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How do we measure our impact?

12 December 2014

Our 12 HeadStart test and learn projects are busy working to build the resilience of thousands of young people, but how do we capture all of this to share and learn from?  Mia Eisenstadt from Reos, one of the partners delivering our HeadStart evaluation explains more:

Close up of child playing with lights

Impact… how do we measure it?

HeadStart is providing funding for 12 local partnerships to pilot projects that aim to prevent serious mental health conditions in young people and build personal resilience, in a context of rising rates of serious mental health issues in children and young people. But, how can we understand the impact these projects have on young people’s lives?

Big Lottery Fund have appointed a collaboration between the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) part of the Anna Freud Centre and UCL, University of Manchester, Common Room, and Reos to conduct an evaluation. The evaluation will look into the extent that local projects meet three HeadStart outcomes:

  1. enabling young people to cope with difficult experiences and do well in life
  2. reducing the onset of serious mental health conditions through resilience building
  3. learning from approaches to contribute to an evidence base for service re-design and investment in prevention.

The evaluation team are currently implementing the first of four phases of the evaluation. During phase one we are working with all 12 partnerships through workshops and information sharing to develop a common measurement framework (CMF). This framework will be rolled out across all areas to show changes in children and young people’s mental health, well being and resilience. As part of this activity we have been mapping out what types of support each partnership is providing to children and their families to support their mental well being and resilience.

Mia Eisenstadt

Mia Eisenstadt, Reos

Future phases will look to collect online survey data, refine and trial the model and collect qualitative data for each site through focus groups and interviews. At the end of this work a report will be published to share the results of the evaluation.

To make sure that the work of the evaluation team is both engaging and accessible to young people, two young advisors Amy and Naomi have been working with us to help design processes and governance to enable young people to make a valuable contribution in the local and national evaluation.

Our hope for the future is that the evidence we capture adds to the understanding of how to help young people navigate through adversity and bounce back from problems in life. Our wish is that it will not only contribute to an evidence base for the prevention of mental health problems, but also support more young people across England to live happier and healthier lives.

Mia Eisenstadt, Reos


To keep up to date with HeadStart please sign up to the Big Lottery Fund’s quarterly ebulletin

Also check out the Fulfilling Lives: Head Start projects

Together, helping young people bounce back

11 December 2014

Experts in young people’s mental health get together to support our HeadStart projects.

Raynal Somiah from YoungMinds tells us more about what they hope to achieve…

Group of young people looking at cards

HeadStart Blackpool residential training session

YoungMinds in partnership with boingboing / University of Brighton and Achievement for All are excited to be working with the Big Lottery Fund and local area partnerships in what could be ground breaking and revolutionary work.

Collectively we form the HeadStart Support and Development consortium. We bring a wealth of experience around children and young people’s mental health, resilience, commissioning support, systems planning and change, and in depth work with schools.

Using our expertise and experience, we will support and challenge the local partnerships to:

  • achieve positive change for young people and their families
  • strengthen their partnership working and delivery
  • develop bids for further investment in stage three of HeadStart
  • develop sustainable whole system approaches to building resilience.

Each local partnership has been appointed a HeadStart Advisor who will coach and support; offering development opportunities for individuals and partnerships.

Group of young boys working  with an adult

Getting everyone involved!

We want to make sure young people’s ideas and experiences are shaping this exciting programme. We are bringing together a network of young people with an interest in resilience and mental health to become a ‘HeadStarter’. HeadStarters will work with us, the local partnerships and their young people; making a valuable contribution our work.

Our first important task is to hold a review workshop with each local partnership. This is an opportunity to take stock of progress so far and reflect on future areas for development. We will also be exploring how the partnerships are doing against our specially developed self-assessment framework. The framework describes our expert view on ‘what good looks like’ in approaches to building resilience for vulnerable young people. It is based on the existing evidence, experience and practice we hold across our consortium. Throughout the programme we will be returning to this framework as a benchmark against which partnerships will be challenged and supported to develop through our support.

For more information please visit

Connor’s HeadStart

10 December 2014

Young people learned to recruit staff, rate commissioning contracts, award funds and more, so they can help shape every aspect of HeadStart Blackpool. Fifteen year old Connor, shares his experience in residential training with the Young People’s Steering Group…


Connor and two other young people in onsies

Connor (centre) chilling in his onesie!

Day one:

​We arrived at Crowden Outdoor Education Centre in Derbyshire just in time for lunch. I wasn’t too nervous because we had all met before, but I was excited to be away in a new place and learning new things.

First of all we did a session on pack types, which helped us identify the type of dog we are based on our characteristics, traits and personalities. I was a ‘coach-dog’ which means I help others and support them. I was pleased I came out as this because I do like to help others.

After a session on recruitment and selection, we had a quiz, which got competitive as the young people tried to beat the staff team. We had a bonus point challenge to build the best tower from marshmallows and spaghetti sticks — not easy when your team keeps eating the sweets! It had been a long day so I was glad to get to bed.


Day two:

Everyone was up for a full English at 8.30. We spent the morning playing team games including trying to make a chair out of balloons. We then had to think how we would evaluate these games, learning about open and closed questions and their advantages and disadvantages. We talked about how we can carry this on with staff. I really like workshops where we reflect and can learn from experiences.

Before lunch we did a session on budgeting and commissioning (more exciting than it sounds).  The decision-making power was good, but it was hard to make the right choices, as there were so many people to think about. I can’t wait to do this in ‘real-life’ for HeadStart Blackpool.

After lunch we went raft building. I have a lot of outdoor experience because I am doing my Duke of Edinburgh Award, so knew what to expect. But some people really had to challenge themselves to conquer their fears.  I enjoyed the challenge mostly because the water was freezing and the better the raft, the less chance of us getting wet!

Excitement grew after dinner as everyone pulled out their onesies for our onesie and chill party. I was Spyro the dragon, the video game character, in a bright purple onesie with a tail. There were sheep, ghosts, Star Wars characters and a couple of Minnie Mouses. After intense debate, we settled on Frozen for our movie. I am a secret Frozen fan so was happy but I made myself feel sick with the amount of popcorn I ate!


The HeadStart trainees at the Crowden Outdoor Education Centre in Derbyshire

The HeadStart trainees at the Crowden Outdoor Education Centre in Derbyshire

Day three:

We couldn’t resist scaling the huge hill that stands over the centre. So we had an early climb to take in the brilliant views. After posing for selfies, we headed back for breakfast.

We spent the morning planning the best ways to involve young people in evaluating the services they receive. We discussed the pros and cons of 1-2-1 interviews, questionnaires, small meetings, through to conferences. We talked about issues such as confidentiality and being sensitive to young people’s needs.

Before we left, we cleaned the centre from top to bottom (there were lots of sweet wrappers). Then we had to write a positive comment about everyone in the group. They were sealed in an envelope and should have been kept until we were home, but there were lots of sneaky looks on the bus. I was so chuffed with the comments I got. People see me as funny, nice and caring. One said ‘pain in the bum’ and ‘a smiley face!’ I am still trying to figure out which youth worker gave me that one!!

It was a brilliant three days, everyone joined in and worked together. The staff were helpful and friendly and the activities were cool. We all learnt loads. We are excited about the next few weeks with new staff joining and HeadStart contracts being discussed.


To keep up to date with HeadStart please sign up to the Big Lottery Fund’s quarterly ebulletin

Also check out the other Fulfilling Lives: Head Start projects

Dr Ranj supports Baby Buddy App

8 December 2014

Best Beginning’s Baby Buddy app, funded through Reaching Communities, launched last month with a wealth of support behind the app. The app is also being piloted in three of our A Better Start areas: Bradford, Nottingham and Lambeth.

Dr. Ranj Singh, NHS Doctor, member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Medical Presenter is also supporting the app and tells us more in his guest blog:

Dr Ranj Singh

I’ve been working with the charity Best Beginnings on the development of the free Baby Buddy app for some time now, and was excited to be at the official launch on 19th November!

Baby Buddy is a pioneering example of the future of pregnancy and parenting support.  It acts just like a ‘digital best friend’!  Not only does it give the user useful tips and help anytime they want it, it also acts as a digital companion, helping you navigate the sometimes confusing world of parenting.

When you open the app, not only does it look stunning, it immediately draws you in and asks you to create a character of your own design to become your “buddy”, perhaps in the image of a trusted face you know or someone you’ve made up, who acts as your point-of-contact.  Immediately, it becomes personal to the user: by using some basic information, the app refers to you individually, mentioning you by name, your partner – if you have one – and your baby by name.

Furthermore, the information presented is from trusted experts, so you don’t have to worry about whether it’s reliable. You can store your appointments, look things up, create and keep track of goals, watch videos of common queries, and even ask your own questions! And in the officially launched version, there will be local listings of services and places for parents, as well as the “Bump Booth” and “Bump Book” which are diaries for thoughts, feeling and photos that can even be shared online if people want to do that. It’s a really rich all-round experience.

Baby Buddy AppSoft-launched in July, Baby Buddy is accessible through smart phones. Made possible through Big Lottery funding, it’s unique in many ways – especially so because it has been developed with input from a host of professional organisations and royal colleges, including the the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association and the Institute of Health Visiting and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. All of these organizations have officially endorsed Baby Buddy, as has the Department of Health. On top of that, it’s had a great deal of input from young parents, which means it’s not only useful, it’s also engaging and fun!

There is a growing range of health and wellbeing apps out there, but this isn’t just any old app – it’s going to become a routine part of everyone’s care.  Best Beginnings, the parenting charity behind it, are working at a grass-roots level with local health authorities and multi-disciplinary staff to embed it in care pathways.  As part of its national distribution and active embedding into care pathways, there are a range of free leaflets and posters available for healthcare professionals, as well as training available to use the app – more information is available for professionals.  Best Beginnings have already sent out over 38,000 leaflets and 2000 posters to professionals across the UK.

What’s critical about a healthcare intervention like this is the rigor behind its creation. Besides the content scrutiny and the engaging user experience, feedback has been sought from professionals and parents throughout its creation. In fact it will be continually sought as the app will be iteratively developed and improved over time.  Best Beginnings are able to draw on anonymised in-app data to gain valuable insights on how different types of user use and rate the app, as well as feedback on the local services promoted within it. The charity can create bespoke reports for commissioners looking at uptake, usage and feedback in a locality.

It’s this sort of holistic approach which will make a difference for projects like this: large scale take-up which won’t just help users, but is genuinely positioned to increase appropriate use of services and also gather insights to support service development.  It’s a win-win situation.

Above all, what apps like Baby Buddy can really excel at is reaching out to people who want and need support but don’t know how to access it, particularly young people.  Those who work with young people and families on a daily basis will know how difficult it can be for them to get the information they need in a way that is relevant – especially when it comes to pregnancy and parenting.  If we want to engage traditionally hard-to-reach audiences, then we have to start thinking out of the box and embracing new platforms.

At a basic level, when it comes to our health and wellbeing, we all want information and support we can count on. Technology can play a powerful supporting role, providing accurate information in a friendly and non-judgmental way. But an app like Baby Buddy isn’t designed to be instead of friends, partners or healthcare professionals. On the contrary, it’s actively encouraging users to make and keep appointments and to make the most out of the social and professional support around them, to help them maximise their own health and wellbeing and that of their child.

Download the Baby Buddy app for free now! 


Snap Something Brilliant

28 November 2014

Communities are invited to share their seasonal snaps…

Image of Snap #SomethingBrilliant posterDo Something Brilliant, delivered by The Media Trust, is Community Channel’s flagship campaign, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The project encourages people to do the Little Brilliant Things that make a big difference in their communities.

To celebrate the campaign in the lead up to the festive season, Community Channel has launched a photo competition. All eligible pictures will be published as part of a gallery showcasing brilliant communities and will be entered into a prize draw to win an iPad Air.

Alex Kann, Director of Community Channel and Audiences, said: “The competition is a great chance to celebrate the success of the Do Something Brilliant campaign, so please encourage your communities, grantees and friends to get snapping.”

The Community Channel was created to bring charities and the public closer together. It gives charities the chance to showcase their work, help secure national and regional media coverage and generate more support, funding and volunteers.

Alex said: “We have Outreach Managers based across the UK who train charities, work on TV programmes and run advisory groups that help to shape campaigns for each region. In its first year we trained 130 organisations and more than a thousand charities used one or more of our services.

Almost every organisation we trained came away with new skills in media, communication and content production, with nine in ten of them, expecting these skills to enable them to better connect with their communities and supporters.

Around 450 organisations had their campaigns promoted through Community Newswire with 220 gaining new funding, volunteers or support thanks to the coverage they generated.”

This year, it is estimated that the channel will be watched by around ten million viewers.

Change Makers winner with caption Alex added: “Do Something Brilliant also has some fantastic  support from the media industry. For example, The Sunday  Times recently ran The Change Makers competition.  It  crowned Joe Dickinson (pictured) social innovator of the year  for his Call and Check service, where postal workers quickly  check in on people who need a bit of extra care.”

Michael Langmead, Big Lottery Fund funding officer (investments), said: “Do Something Brilliant can help our grant holders to raise the profile of their projects and highlight the brilliant work they do in communities. The project provides grant holders with additional skills, tools and platforms at no cost, in addition to showing them how to take full advantage of them.”

Snap #SomethingBrilliant is running until 16 December. To enter the competition, simply take a snap of something brilliant in your community and send it to @dsbrilliant through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #somethingbrilliant.

For more information click on Snap #SomethingBriliant


Setting out to end the stigma

20 November 2014

The Big Lottery Fund has joined the growing number of organisations committing to end the stigma and discrimination against people with experience of mental health problems by signing a pledge with Time to Change.

Dawn Austwick signs  Big Lottery Fund up, to Time To Change

Dawn Austwick signs the Big Lottery Fund up, to Time To Change

Chief Executive Dawn Austwick pledged her support on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund to the initiative – to promote a better understanding of mental health problems and commit to creating a work place that is safe for all and where mental health issues do not stigmatise any individual.

Almost 300 organisations have signed up to the Time to Change pledge including the Premier League, British Gas, Transport for London, Citizen’s Advice, Shell, Channel 4 and many NHS trusts, universities and local authorities.

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “It is fantastic that more and more organisations are showing their support in tackling the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems. Employers and their staff can all play a part in helping to stamp out stigma and organisations like the Big Lottery Fund are taking a lead.

“Many leading companies have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only has benefits for their staff but also benefits their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in four people experiencing mental illness it’s time for businesses to work on their approach and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces.”

Time To Change is England’s biggest anti-stigma programme set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, the programme promotes better understanding to combat discrimination towards people who experience mental health problems.

Two photos of Lottery Staff  holding up signs saying 'End the stigma'

Big Lottery Fund staff say ‘End the stigma’!

The programme is currently funded by the Big Lottery Fund, as well as Comic Relief and the Department of Health. A Big Lottery Fund grant of over £20 million supported the first phase of Time to Change. In 2013 we awarded a further £3.6 million to build on its success and work with targeted communities.

In October Time To Change released its latest Attitudes data showing the greatest improvement in public attitudes to mental health in a decade. Their latest report – Making a drama out of a crisis – launched earlier this month and explores how mental health problems are portrayed in today’s TV soaps and drama.

Check out the Time To Change website, as a first step to maybe encouraging your organisation to sign-up, if they haven’t!

Post a comment below and share your Time To Change stories.

Who cares if you’re hurting?

18 November 2014

This week, commencing Monday 17 November, is Anti-bullying week. Almost 45,000 children talked to ChildLine about bullying last year. One parent working with one of our HeadStart projects shares her story. Names have been withheld to protect confidentiality.

lone young woman with lap top in her bedroomOur daughter was a happy, sociable and outgoing girl, but all that just seemed to stop overnight when at 11 years old, she started secondary school and the bullying started. She suddenly became moody and argumentative and every time I asked her what was wrong she just kept snapping at me and saying ‘nothing’. When she got in from school she would shut herself away in her bedroom not talking to anyone – it was so stressful, especially for our other daughter who just wanted to play with her big sister.

She was getting more and more withdrawn and I was getting really worried so in the end I went through her mobile phone. I was completely and utterly shocked and distraught at the abusive texts she had been getting from her so called ‘friends’ at school.

We were so angry and hurt that this was happening to her. We felt so guilty that she had been going through all this and we hadn’t noticed and that she hadn’t felt she could come to us for help.

We also later found out she had been cutting herself because of the bullying. I just couldn’t believe it. I kept crying all the time; I felt so helpless and distraught. I just didn’t know what had hit us or how to deal with it all.

Beat bullying posterWhen we found out about the bullying we went straight to the school but they put it down to it ‘just being girls’. The doctor didn’t help much either and we just felt bewildered and let down.

As the situation continued to get worse we felt there was no other option but for our daughter to move school. She didn’t want to go at first, she was going mad, but we didn’t know what else to do, we couldn’t let things carry on.

Thankfully our daughter seems to be happy at her new school but we would have liked more support both for our daughter to know how to deal with the bullying, and for us to know how best to help her. I still have my fingers crossed.

HeadStart aims to build the resilience of young people to help them cope better with difficult circumstances in their lives.  One of these ways is to provide more support for victims of bullying and their families.

To find out more visit and follow @BiglfYoungLives #HeadStartMatters

Life gets better at 40 for Steve

17 November 2014

Life begins at 40 for Steve… Chair of Stoke Expert Citizens, gives us an insight into his journey of recovery and inspiration.

Two men and a woman pose with a Lottery cake

Expert Citizens celebrate

This summer I had many reasons to celebrate.  I reached my 40th birthday; I achieved a new job with the VOICES project, and best of all I became father to a beautiful baby girl.  The last two years have marked a real turning point for me.

I was born in Stoke and have lived here all my life. After leaving school, I worked in the construction industry for over 20 years with my Dad.  Through my hard work, I built a reasonable life with a mortgage, social life, and the usual trappings of domestic life.  However, over several years, drink and drugs started taking over my life.  Although I continued to work as a functional addict for a long time, the impact of my addictions grew.

I lost my driving licence twice for driving while drunk.  I received a police caution for possession of cocaine and developed a reputation for being drunk and disorderly at football matches. I was also charged with assaulting a police officer. By 2010, I could no longer afford to pay the bills and became homeless. My lifestyle had a chronic impact on my mental and physical health to the extent that I was very unwell.  I suffered with cirrhosis of the liver and a hiatus hernia. This lifestyle also had an impact on other people around me.  It felt like my life really couldn’t get any worse.

However, after some reflection I entered a long process of rehab. In 2011, I moved in to a flat where I received further regular help from a psychiatrist and my Smart Moves support worker. I also received help from RIOT (Recovery Is Out There) and eventually became a volunteer with them. Inspired to help others recover, I applied for and gained employment with RIOT as a Project Coordinator.

Through this work and my volunteering, I was invited to take part in a focus group to talk about my experience of complex needs in the summer of 2012. This eventually became the ‘Expert Citizens Group’.  Following on from that, a wide range of partners got together and submitted a bid to the Big Lottery Fund for what was to become the VOICES project.

I was proud to be appointed Chair of the Stoke Expert Citizens Group and we were delighted when the Big Lottery Fund announced that our bid had been successful. We had played a central role in developing the bid. Expert Citizens are also at the centre of project delivery.

As a Service Coordinator with VOICES, I feel really well placed to help other people with complex needs to make the best of the help that is available to support their recovery. It is also exciting that I’m working with a wide range of agencies to identify what works well for people with complex needs and what can be even more effective.

Steven Gratton, Stoke, National Expert Citizens.


For more on Expert Citizens follow us on Twitter @ExpertCitizens



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