Access publishes new data from Cost-of-Living programme

Early insights into the Cost of Living Programme, and the evolving role of blended finance in social interventions.

Since December 2016, Access has been regularly publishing dashboards. These provide insight into the work we do with our partners to support charities and social enterprises to access the finance they need to sustain or grow their impact. We share data that cuts across all programmes and specific data for each programme.

In Autumn of 2023, Access launched a new £11m Cost of Living programme. Partly funded by Dormant Assets, the programme supports charities and social enterprises that are using trading models to reach those facing the brunt of acute cost-of-living pressures. There are now 11 partners busy distributing funds – including £1.6 million over the last quarter alone through blended finance or enterprise development grants.

Click here to see the dashboard.

(Scroll to page 10 to view the Cost-of-Living data). 

11 partners distributing funds £1.77m total investment (inc. grant) £1.6m in the last quarter 64 VCSEs 61% delivered to IMD 1-3 £17.5k average grant

Insights so far

We’ve gathered data from our partners on funds distributed during the first quarter of the programme (October – December 2023). Even though the data is representative of only the first 10% of funds of this programme, it provides some useful early intelligence.

As we build dashboards, we look to consider both what data is of interest across all our programmes, and what is important in the context of a specific programme. The Cost-of-Living programme has unique aspects compared to others:

  1. For the first time, partners can offer a combination of grant-only funds and/or blended finance funds (other than Local Access, our special place-based Programme).
  2. This is Access’ first blended finance programme whereby there is a specific impact focus – i.e. supporting VCSEs who are supporting people impacted by acute cost of living pressures through enterprise-based services.
  3. The programme is more time-sensitive than others – given the immediacy of need for individuals linked to cost-of-living pressures, the programme aims to have all funds deployed within 12 months (October 23 – September 24)

Visualising the data from our partners shows a number of points of interest, for example – in terms of VCSEs supported to date we can explore:

  • Trends in terms of cost-of-living impact: we can see that mental health is currently the most common type of cost-of-living related intervention supported. And within that category we can explore the end-users receiving such support – for instance nearly 25% of those receiving mental health support are children and young people.
  • Reach of funding in terms of areas of deprivation: we can see that 61% of funds to date have been deployed to VCSEs primarily supporting people in the 30% most deprived areas of England (i.e. IMD 1 – 3). This is expectedly higher than our cross-programme comparison of 50%, however, it falls short of our programme objective of 80% of all funds being distributed to the top 30%. This is a useful reminder that it’s useful to collect and visualise our data early in a programme life cycle, so we can understand and react where needed.

We can also explore the types of funds distributed to date and the profiles of organisations they’re reaching. For example:

  • an interesting point we can see is that over 60% of “grant-only” funds are distributed to current investees – which indicates VCSEs currently repaying social investment require grant to be able to sustain or increase the capacity of their cost-of-living focused interventions.
  • Separately, 65% of those receiving blended finance through the programme are receiving social investment for the first time. This is a bigger proportion than our Flexible Finance programme (currently 46%) and is perhaps a result of the higher levels of grant available in individual deals (i.e. generally up to 50% of the total investment).

Still early days

During the first quarter around 50% of our programme partners have been active, and only 10% of programme funds have been distributed. As we work through the next three quarters, we expect trends to evolve, and there may well be new occurrences we want to explore and share.

But the early signs are that enterprise models and blended finance can play an important role in the delivery of interventions supporting acute needs owed to the cost-of-living crisis. But as we continue through the programme, we’re keen to learn more about where this is occurring successfully and where traditional grant is still ultimately required.