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Strengthening the legacy of Improving Futures

5 April 2012

By Tara Mackey, Evaluation and Research Analyst

Last week, as the government published findings about last summer’s riots, projects funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s £26 million Improving Futures programme were beginning to share learning about the benefits of an earlier, more joined-up approach to helping children growing up in families with multiple and complex needs.

Improving Futures projects came together to share learning and best practice

Improving Futures projects came together to share learning and best practice

Improving Futures funding is being distributed across the UK to improve outcomes for children within families who experience multiple and complex problems – for example, to do with poor health, unemployment, debt, and housing problems – which can affect their children’s wellbeing and life chances.

Last week, our programme evaluators Ecorys brought all our Improving Futures projects together in Birmingham to consult with them on developing  evaluation plans and provide an opportunity for them to share learning.

Over the next five years, Ecorys will be hosting a number of events and workshops to ensure that the voice of the projects is continually reflected in all evaluation work. These events will also provide an invaluable opportunity for projects to share learning with each other and with us here at BIG.

The event was a real success. Highlights of the day included an introduction to the evaluation monitoring system, evaluation surgeries and project speed-dating! Projects had time over lunch to explore the Improving Futures online learning site; their feedback will be incorporated and the site will be launched later this month. This is a fantastic platform providing projects with a space to engage with each other and share thematic learning throughout the life of Improving Futures.

Families First's Rebecca Clarkson was one of those who addressed the audience

Families First's Rebecca Clarkson was one of those who addressed the audience

Four projects gave presentations on the day. They were from Extending the Reach, based in the Tyne Gateway, Hackney-based Families First, Nuturing Inverclyde, and Eleri, operating out of Cardiff. They each shared their experiences of integrated working and community engagement. The feedback these projects provided is invaluable in building the evidence base to inform future policy in this field.

The government’s Riots and Victims Panel last week launched a report citing lack of opportunities for young people and parenting as two of the key contributors to the riots of summer 2011. The report concluded that the rioters lacked a “stake in society”. It is important to acknowledge that our Improving Futures projects are already working to support community engagement and a whole family approach to family intervention.

It is already apparent that our Improving Futures programme is beginning to meet the needs of families and communities in a number of ways. It has been praised for its innovative approach, giving charities the opportunity to lead partnerships with other local bodies and for its focus on providing earlier, co-ordinated support for around 8,000 families. The evaluation of this programme will be critical as policymakers and practitioners are keen to find out more about the projects, their impacts and their cost benefits.

Projects were updated with progress of Improving Futures

Projects were updated with the progress of BIG's Improving Futures programme

An evaluation framework has been developed in consultation with projects. It is unique in its approach to assessing the prevalence of risk and strength factors for children, parents and the whole family.

The evaluation team are developing innovative plans for both a full cost benefit analysis to identify specific attributable savings for the public purse and a quasi experimental approach to confirm the net impact of Improving Futures projects. 

If you want to be kept informed of the ongoing work we are doing to contribute to the UK evidence base for whole family intervention or for more information click here or email Tara Mackey, evaluation lead (

For information on the most recent awards through Improving Futures, visit BIG’s newsroom.

Want more? Read January’s blog post which announced the first 17 Improving Futures awards. 

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