BIG Investment

Date: 10 Mar 2011

BIG Invests £20 Million into Improving Children’s Futures

Children can’t choose the families they are born into and some grow up in very difficult circumstances.

on 9th March 2011, the Big Lottery Fund announced an investment of £20million that will help give vulnerable young children across the UK a better future by supporting their families.

BIG’s approach will see families being offered tailored individual support from local voluntary sector organisations working in partnerships with public services.

The Improving Futures programme will provide funding for more effective and joined-up support to help families with multiple and complex problems. This support will be delivered by partnerships that bring together voluntary sector organisations and public services. The partnerships will be locally based – and for the first time engaging not only children’s charities, but those that can help address families’ housing, health, employment and other needs.

The programme will fund up to 20 partnerships across the UK, each receiving a grant of up to £900,000 to work with families with children aged five to ten years old. It aims to fund only the very best proposals and BIG will also fund a robust evaluation of programme with a view to understanding how their success can be replicated elsewhere.  

Anna Southall, Big Lottery Fund Interim Chair said: "We all know that children's life chances are affected by the environment they are born into. Some families are dealing with complex issues of poor housing, long term unemployment, drug and alcohol misuse, health problems - these are largely adult issues, but they have serious consequences for their children's lives.

"Children who live in and around these families tend to do less well in school, tend to have poorer health and can often grow up to have similar problems themselves. To improve the life chances of those children, joined-up support is needed across the whole family.

"We also know that families in these circumstances interact with many different public services - from housing authorities to mental health services, schools to police. While some have benefitted from integrated assistance, many have not.  Improving Futures is designed to enable the voluntary sector to play a crucial role in reaching out to these families, providing holistic and tailored support, in partnership with local public services.

"With this new funding we aim not only to make a difference for the children, families and communities fortunate enough to be touched by the programme, but to demonstrate to others that there are better ways of organising support around families rather than specific services or individual causes."

This approach will benefit not only the families that are targeted but ultimately the communities they live in and society as a whole. It may also help realise savings for the taxpayer as a result of reduced need for further costly interventions such as taking children into care, housing evictions, hospital stays or criminal proceedings.

In designing the programme BIG has consulted widely with those working in the field and its approach is being supported by the sector.

Naomi Eisenstadt, original architect of the Sure Start programme in England and one of the experts helping BIG design the Improving Futures programme said: “What I think is really important about this programme is the age of the child. We’ve done a huge amount of work on under fives but haven’t really focused on that age between five and ten, before secondary school, where there’s still a chance to change trajectory for children who may be on the wrong path. And we used to always say ‘never too early, never too late’. While there’s a lot of work going on across the UK with very young children, we think this primary school age child is very, very important as well.”

“We’re in difficult times but we’re also in exciting times. The public sector is open to trying new approaches - not least because there’s less money to go around – and working with local voluntary and community partners could really help them meet the needs of families in a cost-effective way. So I think the timing is right and I’m very excited about this opportunity to improve children’s futures.”

Kim Bromley Derry, Chair of the National Family Intervention Strategy Group also welcomed the news: “The Big Lottery Fund’s investment is a great opportunity for the voluntary sector and public services to work together to improve the lives of children and their families. We know that it leads to better outcomes and is more cost-effective when families receive joined-up support, so the benefits for all involved can be significant. By building on best practice, mobilising a whole range of local partners, and providing new funding, Improving Futures will make a real difference.”

Further Information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888     
Out of hours contact: 07867 500 572
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030                           
Textphone: 0845 6021 659
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk