Big Lottery Fund in £5million development to support thousands of parents

Today, the Big Lottery Fund is announcing £5 million in development funding to be shared by fifteen areas in England to build long term plans to support thousands of parents in giving their children the best start in life.

The investment is from the Fund’s A Better Start initiative which aims to improve the life chances of over 10,000 children by investing £165 million for up to ten years.

Next year, up to five of the areas will receive a major investment of between £30 and £50million.

The first three years of life can profoundly influence a child’s life chance.

The investment aims to improve the physical, emotional and psychological foundations built during a child’s first few years, the most rapid and important phase of their development.

Over the next ten years the initiative will gather evidence to demonstrate the benefit of support in the early years for children, society and the economy.

The start a child gets in life can have an impact on a number of long term personal and social problems as the fifteen areas receiving funding today show.

In Northumberland the referral rates to children’s social care are three times the national average with the number of children below three under a child protection plan being double the national average.

Newcastle has the highest child obesity figures in the country for children in reception year.

In Luton poverty, lone parenting, large families, overcrowded housing, long term unemployment and domestic violence are all higher than the national average.

And in Nottingham 30% of domestic violence incidents are reported from four wards where life expectancy is significantly below the national average.

Lord Robert Winston, professor of Science and Society and emeritus professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, also backs the investment.

He said: "Our earliest environment, even before birth, has a profound effect on our later lives. Our health, our educational attainment, our personality and our relationships are hugely influenced by what happens in the womb and particularly during those first three years of our lives as small children.

"Research shows the massive value of improving the quality of those earliest years.

"This welcome investment from the Big Lottery Fund means that we shall be able to help the most vulnerable babies get a better start – it is an important investment for the future of our society."

Nat Sloane, Big Lottery Fund England chair, added: “Sometimes parents do not always know what is best for their children despite wanting the best for them.

"If all parents knew that they could take steps in pregnancy and the first years of their child’s life to help them in later life by reducing the risks of getting heart disease or diabetes, helping them to achieve better grades in school or even improving their chances of a successful career, surely parents would want to know how.

"We know they want more support – 71 per cent of mothers say they do.

“Costly health and social problems can be traced back to some children not having a good start in life.

"A Better Start will aim to stop harm to a child before it happens by providing the right support in those crucial years between birth and the age of three.

"No mother wants to see their child end up in prison, suffer poor mental health or have no sense of self worth.

"Helping parents give their children the best possible start in life will not only have a positive impact on society but will also mean less costly spending treating entrenched problems later on.”

The Fund has been working with a number of experts in the field of early years, including Naomi Eisenstadt, former director of the Sure Start Programme and Social Exclusion Task Force and Kate Billingham, an international advisor on children’s public health and George Hoskings, chief executive of the Wave Trust.


This article was taken from the Charity Times website