
|Your organisation's capacity to deliver your core aims within an organisation including staff, buildings and equipment||6.9|
A number of funded organisations commented on general reductions in the levels of funding available to third sector organisations in recent years, highlighting the impact this has had on overall capacity, or the pressure this has placed on small staff teams. Several noted that increased competition for funding - and the resultant time or resource implication - was having a negative impact on overall capacity and growth prospects. This included organisations' ability to make strategic changes and service improvements, or to carry out research and analysis in support of longer-term planning.
"Generating income/grant support for head office …is an ongoing challenge with a huge amount of time, skills and capacity directed to fund-finding rather than organisational development and service improvement". (Third sector funded organisation).
A particular concern was that services were experiencing growing demand due to wider social and economic conditions, and the policy directives summarised in section 1 of this report, while reductions in funding were affecting organisations' capacity and ability to meet this demand.
"While we have the skills and knowledge, capacity has been compromised due to funding cuts and increased demand for services". (Third sector funded organisation).
"The funding helps us to change what we do and who we serve, the last few years have seen a lot of demand relating to people with complex support needs". (Third sector funded organisation).
"Look at the GIRFEC agenda - keying into statutory structures requires capacity". (Stakeholder).
One Policy Officer noted that staff turnover had been an issue for some of their funded organisations and, in their view had impacted on the organisations' work. This Officer added that CYPFEI & ALEC funding contributes to staff costs in these organisations, which they envisaged would help address this capacity issue. One third sector organisation stated that sector as a whole was experiencing high levels of staff turnover, partly caused by relatively static salary levels, and organisations were also facing difficulties recruiting new staff, particularly in rural areas.
Many third sector organisations, by definition, rely on the help of volunteers. One consultee highlighted the ongoing challenge organisations face in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers, especially in rural areas. It was suggested that low self-confidence and self-esteem of potential volunteers contribute to this challenge.
Knowledge and skills
Funded organisations were generally confident about the knowledge and skills developed within their organisations, especially their detailed knowledge of a range of issues affecting service users. Many staff have developed proficiency in complex areas such as child protection and risk management, though many were concerned about the impact of staff turnover and funding constraints on their ability to maintain skill levels.
"We are building layers of learning about cultural trends, context and severity, including research with specific communities that allows us to understand the risks …the information we have built up on prevalence, practice and approach is disseminated through training". (Third sector funded organisation).
"We have been able to bring others up from the minimum wage, which will help to keep some of the excellent staff and skills within the organisation". (Third sector funded organisation).
Many funded organisations highlighted their willingness to share these lessons to or train other service providers, agencies and professionals (especially secondary/ umbrella bodies). This was acknowledged by Policy Officers who commended their funded organisations for their in-depth knowledge. Some Policy Officers had worked closely with organisations on initiatives in the past and had utilised their expertise to help inform the work.
"They are very clued up on prevention and early intervention, equality issues and targeting disadvantaged communities". (Policy Officer).
Some Policy Officers felt the funded organisations tended to undersell what they do and the impact of their work to external audiences. However, there were views that this was improving and the Fund could contribute further to this.
"They seem to be slowly getting better about selling what they do, developing case studies showing the impacts this can have in other areas". (Policy Officer).
"I hope the Fund contributes by increasing awareness of the impacts an organisation is having and helping them to sell their work better. A key question is how do you get volunteers and managers to think about and recognise the impact of what they are doing on young people, without putting them off?" (Policy Officer).
"The organisations can sometimes undersell what they do… people don't understand their reach and scale". (Policy Officer)
Third sector survey respondents highlighted skills and knowledge gaps and shortages. This included specific skills such as digital and multimedia capabilities or data and analytical skills, as well as specialist/dedicated staff in areas such as human resources, fundraising, policy, marketing or communications. A specific issue was also highlighted regarding the planned introduction of minimum qualification levels required for residential care workers.
A third sector stakeholder suggested that financial pressures made it difficult for the sector as a whole to implement quality assurance procedures such as European Quality Management Framework which require significant resources - both financial and human. However, the Fund appears to be assisting some organisations to address this issue. For example, one consultee explained their organisation is utilising CYPFEI & ALEC funding to enhance its Investors in People procedures (as well as to strengthen its finance and personnel functions). Another organisation is using the funding to support a central post who is working on quality assurance issues with service delivery staff across Scotland including the introduction of internal quality audits.
Third sector survey respondents were very positive in their assessment of equalities issues. Understanding of equality issues (9.1) was rated marginally more positively than the way these issues have been integrated in the planning and delivery of core services (8.6).
|On a scale of one to ten, please rate…||Average rating|
|The extent to which your organisation's staff understand equality issues||9.1|
|The extent to which equality issues are integrated in the way your organisation's core services are delivered||8.6|
|The extent to which equality issues are integrated in the planning of your organisation's core services||8.6|
There was a strong consensus across consultees that the funded organisations, and the third sector more generally, are absolutely committed to promoting equality and diversity, and to upholding the rights of individuals and groups with a protected characteristic identified in the Equalities Act 2010. It was noted that many of the organisations existed specifically to promote or protect minority groups. It was also widely reported that no third sector organisation set out to deliberately discriminate. A number of the funded organisations provided examples of the ways in which they have implemented policies and guidelines, updated practices ( e.g. recruitment, partner selection) or delivered training to ensure that they fully address equalities issues.
Some of the comments from survey respondents and consultees suggested that the size of a third sector organisation may have a bearing on the degree to which equalities issues can be integrated into the planning and delivery of core services. A small number of Policy Officers and stakeholders commented that smaller third sector organisations (where their policies appeared to be less formal or not as well documented) may find it more difficult than larger organisations to demonstrate to funders their commitment to equalities. One added that this was essentially a capacity issue that the Fund may directly or indirectly help to address; an example was cited of a funded organisation introducing a part-time Policy Officer who will focus on equalities issues. A small number of third sector organisations raised similar concerns, commenting on the resource implications of dealing with people with significant needs, or the fact that they lack specialist language skills or access to (external) advice on accessibility of materials.
"We don't have the staff capacity to work beyond a certain level of need. We therefore are currently not able to involve children with severe complex needs in our mainstream processes". (Third sector funded organisation).
Only a small number of third sector survey respondents - all larger organisations - specifically commented on undertaking analysis of their organisation's reach or on evaluating the impact of their activities amongst specific groups.
"[We are] committed to equality of opportunity and … the extensive use of data to identify those groupings of young people who may not be gaining access". (Third sector funded organisation).
"We use social media and do mapping and targeting of disadvantaged areas, employing outreach staff to go into unemployment hotspots or areas that are under-served". (Third sector funded organisation).
Two other noteworthy equalities issues were raised, although neither was widely discussed. A small number of third sector survey respondents commented on the need to influence the practices of other agencies, including statutory providers, regarding equalities issues, for example in the way that referral decisions are made. One stakeholder raised a very different issue, noting that the diversity of staff and board members in third sector organisations does not fully reflect the sector's intrinsic commitment to equality and suggested that organisations should consider their internal, as well as their external, processes more closely.
Email: Steven Fogg
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House