Today sees the launch of a new evaluation report on Improving Futures– a £31m programme to improve outcomes for children living in families with multiple and complex needs. James Ronicle, Senior Research Manager at Ecorys UK, summarises the main findings from the report.
Last year Professor Kate Morris (University of Sheffield) and I traveled to Manchester to meet some of the families involved in Improving Futures.
There are 26 projects across the country, from Portsmouth up to Dundee via Cardiff and Belfast. We spoke to families who had traveled to Manchester from a range of projects. For one parent it was the first time she had been on a plane and the first time she had left her son at home, so it was quite a nerve-wracking affair!
Many of the families we met, and many more supported by the Improving Futures projects, live difficult lives. We have collected data on 4,000 of the families supported (over 7,000 have been supported in total). This shows us that:
• Around three out of five families are headed up by single parents.
• Nearly four out of five receive free school meals – often a sign that a family is struggling to make ends meet.
• Nearly two thirds of the children, all aged under 10, have behavioural difficulties.
So it didn’t come as a surprise to hear about the stress and anxiety some of the parents, and children, experience. But perhaps what is surprising is that many of the families had previously received very little support; they were families that were ‘getting by’. As one parent said to us, “We thought we were normal – it was my normal”.
And this is where the Improving Futures projects have really helped. Many have set up in universal services, such as schools, GP surgeries and children’s centres, and offer the support to these families that they have never had before. This could be parenting advice, emotional support or help in accessing other services that they need.
And our evaluation has found what a difference this has made. The number of families with children with persistent, disruptive and violent behaviour has halved, and the number of families with parenting and anxiety and frustration has fallen by a third.
One family we met described how much value she got from visiting the project and meeting other families in a similar situation to her:
“Sometimes being a parent can be very lonely. Some of these parents – the people they communicate with in the service – are probably the only people they come into contact with. And they go back to their private and lonely living, but they have actually taken away some energy with them…A happy parent makes a happy child. And you look forward to coming back.”
The Improving Futures programme has been set up to run for five years to test approaches to tackling specific issues. Therefore, as the five years are coming to an end, the projects are now making plans for their next steps. Some have already received further funding for some parts of their projects.
The big question for all early intervention projects like these is, to what extent do these changes continue once the support has ended? We have been following over 150 families for 2 years since their support began, and in March next year we can share how they have done over this time. If you’d like to come to the launch of our final report next year to hear more, email us at: Improvingfutures@ecorys.com.
Find out more about Improving Futures.
If you’d like to know more about the Improving Futures programme you can visit the website.
At the start of October, people across the world celebrated International Day of Older Persons. Over on the Big Lottery Fund Twitter account we were sharing some of the images of the huge array of activities that were taking place across England.
One group who were very active was our Ageing Better projects. Part of our strategic investments, we have invested £78 million to reduce social isolation, support a good quality of life in older age and promote the benefits of an ageing society.
Below, we go on a whistle-stop tour of England to check in with the projects to see what they got up to.
Down on the Isle of Wight, Age Friendly Island held their second annual ‘Celebrating Age Festival’. The residents spent a day rambling across the island along the River Yar, while Men in Sheds threw open their doors to visitors and Sandown Library delved in to the past with a Family History Drop-In. On Thursday, older people took part in the Celebrating Age Awards event to mark the contribution older people make to the Island.
Further north – 131 miles north to be precise – Bristol Ageing Better have revealed the secret to ageing well. Working with local older, the group have created ‘The Little Book of AWE – Ageing Well Everyday’ with tips and information on activities older people can do in Bristol that would boost their wellbeing.
In the capital, Ageing Better Camden are having double the celebration. International Day of Older Persons coincides with the 50th anniversary of Age UK Camden’s resource centre. Throughout October residents can visit a photo exhibition looking back over the last 50 years locally. There are also Get Active yoga and dance classes while the tech fans can try out some gadget clinics.
As part of the work in East Lindsey to combat loneliness and isolation, The T.E.D (Talk, Eat, Drink) in East Lindsey project held a ‘virtual crowd funding’ event to enable the local community to invest in the ideas they think will most benefit older people in the area.
Heading west to Sheffield, and a selfie booth with costumes and props was created by Age Better Sheffield to celebrate older people. Further west to Manchester and the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation have started to shape their work for local older people with the first meeting of their Equalities Board.
In Leeds, Time to Shine Leeds encouraged older LGBT people to come together and participate in a storytelling workshop and have a go at creative writing and storytelling. Meanwhile, following conversations with 200 older people across Leeds, Time to Shine have unveiled their Age-Friendly Charter which people and organisations across Leeds are encouraged to sign up to and take the pledge to make Leeds a better place to grow old in.
And further north again in Middlesbrough, Ageing Better Middlesbrough celebrated their first anniversary with afternoon tea with old acquaintances and new friends at the Dorman’s Museum.
This is just small snapshot of the great work being carried out by projects across the country. To see some more images of what our projects did during International Day of Older Persons, check out our Storify.
In this blog we hear from Ben Colclough, Head of Marketing & Communications for somewhereto_, which helps young people achieve their career ambitions by providing access to free spaces to develop their creative and enterprising projects.
somewhereto_ has been operating with the support of Big Lottery funding for four years, and in that time has found free space for 20,000 young people and engaged with 300,000!
It has been an amazing journey, with some amazing people. Like Amir, who went on to found Your Bike CIC, a social enterprise that turns young people at risk of offending into qualified bicycle mechanics. somewhereto_ found Amir a fantastic space for 12 months when he was setting up the company. He says, ‘The space they offered us was about 1700 square feet. They gave us a an incredible opportunity’. Your Bike has now moved to a permanent space and is fixing more bicycles and training more at risk young people than ever before.
Then there’s people like James, now co-owner of Mous Case, an innovation led company that strives to take the humble phone case and make it perfect. After winning a somewhereto_ startup competition, and receiving mentoring from somewhereto_ staff, James and his colleagues have secured funding, produced their first batch of products and are being stocked in Urban Outfitters and Amazon. James told us, ‘It might seem like a fun idea at the time to use your bedroom as an office but if your business is going to be a success you are setting yourself up for problems. A better idea is to call somewhereto_!’.
We’ve also worked with artists and creatives like Abbie, a trained dancer from Scotland. Since accessing free space Abbie has set up her own dance studio, The Grit. The Grit aims to provide young dancers with the skills and experience they need to progress into professional dance careers. Abbie says ‘Holding performances at somewhereto_ venues enabled the project to hold an intimate sharing of work, giving people a chance to grasp their ambitions’.
It’s been our privilege to work with young people on projects that have had such an impact on their lives and their communities.
For more information, visit somewhereto.com
We hear from Lorna Forrest, senior programme manager: UK programmes, on the latest Celebrate news.
In early July we launched Celebrate, a funding programme offering communities the chance to hold one off events or activities which celebrate their local community.
We have been overwhelmed by the popularity of Celebrate. Since it launched we’ve received over 1,300 applications across the UK already.
Due to the huge success we have allocated an extra £4.1 million of funding to give even more local communities the chance to come together and celebrate.
As we enter this final phase of funding; to build a spread of activity, we are going to be prioritising applications in England which will bring together different communities and generations, are people led and from schools and academies.
Each country is taking a slightly different approach to Celebrate, so please check our website for information relevant to the country you are in.
The type of projects we want to support might celebrate something from your local community’s history or a local hero. Or maybe it’s a chance to bring people together to get to know their neighbours better.
The final deadline for all completed Celebrate applications in all countries is noon, Friday 21 October 2016.
Good luck with your application!
FoodCycle was recently shortlisted to win the Charity Times ‘Community Award’, which will be announced at the end of September. In this blog, FoodCycle’s Clare Skelton reveals how their From Farm to Fork project is helping to reduce food waste and food poverty, building skills and communities, and even getting people dancing!
Food sits at the centre of many parts of our lives: it gives us energy, it nourishes us, it makes us happy (anyone else suffer from ‘hanger’?!), it’s part of our culture and it connects us as human beings. Sadly, millions of tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK, at the same time as millions of people are going hungry in our towns and cities. From Farm to Fork aims to do something about this.
Run jointly by campaigning organisation Feedback and national charity FoodCycle, From Farm to Fork aims to save food that is going to waste – and put it to good use. Young people across the country go with Feedback to farmers’ fields where they reclaim unharvested fruit and vegetables through an activity called ‘gleaning’. They save fruit and vegetables which are rejected because they don’t meet supermarkets’ strict rules. These vegetables might be a bit wonky or misshapen, but they are still perfectly good to eat.
Across the country Foodcycle volunteers then cook the reclaimed fruit and vegetables into tasty, healthy three-course meals which are served to homeless people, older people and refugees. Everyone sits down to share the meal together, and to enjoy a good chat about everything from the weather to politics to football!
Making a difference
By the middle of the summer, seven gleaning days across the country saved over 5 tonnes of fresh produce from going to waste. Over 700 young people had registered as new FoodCycle volunteers and the charity had opened seven new projects in Peterborough, Birmingham, Exeter, County Durham and three in London. Volunteers at FoodCycle served over 16,000 community meals and gave away over 3,000 takeaway meals for guests to eat during the week.
Some of the most fun events were disco soups in London’s Kings Cross, Borough Market and the V&A Museum. Volunteers slice and dice surplus fruit and veg, they then cook it into free community meals at the same time as dancing to bands and DJs. They are a lot of fun and a great way of getting people together to learn about food waste and what can be done to fight it.
It helps the volunteers as well. In a recent survey, 90% of 18-24 year olds say they have developed a better understanding of people from different backgrounds, cultures and age groups since volunteering with FoodCycle, 80% have made new friends and some have already set-up and started their own community project.
Want to get involved?
Does this sound up your street? There are lots of ways you can get stuck in and make a difference with From Farm to Fork. We’re always looking for more young people who want to get out in the fields and into the kitchen.
You can get involved by saving food from fields (it’s super fun, read some experiences here), then following it on its journey by volunteering to cook and serve meals at your nearest FoodCycle project.
Farm to Fork volunteer Katherine said: “My favourite part of volunteering with the Gleaning Network was meeting like-minded people and working together to complete an invaluable task. I helped make a difference to the food waste scandal.”
Check out the From Farm to Fork project page: http://www.ourbrightfuture.co.uk/portfolio/from-farm-to-fork/
Sign-up to go gleaning: http://feedbackglobal.org/gleaning-volunteer-form/
Register as a FoodCycle volunteer: http://foodcycle.org.uk/get-stuck-in/volunteer/