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Our Environment Our Future

29 January 2014

During Big Energy Saving Week, Peter Ainsworth, UK Chair of the Big Lottery Fund blogs about a new funding programme – Our Environment Our Future. This UK-wide £30 million investment will support projects enabling young people aged 11-24 to improve their local environment and learn new skills.

Peter Ainsworth

BIG’s Peter Ainsworth

‘‘The environment is where we all live and the only place we have. In tough economic times it’s important to remember that the economy is just a part of the environment. Young people need and want to shape the spaces and places they will inherit. This initiative is designed to help them do just that, and to give them the skills which are needed to forge green and lasting prosperity.

‘Since 2006, Big Lottery Fund has invested around £350 million in environmental initiatives across the UK. There are also thousands of other projects, funded through our small and medium-sized grant programmes like Reaching Communities and Awards for All, that have benefited our environment.

‘Our Environment Our Future will build on this success and will grant £30 million to projects that will support young people to improve their future prospects while shaping the future of their local environment. Evidence shows that many young people would love the opportunity to play an active role in this way – so I’m delighted that through Our Environment Our Future, Big Lottery Fund will be able to help support their ambitions.

‘The new funding programme will see the Big Lottery Fund bring together, for the first time, two core areas of our investment – environment and young people. One of the key objectives of Our Environment Our Future will be to enable young people across the UK to participate and take the lead in the growing green economy.


‘To help us achieve this we will appoint a UK-wide strategic partner who will work with us – and with other funders – to identify projects that have a great track record in supporting young people to engage with their local environment. Our partner will then help those successful projects to form a supportive network within which they can develop further by sharing their best practice and finding ways to replicate or expand on what they do. Each project will receive around £1m to do this.

‘We know from our experience of evaluating Big Lottery Fund environmental projects that the success of many of them reaches far beyond environmental outcomes to realise other positive benefits for participants – such as improved physical and mental well-being, increased self-esteem and employability, and greater community spirit.

‘As a result of this learning, we know Our Environment Our Future will also be well placed to deliver a similar positive impact to participants. Seeing how transformative environment projects can be has really helped us shape this new programme.

‘Our Environment Our Future will empower young people to participate in the green economy and to improve and protect the environment they will one day inherit.’

Keep an eye on our website and follow @BigLotteryFund on Twitter for more news on Our Environment Our Future in the coming months.

What works’ with mental health?

23 January 2014

By Karen Hayer, Ecorys

While many people have heard the statistic  that one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem at some point in our lives,  fewer people know how to deal with mental health issues or how to talk about them. Lottery-funded programmes are helping to tackle this.


Physical exercise and socialising activities are some of the contributing factors that are helping people to tackle mental health issues.  That’s one of the reasons why, having already invested £160m in supporting the development of healthier lifestyles and improving well-being in England, BIG Lottery Fund has made an additional £40 million available through its Wellbeing 2 Programme.

The first phase of the Wellbeing programme was delivered between 2007 and 2012 and an evaluation of this phase of the programme found that– physical activity, healthy eating and mental health are intricately linked, with improvements in one area supporting improvements in the others.  Looking at mental health, specifically, the research found that approximately one in three people who reported having symptoms of depression no longer had those symptoms by the end of the programme.  Significant reductions in stress and anxiety were also recorded three to six months after engagement with the programme ended.


But it’s not just the Wellbeing programme that’s making a difference. Take the Branching Out project, funded through Changing Spaces, as an example. They supported people experiencing mental health problems to work towards recovery and lead valued lives in their communities.

The horticultural project engaged people in gardening and outdoor activities as part of a structured recovery programme in the London Borough of Bromley.

Results from the project found to greatly increase participants’ self-esteem and self confidence which motivated them to become more active and seek other volunteering or work opportunities.

‘I cannot emphasis enough how Branching Out has helped me. It has given me back my self-belief, confidence and self-esteem.’

The project also enabled participants to make new friends which had a positive impact on their mental well-being.

This week, the Lottery-funded Time to Change project, led by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, launched their new campaign to help tackle mental health stigma. Time to Talk encourages you to do small things like texting, having a cup of tea together or going for a walk. Watch their ad here:

Take a look at the evaluation from the first phase of the Well being programme to learn more from these initiatives.  You’ll be able to read about the impacts on individuals’ mental health and lessons learnt from a range of innovative approaches.  This year, Ecorys will be looking to gather more evidence on the role of the Wellbeing 2 Programme in contributing to improved mental health, as well as physical activity and healthy eating.


Portfolios of projects under Big Lottery Fund’s Well-being programme are currently underway and will be working until March 2015 on wide ranging activities from supporting healthy eating for children, parents and their local communities.   Ecorys have been commissioned to evaluate the impact of the new funding, with a particular focus on sharing learning about project success and approaches to sustainability throughout the next two years.

For more information please contact

For young people and by young people

22 January 2014

My name is Jashmin, I am 25 years old and I have been involved with Talent Match right from the beginning as a member of the Young People Investment Team. It is really exciting that today our ideas for how Lottery money should be spent have become reality.


It all started almost two years ago, when I was one of 20 young people recruited to decide the priority areas for an investment targeting young people. This wasn’t just the views of 20 young people – we spent two months consulting young people from all over the country. We used our networks of schools, friends and social media to reach thousands of young people and one issue kept coming up – youth unemployment. There was also a strong sense of young people feeling devalued by society, especially after the riots, and they felt a lack of aspiration due partly to the negative portrayal of young people in the media. We are constantly being perceived as: lazy, materialistic, criminals, amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, and the list goes on. There was a strong desire to improve these perceptions and to show society that young people do want to work and do want to make a positive contribution.

It was these views that fuelled Talent Match. We wanted a positive programme with young people at the centre from beginning to end – not just through our 20 central young people but in every area the programme reached. We wanted to offer young people a chance to learn new skills and boost confidence by being part of the design, development and delivery of a youth employment programme, which was shaped by their own views and experience of what was happening in their local areas. We knew that with the right support so many young people struggling with long-term unemployment could improve their lives and overcome the barriers to gaining a rewarding career.

I have been involved in Talent Match since its launch and have seen the project proposals develop and been part of a committee making decisions over millions of pounds. That is why I am so proud that, after two years, 21 partnerships across England are starting work today to change the lives of unemployed young people.

Jashmin Patel – Talent Match Committee Member

Hear from young people from each of the 21 areas and find out more via our news room 

An insight into Natural Wight’s Green Army

15 January 2014

Access to Nature, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and run by Natural England, aims to encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors, particularly those who face social exclusion or those that currently have little or no contact with the natural environment.

In this blog, Green Army member Dan Woods, 20, from Ryde, Isle of Wight, shares his experience of volunteering with Natural Wight.

“During my time so far volunteering at Mill Copse – almost three years now – I have learnt plenty of new skills; such as helping to fell trees. We have had a lot of trees to cut down in the area and I’ve learnt that felling trees in the right place can bring more sunlight in to help other new trees and plants to grow and animals to live in Mill Copse.

Young man carries log

Dan Woods volunteers with Natural Wight

“This volunteering opportunity has meant I have developed team working skills, communication skills, learnt how to complete a job and to the required standard and how to use tools correctly.

“I’ve also learned about the importance of conservation of the woodland through working here. By working here I’ve helped to protect the woodland so that the local community can all share and experience it.

“Volunteering on this project means I use my leisure time wisely, can now demonstrate this experience on my CV and this will hopefully be of interest to future employers.

“Volunteering in the outdoors is also a great way to keep fit and work out – for example, just the other day we moved 50 logs – it’s a ‘Green Gym’! It helps you feel motivated, it’s good for your self-esteem and helps you stay positive.

“I’ve met some great people working here and we have a good laugh too. Just being outdoors in the fresh air is great fun even when it has been cold over the winter months. You keep busy all day long and we all enjoy having lunch around the open fire we build. Before you know it, it’s getting dark and it’s time to head back after a full day of working in the outdoors.

“I definitely want to do more volunteering work with Natural Wight’s Green Army in the future and feel like I have come a long way over the past three years. I’m now a pathway trainee which means I have got the chance of a permanent job if one comes up. I’m also on the Green Skills programme and I successfully completed the Green Skills Craft Qualification in Autumn 2011.

‘I’d recommend volunteering for the Green Army to anyone, because it is great way to pick up new skills, do something different and better yourself.

“I’m going to use the skills I have learnt in the future so I can gain the maximum potential out of every single thing I do to help me to achieve all my goals in life.”

Natural Wight is an Access to Nature project on the Isle of Wight that engages 16-25 year olds from a range of disadvantaged backgrounds. It offers them a ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ of outdoor activities and learning opportunities, including practical conservation work along with local community engagement.

Natural Wight’s young conservation volunteers are now known as the Green Army. Visit YouTube for a video giving further insight into Green Army volunteering activity.

The People’s Millions is all about communities

8 January 2014

Are you looking to do something positive to benefit your local area and the lives of those of those who live in it? Linda Quinn, Director of Communications at Big Lottery Fund, tells us why The People’s Millions really is all about communities.

What were your New Year’s Resolutions? Have you managed to stick to any of them? Here at the Big Lottery Fund we want to inspire you to make your New Year’s resolutions for 2014 about making a difference in your community and what better way is there than using National Lottery money through The People’s Millions.

Big Lottery Fund's Linda Quinn

Big Lottery Fund’s Linda Quinn

The People’s Millions is a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and ITV, where the public helps decide which local community projects get up to £50,000 of Lottery funding.

The programme will launch in mid March and applying and winning the public vote is totally dependent on local communities getting involved and supporting their local projects.

This will be the ninth year that The People’s Millions is running and I have been involved in the programme since day one. I wanted to share with you the key thing I have learned over the years about what makes a good project great.

The People’s Millions is all about communities and this is your opportunity to apply for funding for a project that improves local places or the lives of people in communities.

The strongest tip I can give you is that a great project addresses a need in a community. This in turn inspires local people to get involved, volunteer and encourages others to volunteer support. There is no big secret – it really is about the people and the campaign. From skate parks to nature trails and community radio stations to outdoor gyms the possibilities are endless.

You don’t have to be a large organisation to get lots of votes. Over the years we’ve seen small community groups successfully engage their community – including the project that secured our biggest ever vote for a single project of over 60,000 votes. The campaign you run and the people you engage really makes a difference to the votes you receive.

Between now and March we hope to inspire you to develop a great project that will make a difference to your community. We’ll be putting the spotlight on some of the many projects we’ve funded over the last eight years, giving some advice about the application process and giving you top tips for generating public support.

Stay tuned to The People’s Millions website and follow us on Twitter @peoplesmillions.

Improving Futures sets its sights on fathers

17 December 2013

How is the Big Lottery Fund’s Improving Futures programme impacting upon the lives of children and their families across the UK? Having been commissioned to carry out a five-year evaluation, in the new year the project team are releasing an updated paper focused on supporting fathers.

In this guest blog, Jimi Odell of Family Lives explains more about recent research and an upcoming free webinar for those with an interest in the families and early years care.

Fathers are one of the most overlooked demographics in parenting support with many services branded for and targeted at mums with no specific measures in place to ensure dads come along too. But even when engagement with mothers is high on a service’s agenda and practitioners say they believe it’s important to work with fathers too, research has found that they often fail to do so.

A father kisses his child

Improving Futures in focusing on fathers

Recent research shows that when parenting practitioners work with fathers as well as mothers, the positive effects on children are greatly increased.

Services that are set up primarily for mothers – whether intentionally or not – are learning to change how they plan, market and deliver their services so that fathers feel more welcome and able to attend and access valuable learning resources to support their children.

Some practitioners may hold the view that fathers spend less time with their children than mothers do and are less involved in their children’s lives, both emotionally and practically.

While there is some truth in this, recent research has looked into this more deeply and the reasons behind it are discussed in the forthcoming paper for family practitioners on ‘Engaging with fathers’.

It will also feature eight key recommendations for improving father engagement and include new material that reflects recent research and aims to support the 26 projects involved in Improving Futures and their work with fathers.

The paper also sets out to demonstrate the importance of engaging fathers in family support services and offers some practical tips on how to go about doing this. We hope that other service providers outside of the project will also find this useful.

In addition, practitioners are invited to attend a free webinar on 19 December 2013 hosted by Parenting UK. It will feature a representative from one of the 26 funded projects, The Enfield Family Turnaround Project, who will be giving an insight into how they rebranded their services to and targeted dads in the local area.

The webinar is open to anyone who works with families or has an interest in this area of work and wants to learn more about engaging fathers. All participants will be invited to discuss their experiences and challenges of working with fathers.

The final paper will be made publicly available once case studies have been collected and reviewed. Anyone wishing to submit case studies is invited to attend the webinar or contacting me at Parenting UK by emailing:

Jimi Odell is Digital Communication and Research Officer at Family Lives.

Improving Futures was launched in 2011 with a £26m investment from the Big Lottery Fund to support families with multiple and complex needs. 26 local projects are developing new approaches to support 10,000 families around the country, sharing best practice as they adapt and evolve.

Older people get set for winter motoring

16 December 2013

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As winter approaches, most of us take for granted the car we rely on to get us from A to B. But what if you are older, alone and completely reliant on your car to keep in touch with the outside world – especially if you live in a rural area?

The Touchstones project has come up with an innovative set of workshops for older people, including one teaching car maintenance. These are free and offered to older bereaved people who rely on their car to go shopping, attend medical appointments and make social calls.

One group member Sue, 72, lost her husband six years ago. Here she explains how Touchstones has made such a difference to her life.

“When I lost my husband six years ago, I was completely on my own – my son and daughter and two grandchildren live in London, with my sister living in South Wales so I was completely reliant on friends.

“I felt very lonely – once you come home, you shut the door and you are in the house on your own. You lack the confidence to get back into the big wide world again. My husband had been poorly for quite a while before he died so I was restricted before I was a widow and had to give up some of my social activities.

“Losing my husband was destavating in itself, but until that moment you are part of a partnership, you have a confidante, you have company. As well as grieving, you have to learn to live alone, deal with ‘social’ situations, re-build your life and learn to take on new challenges. I felt very insular. I had my friends but even they were all in couples and although they would try to include me in things it just isn’t the same.

“At Touchstones it is lovely because everyone in the group has similar circumstances to mine. They are a friendly group and we all learn a lot from each other and we do have lots of fun too! We have been involved in lots of different activities, including chairobics, computing with local children, sewing, cooking and more recently the car maintenance workshop.

“Having a car is really important to me as I live quite a walk away from the local bus stop and having arthritis means that it is difficult for me to walk up and down hills, so I do really need it. The car workshop was really interesting – I had never been in a garage like that.

“I  wish Touchstones had come into my life a lot sooner, it takes time to build your confidence back up when you lose someone and the project has definitely helped me. It is funny but only in the last six months, old friends have said to me that I have actually come out of my shell and that I am a different person to what I was five years ago.”

Touchstones is a project working with bereaved older people in Harrogate, Craven and Wakefield and is a partnership between Rural Action Yorkshire and Age UK. It is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dreams Fund.

Are you involved in a project working with older people? Leave your comments on the blog below or join in the conversation on Twitter by following @BiglfOlderPeop and using #biglf.

Local people have the Power to Change

6 December 2013


Today the Big Lottery Fund is delighted to announce a £150 million investment in community-led enterprises across England. Power to Change, the largest ever community enterprise fund, will provide communities feeling the impact of tough economic times with the opportunity to make real people powered change in their local areas. England Director, Dharmendra Kanani, tells us more about the investment.

Power to Change is a story of inspiration. It is a story of local people coming together to make things happen for the better.

Take Paul, a volunteer at a community-run bakery in Anfield, Liverpool. Several attempts at regenerating this area of poor housing and deprivation had failed over the years – a familiar tale in many parts of England. But instead of giving up or moving out, residents have taken it upon themselves to improve the local area, starting with the bakery.

For Paul, it’s so much more than a bakery. For someone out of work for many years, who’s felt isolated and disconnected from his local community , it’s a home from home. Somewhere where he feels the warm welcome of place he feels supported, connected and provides structure to this life. This is a story of fulfilling lives.

England Director Dharmendra Kanani

England Director Dharmendra Kanani

Then there’s Sheffield, where a group of local tenants and supporters, all volunteers, rallied together to save Portland Works, an old cutlery factory, from being developed into apartments. Over 450 people bought shares in the property to refurbish it and keep it going as a thriving hub for local manufacturers, engineers, craftsmen and artists. Without their driving force, this prized local asset could have been lost. This is a story of a successful community.

Or Hill Holt Wood, a social enterprise which runs a cafe, manufactures and sells bespoke products, provides education and training and contracts forestry and countryside services. All the while operating a beautiful woodland that is open from dawn until dusk for the enjoyment of the public. This is an enriched place.

People have been coming together to get things done and improve their local areas for generations. We have a proud and abiding tradition, especially in times of adversity to make things happen for the better. In the face of tough economic times, and the cuts to neighbourhood services, closing community venues and increasing empty shops, that tradition to take charge is thriving.

This is why the Big Lottery Fund has responded by creating ‘Power to Change’ a £150 million opportunity to support this proud tradition. This is the largest ever community enterprise fund, but we see it as so much more than money alone.

There’s a DIY community momentum at work across England, rethinking how things are done, who can do them, and what it is to be a shareholder in and of your community. Local people are championing solutions to the hardest-hitting problems of our day and age.

There are hundreds of examples nationwide of people coming together to improve their local areas. And what’s more, we are seeing more and more examples of enterprising projects which don’t just rely on charitable grants or government money, but which generate their own income and produce profits that are re-invested back into the community.

Power to Change is our commitment and contribution to back the ambition and put fire in the belly of many communities to come up with solutions that pay back dividends in terms of better opportunities, services and facilities. We want to enable everyone to have a stake in the future growth of their local area, and to take pride in restoring and revitalising community spirit.

Man in waders in water

Torrs Hydro is a micro hydroelectric scheme, owned by the community

From pop-up shops in empty high street properties, to enterprises delivering much-needed neighbourhood services, to community-managed woodlands and parks, to community-owned pubs and sports clubs, these community enterprises do not seek to make money for private gain, but for the benefit of local people.

Through Power to Change we want to help more of these amazing community enterprises to succeed. We want to support them on their own journey towards being resourceful and sustainable beyond grant funding so that they can improve the lives of even more people.

Our £150 million will unlock millions of pounds more of local resources, such as volunteer hours, in-kind support, local donations and the support for community enterprises to generate their own income and be self-sustaining for years to come. It will help grow the community enterprise revolution.

For the Big Lottery Fund this is about being responsive to local need, by making the most of local opportunities. Power to Change is our commitment and contribution to back the ambition of communities, on their terms. After all, who knows better what a local area needs and what would make it better than the people who live there?

This is why we are delighted to be partnering with the Mirror and Camelot to celebrate and raise awareness of the many community enterprises across the country, connect people with enterprising projects in their local area, and inspire many more people to get involved.

You can find out more at or follow @BigLFcommunity on Twitter using the hashtag #PowerToChange


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