60,000 vulnerable babies to have a better start in life


Today, the Big Lottery Fund announces five areas in England sharing £215 million to help parents of 0-3-year-olds.

There is strong evidence to show that what happens in the womb and through the first three years of life can profoundly affect a child’s future.

Tens of thousands of vulnerable babies who may be at risk of a future of long-lasting health issues, unemployment or even criminal activity will now have a better start in life following a £215 million Big Lottery Fund investment to five areas in England.

There is a wealth of research that demonstrates the importance of a good start in life. Recent research has shown*:
• 35 per cent of toddlers from impoverished inner-city areas are anaemic (1)
• more than half of nursery-age children living in disadvantaged areas have a communication disorder, with as many as 7 per cent in some cities (2)
• 10 per cent of children entering school are obese (3)

Meanwhile research also shows:
• For every £1 spent on early years education, £7 has to be spent to have the same impact in adolescence (4)

The areas announced today have been awarded up to £50 million each – Lambeth, Southend, Nottingham, Blackpool and Bradford – in a ground-breaking ten year test and learn initiative to see what methods are the best for laying the foundations for 0-3-year-olds to improve their future health, social and educational outcomes. The investment aims to improve the life chances of more than 60,000 babies and children.

A cross-sector partnership of local health, statutory and voluntary sector organisations will work alongside local parents in each area to redesign local services and test how well they can improve social and emotional development, nutrition, and language and communication development in young children to prevent costly problems in later life.

Southend and Blackpool plan to create internationally recognised and renowned centres of excellence and sources of expertise, bringing together practitioners, researchers and parents to lead the change in delivery of services.

Across Nottingham activities will tackle the stress caused by family conflict and domestic abuse, parental substance misuse, and parental health problems. Midwives caseloads will be reduced from 100 to 40 in Bradford to enable a more personalised care, providing more home visits and establishing links with children’s centres.

In Lambeth more than 50 new community champions will be recruited in the first year and trained to promote crucial advice.

Evidence will be produced over the ten years to show which approaches work best to demonstrate the social and economic benefits of investing to prevent harm, in order to influence early years funding across the country.

Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund England Director, said: “Parents want the best for their children and as a society we know that what happens in the first three years of life profoundly affects a child’s future life chances. A poor start in life can affect your health, wellbeing, outlook on life and how you form relationships. Prevention matters more in the early years as we have a much greater understanding of what can and might improve the life chances of a future generation, that is why this investment is focusing on the three key areas of social and emotional development, nutrition, and language and communication development.”

The Southend partnership, which receives £40 million will be led by the Pre-school Learning Alliance which aims to transform maternity care, parental support with activities delivered from key sites including a network of children’s centres with a wide range of local, voluntary, statutory and health organisations involved. Midwifery and health visiting services will be increased and there will be improved access to high quality resources to maximise maternal health during pregnancy. The Centre of Excellence, Innovation and Best Practice will bring together practitioners, researchers and parents to lead the development and delivery of services and systems change. Workshops to improve ‘school readiness’, speech and language, and address obesity will be introduced alongside breastfeeding support workers. The partnership expects to improve the lives of 13,000 children in its target areas.

The NSPCC have been awarded £45 million to lead the partnership in Blackpool which is the sixth most deprived local authority in the country. Thirty per cent of babies experience poverty and the town has the highest levels of looked after children in the country. Work will address low breastfeeding rates, limited prenatal care, family conflict and domestic abuse, maternal obesity, child poverty, substance misuse, poor social cohesion and lack of exercise. Young children will be encouraged to eat more fruit and vegetables, health professionals will support pregnant women understand the risks of being overweight and midwives will be trained in newborn social and communications skills. Community environmental projects will include creating more open spaces for families to promote the benefits of being active, while education campaigns will focus on alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and mental ill health. The establishment of a Centre for Early Child Development will play a crucial role, aiming to become an internationally recognised and renowned source of expertise and innovation in services and systems from pregnancy to the age of three.

Across Nottingham as a whole, 39 percent of children are classed as living in poverty and one in four adults in the city have no formal qualifications. There are high numbers of children with early onset behavioural problems, chronic health conditions, unhealthy gestation and birth, and poor school readiness. The Nottingham CityCare Partnership receives £45 million and the project includes activities and interventions that will tackle the ‘toxic stress’ caused by family conflict and domestic abuse, parental substance misuse, and parental health problems. Projects will be delivered within pram pushing or toddler tolerance distance of all family homes, utilising 16 local delivery centres across the communities. This will include opening up community buildings in the evenings and weekend. All staff and volunteers in direct contact with children and families will receive accredited training in communication and engagement, family dynamics and child development, safeguarding and welfare. A new workforce of paid family mentors will be recruited and trained work alongside professionals.

Bradford Trident will lead the partnership in the town which receives £49 million to engage with around 20,000 babies and children over the ten years. According to Bradford Trident the district as a whole has significant deprivation and within the three target wards (Bowling & Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton) there are high rates of infant mortality, child poverty, poor oral health, high child obesity rates, low numbers of school readiness and high rates of domestic violence and child protection orders. Research shows that one in five children in the three wards have poor communications skills at the school readiness stage and one in three children have poor social and emotional development when starting school. Midwives caseloads will be reduced to enable a more personalised care, providing more home visits and establishing links with children’s centres. A befriender scheme will be introduced for all expectant and new mothers affected by or at risk of postnatal depression, while a targeted service working with parents will increase their understanding of infant brain development. There will also be home-based language development programmes, outdoor play, story-telling, exercise activities and nutrition programmes.

In Lambeth, the National Children’s Bureau, which receives £36 million, will improve breastfeeding rates, reduce childhood and maternal obesity, reduce domestic violence, improve social, emotional, communication and language development. The projects will be delivered at 26 sites, 13 of which will be enhanced and outdoor plays areas created. The new spaces will allow all those working with families to use the same base, share information and work with parents so that health professionals such as health visitors and midwives will work much more closely with the council’s family support workers, social workers and ‘community champions’ to support families in a more coordinated way. More than 50 new community champions will be recruited in the first year and trained to promote key advice and build connections in the community to reduce the social isolation of some new parents. A further ten breastfeeding supporters will be added to the existing team.

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500572
Website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Twitter: @biglotteryfund #biglf #ABetterStart
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFund

*Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012, Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays:

(1) Gregory JR. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Children
aged 1.5 – 4.5 years. 1995; London: UK, HMSO

(2) www.stokespeaksout.co.uk

(3) Ridler C, Dinsdale H, Rutter H. National Child
Measurement Programme: Changes in children’s body
mass index between 2006/07 and 2011/12. Oxford:
National Obesity Observatory, February 2013

(4) DCSF. The Impact of Parental Involvement on Children’s
Education. London: DCSF; 2008.

• The Warwick Consortium, led by the University of Warwick, will measure the impact of this funding and share learning. The Warwick Consortium includes key figures in early years research from Oxford University, Ipsos Mori and Bryson Purdon Social Research.

• The London School of Economics will establish a robust cost-benefit framework that will measure the cashable savings to society and the public purse through A Better Start interventions.

• The Social Research Unit at Dartington supported the partnerships throughout the process by providing them with local data, helping them to identify the best evidence and facilitating community engagement.