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Funded projects improving futures across UK

1 November 2013

In 2011 the Big Lottery Fund launched the £26m Improving Futures programme, which aims to help around 10,000 families and test different approaches to improve outcomes for children in families with multiple and complex needs. 

The programme is funding 26 local projects across the UK, run by third sector organisations in partnership with statutory services; to develop innovative models of support for families where the eldest child is aged 5 – 10 and facing difficult circumstances. 

Today, the first year evaluation report (PDF) has been published and it shows the projects involved are making great progress. James Ronicle, Evaluation Manager at Ecorys UK, the organisation leading the evaluation team, tells us more about the report findings.

Ecorys' James Ronicle

Ecorys’ James Ronicle

While it is early days for the projects, they are already helping to turn around the lives of families with complex needs where the eldest child is aged 5-10.

This age group is being specifically targeted because it is a critical period in a child’s development and the programme aims to improve the life chances of children by tackling problems at this stage.

The projects were encouraged to be ambitious and have implemented a range of innovative approaches to supporting families, including using intensive key workers, persistent one-to-one support, educational outreach and evidence-based parenting programmes.

For example, in South Tyneside families have received training to perform a key worker role, managing caseloads of other families. Some projects are breaking new ground in delivering programmes never run in England before, such as Roots of Empathy which gives children in primary schools a chance to support the development of and nurture a young baby which joins their class on a regular basis for nine months.

Many projects are also testing new and more effective ways for commissioning family support services, including personalised budgets and ‘spot purchasing’ for individual families.

One of the main successes of the projects has been in encouraging families to take up family support services, with well over three quarters (85%) of families having joined the programme voluntarily. Many families reported having been reluctant to previously engage.

Interestingly, in some cases statutory services have started referring families to Improving Futures because of their greater willingness to engage. Another positive finding from the report is that 98% of survey respondents said they would speak highly of the projects.

Further impact will be captured in subsequent years of the evaluation by the evaluation team, a consortium led by Ecorys UK and including Ipsos MORI, Family Lives and University of Nottingham. We look forward to sharing more findings with you in the future as we continue our evaluation over the coming years.

You can read the evaluation report and some top tips on developing support for families with complex needs in the research area of our website.

Find out how one of the Improving Futures projects in Wolverhampton has changed the lives of one family by reading their story on the BIG Stories page.

What do you think of James’ guest blog? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter using #biglf.

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