The Healthy Communities Together programme

This programme offers up to £3 million of grant funding (over three years) to empower voluntary and community sector organisations to work together with the local health and care sector to boost the health and wellbeing of their communities.

Suitable for
Partnerships (see Who can apply?)
Funding size
Up to £500,000 over four years
Total available
up to £3 million
Application deadline

Applications are now closed

What is it about?

The Healthy Communities Together programme is now closed

We're no longer accepting applications for this fund – see more information on the successful partnerships

Healthy Communities Together is a new programme developed in partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and The King’s Fund.

The programme aims to support local areas to develop effective and sustainable partnerships between the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and local authorities to improve health and wellbeing, reduce health inequalities and empower communities.

As well as providing grant funding, the programme will support the development of relationships between partners, identifying and agreeing how best to work together, to ensure the involvement of organisations working across communities, and create a plan of activities.

The programme consists of two phases. In phase 1 starting in early 2021, six areas will receive up to £50,000 funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and a package of learning and development support from the King’s Fund for up to nine months to develop their partnership and project plans.

At the end of this phase, each site will be invited to apply for phase 2 of the programme for further funding and support.

Applications for phase 2 will be assessed on the strength of the partnerships that have developed, their involvement of relevant organisations working across communities, and the strength and feasibility of their project plans to deliver meaningful benefits for people and communities.

Successful partnerships will receive up to £450,000, as well as ongoing learning and development support from The King’s Fund, over a further three years.

We will reach a decision on phase 2 areas in 2021.

Who could apply?

We can fund a partnership (both new partnerships, and one that’s already been set up).

Partnerships must include:

  • a voluntary, community and social enterprise sector organisation
  • a local authority, and
  • an NHS organisation (including Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS Trusts and primary care bodies).

One organisation may make an application and hold the grant on behalf of the partnership. Partnerships will be required to demonstrate the commitment and contribution of each organisation involved by obtaining a letter of support from a senior leader in their respective organisation. Senior leaders are defined as:

  • the CEO or an executive director of an NHS trust or CIC/social enterprise NHS provider, or an accountable officer, executive team member or primary care lead of a Clinical Commissioning Group.
  • the local authority Director of Public Health
  • a senior leader from the local voluntary and community sector.

An NHS body, a Director of Public Health and a VCSE leader may only provide a letter of support for one partnership. (A Director of Public Health who covers more than one local authority area may support one partnership for each.)

We can’t accept applications from:

  • individuals
  • sole traders
  • organisations based outside England
  • anyone who’s applying for another organisation
  • organisations that look to make profits and share these profits out privately. This includes organisations without the right asset locks. Or organisations that can pay profits to directors or shareholders – this might mean some CICs limited by shares
  • organisations that don’t have at least two people on their board or committee who aren’t married, in a long-term relationship, living together at the same address, or related by blood.

The partnerships we fund

Partnerships must cover a defined ‘place’ in England. It is up to the partnership to define its place (this could include an established geography such as a Local Authority area, or one that fits with the population’s needs that you want to address).

We will expect you to explain why your definition of place is appropriate to the impact you want the partnership to have. We are unlikely to select partnerships working with small numbers of people, such as a local neighbourhood groups or an individual Primary Care Network, who may not be able to bring about change across the local health and care system.

The partnerships we support will have at least some foundations in place, such as a locally agreed ambition or some experience of working together: the partnership will not be people who are all meeting each other for the first time. But equally, the partnership will not be so mature that it has already developed and embedded ways of working together: there must still be learning available from trying out ‘what works’.

We would expect the partnership to consider wider local plans for improving health and wellbeing and engaging and empowering the community, so that we can see how your plans will complement existing work.

What will the partnerships do?

We are keen to support partnerships to develop ways for the VCSE and statutory sector to work together as genuine partners to improve the health and wellbeing of their local community, engage and empower their community, and reduce health inequalities.

This may include:

  • developing infrastructure to engage the VCSE and enable effective partnership
  • developing a local approach to measuring impact on health and wellbeing
  • co-producing ways of commissioning and delivering services for particular groups of people, such as groups who are marginalised, have complex needs or live with long-term conditions
  • developing a commissioning framework which supports the diversity of the VCSE sector locally (for example, including very small organisations) or
  • developing community-centred approaches which aim to involve and empower local people in improving health and wellbeing.

How could the grant funding and leadership support be used?

The grant funding and the learning and development support provided as part of this programme aims to build the capacity and capability of organisations to work in partnership to improve health.

Grant funding

  • We anticipate most grant funding being directed to voluntary and community organisations. Types of activities that it may support include:
  • staff salaries (including covering staff costs so they have time to work in the partnership without unduly impacting on the delivery of services).
  • time and resources associated with organising the partnership and its activities.
  • leadership and organisational development (including coaching, facilitation and consultancy)
  • running costs (for example, room hire for partnership activities or community engagement)
  • resources to support the involvement of groups who may be poorly represented in health and care
  • resources to support the gathering and sharing of learning across the area.
  • small-scale equipment
  • other activities depending on the plans for what the partnership will work on.

This is not a complete list, and areas will need to tell us how they want to spend the money.

Grants can be made to voluntary sector organisations, or to local authorities or NHS bodies, but they can’t be used to fund routine NHS or local authority services.

We can't fund:

  • activities that make profits for private gain
  • religious activities (but we can fund religious organisations if their project benefits the wider community and doesn’t include religious content)
  • activities that replace government funding (for example, we can’t fund health services or staff posts which would normally be funded as part of the NHS or local authority’s responsibilities for commissioning services)
  • activities that benefit individuals, rather than the wider community
  • political activities
  • things you’ve spent money on in the past and are looking to claim for now
  • loan repayments.

Learning and development support

In phase 1 each partnership will receive dedicated support from a Senior Leadership Consultant at The King’s Fund with extensive experience of supporting and developing leaders across the health and care system.

In addition, staff from The King’s Fund will support local areas to access and use evidence to support the development of their plans and to capture learning from the work.

Activities may include:

  • working with partners and organisations across a place to help them develop shared understanding, reach agreements and identify solutions
  • coaching to develop leadership capability
  • sharing ideas and learning between the partnerships we support
  • offering independent feedback as a ‘critical friend’ and source of evidence.

The partnerships

Following a joint panel with representatives from The National Lottery Community Fund and The King’s Fund, the following six partnerships were chosen for phase 1 of the programme. Each partnership includes voluntary organisations, NHS organisations and local authorities. In phase one, lasting nine months from February 2021, they will develop plans and test approaches.

As the programme progresses, The King’s Fund and TNLCF will also work with the Healthy communities together partnerships to identify and disseminate learning from their experience.

The partnerships in their own words

Coventry – Grapevine and partners

“The two problems we want to un-stick are health inequalities, which are persistent where we are, and the relationships between our sectors.

“We want to bring the whole system together – starting from individuals and moving out to their families, friends, neighbours, local voluntary sector groups and services, and then up to secondary and primary care – through a series of large, place-based conversations to hear and understand the story of lived experience, to explore together what an improved story would look like, and to plan how to create it together.

“In the first nine months we’re going to do that with people experiencing mental health issues who are going in and out of formal mental health services. The practical outcome that we want is to have a really well tested and refined model, that we can apply across the health and care system for other issues or cohorts of concern over the following three years.”

Croydon – One Croydon Alliance

“We’ve got a vision to transform how we deliver care and our One Croydon Alliance has been working hard to do this – moving power to local people and communities, focusing on the wider determinants of health and being proactive in preventing ill-health – but we know we need to do more to help reduce local health inequalities.

“We believe that the strong voluntary and community sector in Croydon is best placed to empower people to improve their wellbeing, and we have seen this in action in the collective local response to the pandemic. We want to build on and develop an even better quality of partnership for our borough. We want One Croydon to be part of a much broader coalition, connected to all sections of our community.

“We have huge differences in financial inequality and health inequality, so we really need programmes that are locality-based to meet the needs of people in different parts of the borough and we are starting to put these in place. Our focus over the first nine months as we develop our locality approach, will be to hear from people locally and act on what they tell us; to develop a new way of commissioning that brings our budgets together across health and the care; and leadership that fully involves the voluntary and community sector as well as the statutory bodies.”

Gloucestershire – Enabling Active Communities partnership

“We want to create sustainable, transformative change and rip up the rule book about how we work in partnership across the whole county.

“First, we want to widen the discussion that we’re having, deepen our understanding of people’s priorities, and be present in communities without an agenda or something set in our minds to work on together – genuinely be in communities listening to people and understanding their priorities. At the moment we would accept that we’re not reaching everyone, we’d like to create a partnership where everyone has an equal seat at the table and reach out to all of the VCS organisations in Gloucestershire, all of our communities, allowing everyone to have their voice heard. It’s about: together we are greater than the sum of our parts. So how can we, through real collaboration, find new and different ways to improve lives?

“What can we achieve through this? We aim for the stars in Gloucestershire: it’s kind of limitless really. We just want to completely change the way we’re doing things in the system, underpinned by the development of a culture and way of doing things, our ‘Gloucestershire Way’, that allows us to really ‘do with’ instead of ‘do to’.”

Leeds – Solidarity Network and partners

“Systems that work better for marginalised communities work better for all communities. We want to work on what does ‘commissioning from the margins’ look like, to create a model that could work for a range of marginalised groups. And to make a paradigm shift to support it, from transactional to mutual relationships between our local authority, NHS and VCS.

“We’re looking to ensure real participation and real ownership with our experts by lived experience and our communities. We haven’t pinned down the detail yet because we want to be taken there by our communities. But in the first nine months we’re looking to develop a learning partnership of organisations who can be ready to approach the challenge of systems change in Leeds. We’ll bring together a steering group including the Solidarity Network, NHS and public health and most importantly experts by lived experience. We’re going to resource that properly and ensure it is meaningful interaction with our communities which can translate their stories into actions.

“In the first nine months a lot of the focus will be on system mapping: across all the different structures we’ll be looking at where marginalised communities appear, how they appear, how that has led to change, whether it supports collaborative and mutual relationship building, whether participation is real. We’ll also map out who are the leaders at those points of the system, where is their power and what is their passion, so that we can understand the levers and the points where we can make real change happen.”

Newham – Well Newham partnership

“Throughout the Covid response we’ve done a lot of prototyping in Newham so we’re taking that and we’re running with it. We’re looking to engage residents from ethnic minority groups and faith communities to co-produce prototypes for interventions to improve diet and weight management that are trauma informed, that include mental health impact and are developed with the local population.

“In phase one, we think we’ll prototype 10 interventions and prioritise five to pilot. We’re looking at tailoring them to different groups, working with them to identify what an intervention would look like that they would be able to engage with and would meet their needs.

“We know we’re not going to get to behaviour change if we haven’t dealt with all the upstream things – think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all those upstream things like you’re not going to work on your diet if your housing is all over the place or you’re depressed or you’re experiencing domestic violence. So, our interventions need to connect with others across the hierarchy of needs and also with people’s lived experience in relation to finance and employment and their built environment. That means us thinking and working with partners across the borough in ways that are really quite different to the current ways, taking a whole system approach.”

Plymouth – Plymouth Octopus Project (POP) and partners

“We know social connection and isolation are strongly linked to health inequalities so our aim is to build connected communities, but the question really is how, because there’s not a single approach to building social connection and there’s not a single approach to building communities. The only way that we’re going to understand it is by talking to people about what social connection means in their lives. And if we can have that conversation in a participatory, open way we enable more to come out of it.

“If you’re having a conversation with someone about their social connections they’re not going to talk just about services, they might talk about their gardener coming in, or their neighbour – so what would it look like if we had a conversation with a bunch of gardeners across Plymouth about the social good they provide by the act of just taking care of somebody’s garden and having that cup of tea when they do so?

“We’ve had a history in Plymouth of conversations which developed into community hubs, the complex lives alliance… big developments which joined services up to people. What we’re hoping we can do is not just transform the system through changes to services but actually transform the city in terms of the movement-building we want to see.”