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  • Writer's pictureWavehill

Evaluating the Covid Outbreak Management Fund (COMF)


The impact of Covid-19 on people’s health and wellbeing have not been felt uniformly across society, but has disproportionately fuelled negative health outcomes for those already disadvantaged in society. These deeper impacts on health and wellbeing, communities and cohesion will have profound effects upon the UK for many years to come.

The COVID Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) was launched by Durham County Council to aid cultural and community focused activity delivered in a Covid-19 secure way. Two recovery grant programmes were delivered through COMF, designed to align with the public health objectives arising from the 2020 review of the Marmot Report, specifically on addressing health inequalities and underlying social determinants.

In August 2021 Durham County Council commissioned Wavehill to undertake an independent evaluation of the two grant programmes to capture their impact to inform future planning.


The evaluation team adopted a mixed-method approach to assess the delivery and impact of the grant schemes. The approach was designed in recognition of the light-touch nature of the grant monitoring and reporting arrangements as well as differing levels of skills, experience, and capacity across grant recipients. The evaluation has incorporated:

  • Desk based review of grant application forms and relevant research and policy documentation

  • Attendance at a sample of grant panel meetings

  • Consultations with a sample of grant recipients, with a focus on understanding their approach to monitoring and evaluation

  • Analysis of event and activity data captured by grant recipients

  • Production of case studies with 9 grant recipients

  • Theory of Change Workshop session

  • Production of monitoring and evaluation guidance resources and tools for grant recipients


The range of events supported by COMF, of which many have been free to attend, have provided an opportunity for families to engage in a shared cultural experience, which in turn has contributed to strengthening family bonds and developing resilience. In the context of the COVID-19 recovery, communities that prioritise local culture, creativity and social capital are likely to be more resilient.

Our evaluation of COMF events demonstrate a range of wellbeing outcomes associated with fostering civic pride, building a sense of belonging, tackling social isolation and loneliness, nurturing trust, and providing opportunities for meaningful social interaction. Collectively this is helping to build social capital and social infrastructure in several areas of deprivation. Our evaluation also shows that the COMF fund has provided a direct contribution to aspirations and objectives included in the vision for the county and its Health and Wellbeing Strategy.


The COMF Programme has funded a total of 64 events across the county during 2021/22,

  • including 21 new community cultural events,

  • 40 existing community cultural events

  • 3 Remembrance events.

The evaluation team estimates that around 90,000 people have engaged in COMF funded activities either as audience members or participants.


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