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The Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund has been established to provide grants to small, grassroots community groups and organisations. This funding comes in response to the mental health need arising from the pandemic and the intended outcome of The Fund is to develop a culture of mental wellbeing and prevention within local communities and across Scotland with improved awareness of how we can all stay well and help ourselves and others. Over £631,000 will be distributed in Aberdeenshire. Applications will be assessed by the AVA team on a rolling basis to enable faster distribution of the funds.


- Guidance Notes For Applicants -

Click on the sections below for more information:

In February 2021, an additional £120 million was announced by the Scottish Government for a Recovery and Renewal Fund for delivery of the commitments set out in the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan. This funding comes in response to the mental health need arising from the pandemic and is also intended to benefit the full agenda for mental health and wellbeing in line with the four areas of key need set out in the Plan.

On 15th October 2021, and as part of this funding, Kevin Stewart MSP, the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care announced a new Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults (The Fund), with £15 million being made available in 2021- 22. This is the first year of a likely two-year fund to support mental health and well-being in communities across Scotland. The Fund will be distributed by Third Sector Interfaces (TSI’s) who will act as lead partners to community groups and organisations within their respective Local Authority areas. The NRAC funding formula has been used to allocate £631,630.61 to Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action for distribution to groups and organisations across Aberdeenshire by the 31st March 2022. Projects supported during this first year of funding must be complete by 31st March 2023.

The intended outcome of the Fund is to develop a culture of good mental wellbeing and prevention of poor mental health within local communities and across Scotland, with improved awareness of how we can all stay well whilst helping ourselves and others. The Fund seeks to contribute to the four key areas of focus from the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan

  • Promoting and supporting the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing at population level.
  • Providing accessible signposting to help, advice and support.
  • Providing a rapid and easily accessible response to those in distress.
  • Ensuring safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness.

The Fund also seeks to contribute to the following national outcomes from the National Performance Framework:

  • We are healthy and active.
  • We will live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.
  • We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally.

In line with the Scottish Government’s long-term outcomes for mental health in communities, The Fund intends to provide stable investment for:

  • Fostering a strategic and preventative approach to improving community mental health.
  • Supporting the resilience of communities and investing in their capacity to develop their own solutions, including through strong local partnerships.
  • Tackling the social determinants of mental health by targeting resources and collaborating with other initiatives to tackle poverty and inequality.

The overarching aim of The Fund is to support community-based initiatives that promote and develop good mental health and wellbeing, and/or mitigate and protect against the impact of distress and mental ill health within the adult population, with a particular focus in 2021/22 on:

  1. Tackling priority issues within the Transition and Recovery Plan such as suicide prevention, social isolation and loneliness, prevention, and early intervention.
  2. Addressing the mental health inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic and the needs of a range of ‘at risk’ groups locally.
  3. Supporting small ‘grass roots’ community groups and organisations to deliver such activities.
  4. Providing opportunities for people to connect with each other, build trusted relationships and revitalise communities.
  5. Supporting recovery and creativity locally by building on what is already there, what was achieved through the pandemic, and by investing in creative solutions.

On the 18th October 2021, AVA opened a targeted partnership consultation process to understand the different perspectives and experiences of over 150 people and organisations who work with communities, and who work in the mental health and wellbeing arena. Consultation recipients included representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeenshire’s Health & Social Care Partnership, NHS Grampian, Aberdeenshire’s Community Planning Partnership, Aberdeenshire’s Rural Partnerships, and a selection of representative third sector organisations.

The partnership consultation elicited a range of responses relating to local needs and included reference to the differing needs of communities of geography as well as communities of at-risk groups. There were three primary categories of need that emerged from the responses which were:

  1. Consequences of expected and unexpected hardship, including but not limited to lack of employment; addictions; and the rising cost of food.
  2. Consequences of geographic and technological isolation, including but not limited to access to transport; digital technologies; and like-minded people in nearby locations to connect with.
  3. Consequences of reduced access to medical services, including but not limited to diagnostic services; intervention services; and care-providing services.

The Fund will therefore be sympathetic to applications from groups and organisations that are specifically seeking to support people in their communities who are faced with these challenges. In particular, applications are particularly welcome from groups and organisations that will be seeking to support people who are experiencing two or more of these challenges as those people are more likely to be unable to change their situation without additional support and may experience decline in their mental health and wellbeing at a faster rate.

The ambition of The Fund is to support initiatives which promote mental health and wellbeing at a small scale, grass roots, community level. It will be accessible to all groups, no matter how small or inexperienced they are (including unconstituted groups). It can support both new and existing groups or projects, and it is AVA’s intention that new and unconstituted groups will be supported with governance, funding and volunteering advice that facilitates them to build internal capacity. These do not have to have mental health and wellbeing as their main focus, but their application does have to clearly benefit the mental health and wellbeing of people in the community that they serve. 

Applications can be accepted from a range of community & voluntary, ‘not for profit’ organisations, associations, groups and clubs or consortiums/partnerships who have a strong community focus for their activities. The range of organisations that can apply are:

  • Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIO)
  • Unincorporated Associations
  • Companies Limited by Guarantee
  • Trusts
  • Not-for-profit company or asset locked company or Community Interest Companies (CIC)
  • Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies
  • Community Councils

Unconstituted groups will have the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £2,000, and where a group does not have access to a bank account for their organisation, constituted groups and organisations will be able to hold a grant for them (providing a letter of agreement is provided with their application). This is to enable smaller, ‘heart of the community’ type groups to benefit from The Fund and deliver their services/projects within their neighbourhoods.

The focus of The Fund is on the adult population and on projects which help whole communities and/or community groups to make a difference to the lives of individuals. For the purposes of The Fund, the adult population is people aged 16 years and over. We recognise that this will present some overlap with Children and Young People Community Support Funding although that funding is focused on targeted CYP projects.

Through the assessment process, AVA and the external assessors will ensure that funding is allocated to initiatives which have a focus on delivering against the aims and principles of The Fund as described previously.

The Fund will support applications for the expansion of existing activities, but emphasis will be placed on applications that provide additionality and not on providing replacement funding.

Identified ‘At Risk’ Populations
The Scottish Government has identified that evidence shows the pandemic has exacerbated existing mental health inequalities and has had a disproportionate impact on the mental wellbeing of a range of groups in society. Applications are strongly encouraged from groups and organisations that are delivering projects which are inclusive of (but not necessarily exclusive to) the following priority ‘at risk’ groups:

  • Women (particularly young women, and women affected by male sexual violence).
  • People with a long-term health condition or disability.
  • People who are or have been on the highest risk (previously shielding) list.
  • People from a Minority Ethnic background.
  • Refugees and those with no recourse to public funds.
  • People facing socio-economic disadvantage.
  • People experiencing severe and multiple disadvantages.
  • People with diagnosed mental illness.
  • People affected by psychological trauma (including adverse childhood experiences).
  • People who have experienced bereavement or loss.
  • People disadvantaged by geographical location (particularly remote and rural areas).
  • Older people.
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.

Where possible, applicants should outline how they will address intersectionality (i.e. multiple-marginalisation, such as those experiencing both poverty and disability) and how their project specifically benefits any given community in an intersectional way. Consideration will be given to applications from groups to support advocacy for people at a local level to access care and help with signposting of the community supports being funded.

Specific Examples of What Can be Funded
AVA understands that much of the work carried out by groups within the community, voluntary and third sectors contributes in some way to supporting people in their communities, with outcomes that can loosely relate to promoting better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people. However, because of the broad nature of community-based work, it is not intended to support delivery of specific clinical treatment services such as counselling or other therapy-based interventions. The following list outlines what can and can’t be supported by this fund; it is not exhaustive, and we encourage groups to contact AVA to seek further guidance if applications don’t easily fit into one of the categories that we can fund.

We can fund:

  • Equipment
  • One-off events
  • Hall hire for community spaces
  • Training costs
  • Transport
  • Utilities/running costs
  • Volunteer expenses
  • Small capital spend up to £10,000 (i.e. land or building projects*)
  • Staff costs (noting this is a 2-year fund therefore one off or fixed term)
  • Helping people to stay safe (PPE for small gatherings/group activity)

*Evidence must be provided that the applicant will have unhindered access to the land or building for 5 years after the funded project has ended, and where it is likely to be required, that planning permission has already been granted.

We cannot fund:

  • Contingency costs, loans, endowments or interest
  • Electricity generation and feed-in tariff payment
  • Political or religious campaigning
  • Profit-making/fundraising activities
  • VAT you can reclaim
  • Statutory activities
  • Overseas travel
  • Alcohol

The Fund will be open for applications in two phases:

  • Phase 1 is now closed..
  • Phase 2 will open for applications on Wednesday 5th January 2022, and close on Tuesday 15th March 2022 (or once all funds have been allocated, whichever is sooner).

From Thursday 10th March 2022, applications will only be considered for grants of up to £2,000.

Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action will lead assessment teams comprising of AVA staff and a small number of external, public sector panel members working within cognisant areas who will meet on a weekly basis to assess applications. Whilst ensuring that governance of the fund is of a high standard, it is also AVA’s aim to make payments on a weekly basis to successful applicants so that the funding can get to work faster. It is anticipated that in the best-case scenario when there are no additional queries about an application and after the funds have been received by AVA from the Scottish Government, the longest a group might have to wait between application and payment is 14 working days.

The application form has been designed using Microsoft Forms, but there is no expectation that any group or organisation requires a Microsoft licence to be able to access the application form. Applications will normally only be accepted online using the designated form. Whilst at first glance, the form looks to be long and complicated, most questions are about the organisation making the application or are check boxes. Only a small number of questions specifically relating to substance of the project require a longform answer.

Guidance on, and a template for, completing the application form: There is no facility to save the application form during the application process. AVA has therefore created a downloadable version of the application form that can be completed prior to accessing the online form. Applicants will then be able to copy and paste information into the free text boxes of the online form.

Supporting document templates are available below in the 'Useful links & documents section'.
*Any supporting files submitted with applications must have the organisations name in the title of the file*
*supporting documents must be emailed to before your application can be processed*

Access AVA’s support request form here. During both application phases, and specifically for equalities purposes, a team of AVA’s Development Officers will be available to provide support to groups who, for legitimate reasons require additional help to complete the application form. They will be available to discuss applications with groups and organisations, although engagement in those discussions will not form any guarantee that applications will be approved during the assessment process. This team of Development Officers will not be involved in assessing any applications and will have no input to the assessment process to influence any decisions.

Once an application has been received, AVA will check to ensure that all key pieces of information are complete (including but not limited to bank details and declarations) and check that the required attachments have been received and are able to be opened. AVA will endeavour to contact groups and organisations as soon as possible if there is a need for clarification or additional information, but this may mean that the application cannot be considered in the next available assessment round.

Due to ongoing work of AVA staff and external panel members, the assessment team will only meet once a week to assess any complete applications received in the preceding week. Depending on the number of applications received in any given week, a second assessment team will be on standby to enable as many applications as possible to be considered during that week. All assessors will be required to complete a declaration of Interests form prior to joining the assessment team. If an application is received from any group or organisation that is named on anyone’s declaration of interests' form, that person will not be able to assess the application and will be substituted for the purpose of that individual application.

The Assessment Panel will be made up of the following as a minimum for all level 1 applications:

  • Either of the AVA Chief Executive Officer or the AVA Head of Development who will act as Chair of the Panel.
  • Two AVA Development Officers (one of whom will normally be AVA’s Funding Officer*) who have not acted as a part of the team of officers to have advised any groups throughout the applications process.

*Neither Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action, its staff, or any external member panel member will be liable for any loss (real or perceived) should a group or organisation’s application not be successful during the assessment process.

Not Applicable to applications submitted after 10th March 2022: The Assessment Panel will be made up of the following as a minimum for all level 2 and 3 applications:

  • Either of the AVA Chief Executive Officer or the AVA Head of Development who will act as Chair of the Panel.
  • Two AVA Development Officers (one of whom will normally be AVA's Funding Officer**) who have not acted as a part of the team of officers to have advised any groups throughout the applications process and External panel members.
  • Two panel members from an available team of six who have received full briefing on The Fund and the assessment criteria.

**AVA’s Funding Officer, through their normal line of work, may have advised groups and organisations that they may wish to consider applying to the Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund but they will not have provided any direct application advisory support in any way.

Once an assessment has been completed, the chair of the panel will initiate the administration process whereby applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application which will normally be one of the following:

  1. Your application has been approved and a grant offer letter will be sent for you to sign and return to AVA before we can make a payment to you.
  2. Your application is on hold because we need more information from you. We will ask for any specific information that we need, and your application will be considered again when the assessment team next meets if we have received everything we have asked for.
  3. Your application has not been approved, and we are not able to offer you a grant from this fund. If this is the case, we will provide some brief feedback on why we feel this is the case.

The Payment Process
AVA is aiming to make payments for any approved grants on a weekly basis. If your application has been approved, and we have received a signed grant acceptance form before the payment cycle is completed, then payment will be made. If the grant acceptance letter has not been received before the payment cycle is completed, payment will be made in the next available payment cycle. For clarity, no payment cycle will occur between Tuesday 21st December 2021 and Sunday 9th January 2022.

All grants that are provided by The Fund will require an evaluation to be undertaken.

For all projects, the evaluation will be required to have been received by AVA within 30 days of the end date of the project. This end date will be assumed to be the expected end date as provided in the application form unless the applicant has notified us otherwise.

Interim reports will be sought for any project lasting more than 6 months in duration, at the 6-month point. This will be assumed to be six months after the start date as provided in the application form unless the applicant has notified us otherwise.

If you have any specific questions about an application that you are thinking of submitting, you can get in touch with us. To access support relating to The Fund, the application process, or for any other reason, please use the following methods:

  • Complete the Support Request Form here. Your enquiry will be passed to the most appropriate person, and you will be contacted via the method you have requested within the form.
  • Phone 03718 110008 between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Thursday.

Application Form

Fill in the application form here ->

Useful supporting documents and links are in the guidance notes above.