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How can we make a difference for vulnerable families?

27 October 2014

James Ronicle, Senior Research Manager at Ecorys UK, describes how a one day event will bring together the latest evidence on effective approaches for supporting vulnerable families.

Ecorys' James Ronicle

Ecorys’ James Ronicle

In recent times the Big Lottery Fund has invested heavily in support for vulnerable families. The Improving Futures programme is a £26m programme funding 26 projects to improve outcomes for families with multiple and complex problems where the eldest child is aged 5 – 10. The A Better Start programme has invested £215m in five areas, and aims to improve the life chances of over 60,000 babies and young children aged 0-3. The Big Lottery Fund is not alone in investing in this policy area; in England, the Troubled Families programme aims to turn around the lives of the 120,000 most ‘troubled families’ and has recently been further extended to engage a further 400,000 families ; whilst in Wales, Families First aims to develop effective multi-agency approaches to improve outcomes for families.

Across these programmes, and others, projects are adopting a diverse range of approaches to engage families and improve their lives. Many are implementing ‘tried and tested’ approaches (such as having a ‘key worker’ that acts as a single point of contact for the family). Other projects are trialling new approaches, such as training community champions to work with families on a ‘para-professional’ standing, or basing key workers in doctor’s surgeries so doctors can signpost families more effectively.

But how do we know what works? After these programmes have finished, what should we scale up? If these are ‘pathfinders’, which paths should we follow, and which ones should we not?

Young mum playing with child on swingThe one day event – ‘Making a Difference for Vulnerable Families: Evidence into Policy and Practice’ seeks to answers these questions. The event provides exclusive insight into the findings from leading national family support programmes, including:

  • Troubled Families
  • Improving Futures
  • Families First

We will reveal some of the first findings from the Improving Futures programme, such as how the programme managed to reduce the number of families with children with persistent, disruptive and violent behaviour by 49%, and increase the number of families regularly participating in family activities by 53%.

You will have a chance to hear from:

  • Leading figures in family policy (Naomi Eisenstadt, Kate Morris);
  • Government departments (DCLG and Welsh Government); and
  • Evaluators of some of these national family programmes (such as Ecorys UK, leading the Troubled Families evaluation, Improving Futures evaluation consortium and supporting Ipsos MORI in the Families First evaluation).

With 4 keynote speakers and 14 workshops on offer, hear the latest research and evidence on:

  • Engaging with men
  • Mental health
  • Young carers
  • The role of key workers
  • The role of volunteers.

The event will also include an exhibition hall, with 25 exhibition stands featuring national family programmes and local family projects (including ones run by Action for Children, Barnardo’s and many local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations).

Places are still available for the event and this is the final week of the Early Bird discount, with tickets priced at £25 (exc. VAT) for VCSEs and £45 (exc. VAT) for other organisations. The event is taking place in Birmingham on Monday 8 December, 10am to 4pm, at the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC).

For more information visit:

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to come together with practitioners, researchers and policy-makers working in this area to share knowledge and experience from across the UK.

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