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We’re changing our online community – to make it your online community!

2 August 2016

In this blog Steve Keene, our digital manager, talks us through the improvements we will be making to our Online Community.

Changes-are-comingBringing people together

Every year we award millions of pounds of the National Lottery’s good cause money across the UK. We know that money makes a huge difference, but we also think there is a real opportunity to do even more to support those we have funded.

I hear lots of stories about groups delivering really valuable work who would like to speak to other groups. They would like to learn from them, pick their brains, share knowledge, problems and opportunities. Sometimes that happens through existing networks. Sometimes it is hard to reach the right people.

Our aim to improve the online community

We think we’re really well placed to bring those groups together, so they can help each other. We’ve begun a project to make major improvements to our online community to do this.

We’ve spoken to groups we’ve funded, we’ve spoken to our staff who work with groups we’ve funded every day and we’ve looked at the stats and evidence we already have. From all that evidence, it’s clear that there is one clear and simple purpose for our online community:

The online community will be a peer to peer networking tool for groups that we’ve funded.

How do we want you to be involved in this?

Over the next few months we’ll be keeping you up to date and telling you the story of how we are making these improvements. We’ll explain why we’re making changes, and why now. We’ll explain how we’ve tried to understand what you, our users, want. And we’ll talk about how we’re going to approach this work in a new way for the Big Lottery Fund.

Most importantly we’ll be speaking with you! We want your input on our online community. Your comments will help shape what we do and how we do it. The online community is for groups we’ve funded, so we want those same people at the heart of the process of improving it.

A few questions to get things started:

  • Does our purpose The online community will be a peer to peer networking tool for groups that we’ve funded sound good to you?
  • What communities or networks are you already involved in, online or in the real world? And how do they help?
  • What sort of discussions would you like to take place on the online community? What would help you?

Thank you!




Being involved with HeadStart has taken me on an unexpected route

25 July 2016

Maddie Springett, 19, has been involved with HeadStart Kent from its beginning in 2014 and has shaped the programme which gives young people the support they need to prevent and cope with mental health problems. Maddie, who has trained as a peer mentor, talks about how HeadStart inspired her to take a new direction with her career.

“In early 2014 when I was 17 I was at an event about community safety as a youth councillor and two ladies spoke to me about a new thing that sounded cool. At the time I was looking to get involved in more senior activities.  This was the beginning of the HeadStart Kent pilot and it gave me the opportunity to step up to an adult role and support the younger ones when I turned 18.

Maddie Springett

Maddie Springett

“Through HeadStart I’ve been heavily involved with projects in Thanet, Canterbury and North West Kent. At the time it just seemed to be about helping others but as the project has grown and I’ve become more and more involved I’ve been able to see and inform the strategic side of why this type of support for young people is needed and how it can help us all in the future.

“As part of the main steering group I’ve been active in evaluating what works and what doesn’t at both a local and national level and have been very active in developing materials that have been used for reaching out to pupils at schools across Kent where we’ve been running the pilots. You can hear me in this video that around seven of us work on to explain to others what we were doing.

“It’s been amazing seeing how the trialling and testing has turned into a massive strategy that everyone is talking about. People are chatting about HeadStart in everyday conversations, young people know about it and know where to go and get support before small things become big issues.

“One of the best things I’ve witnessed is training many of us as peer mentors and active listeners. We’ve become the first point of contact for young people who are more comfortable talking to us about worries such as exam stress before talking to adults. By talking to a peer mentor or active listener we can help them diffuse a situation before it becomes a big issue and give them the confidence they need now and in the future.

“I continue to be involved with the HeadStart steering group and as an older young person I hope that I can be a role model for those still at school. There have been loads of standout moments over the past two years including seeing the change in someone who didn’t have the confidence to use public transport to get to school but now can through to another who couldn’t speak in a room with more than five or six others in it who now has the strength to address a room full of people.

“Originally I’d not had a plan to work within youth work – I was keen on getting involved in law and politics. Now through the different experiences that I have been a part of, I’m looking to study criminology and youth work at university in a few years with the aim of working in youth justice. Being involved with HeadStart has taken me on an unexpected route as I’m now very excited about focusing on a career as a youth worker. I have completed a level 2 apprenticeship in youth work and have just joined Catch 22 as a Lead Mentor supporting the delivery of the National Citizen Service Programme and this summer I’m on a four week programme with a group of young people supporting different residential course’s and social action projects in the Swale local community.”

Six areas in the UK, including Kent, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental well-being of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities.

Read more about the £54 million funding

Working with disability

22 July 2016

IT and business student Adeel Ramzan joined our Newcastle office on a work placement as part of a Percy Hedley Foundation employability project, funded by a Reaching Communities grant.

In this blog, Adeel, Big Lottery Fund corporate assistant Jill Patterson and funding manager Keith Moyle discuss the valuable learning opportunities for all parties.

Adeel-Ramzan“Hi, I am Adeel Ramzan and I am 21-years-old.  I am currently doing a Business Administration course at Percy Hedley College, and at Newcastle College I’m studying a computer skills course (ECDL) and working towards a GCSE in English.

“I have cerebral palsy and I am a wheelchair user, but that does not define me. I am a normal, regular lad who likes socialising with friends, football, banter and girls!

Adeel adds: “I use a communication aid to help me talk. It works by infrared, so I need to wear a silver dot on my forehead so the signal bounces back and forward to the camera. I control the mouse on my communication aid by moving my head where needed. I can use a regular computer by connecting it to my communication aid via a USB Bluetooth cable.

Making ‘small adjustments’

“On my work placement at Big Lottery Fund my work includes archiving and the post. I really enjoy my time here because the staff are so lovely and easy to get along with.

“I work closely with Jill Patterson. She knows how I work and treats me like everyone else, which I appreciate very much. I love the way she has a joke with me sometimes, too.

“I am hopeful that my time spent here at Big Lottery Fund will teach me new things and give me better understanding of the working world.”

Adeel’s placement has been a valuable one for his mentor, Jill, who had this to say:

“I think I have learnt and gained as much from this experience as Adeel has, says Jill.

“I have found Adeel to be really good company and very funny, but we have also managed to work as well. I have learnt about considering alternative methods of working and learning, and how small adjustments to work stations can have a big effect on abilities to work.”

Adeel’s funding manager, Keith Moyle, says it was important that Adeel’s work placement was “meaningful” despite the challenges presented.

“We wanted to be sure we could provide a placement that both met Adeel’s expectations and offered him a real taste of the world of work – as well as a learning opportunity for ourselves. I think it has gone really well, and look forward to feedback from Adeel and the team whom he worked with at the end of his placement.”

Look out for Adeel’s reflections on working for Big Lottery Fund after his placement finishes in July.










HeadStart changed my life

19 July 2016

By Taylor Morrison-Eaves

Throughout the country emotional health and wellbeing within young people is becoming a focus. This is because, compared to five years ago, the statistics show a frightening rise in self-harm, depression, and anxiety with a 50 per cent rise in self-harm admissions for under-18’s.*

In 2014/15 in the Blackpool area, 175 10-16 year olds were admitted to hospital because they self-harmed and/or self-poisoned. This is triple the national average.

This means a lot more services are being put in place to support young people, but it isn’t fixing the problem. A lot, not all, services are looking for a quick fix, a plaster, to put over the issues and hope they go away. What is needed is early intervention, support before the problems occur, measures put in place to ensure everyone knows how to handle the majority of challenges they may face throughout their lives.

I have been battling depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and in May 2012 I became the worst I had been. I was primarily being supported by my high school counsellor, but when this low-level support didn’t seem to work, I began seeking other services.

I was referred to weekly counselling. Soon into this I realised it wasn’t working because as soon as I had created a bond with my counsellor they left, and I had to start from square one. After being through several counsellors and services, I felt that nothing was helping, I still felt lost, I was still self-harming and ultimately I felt like there was no point in living. I was then diagnosed with Adolescent Psychosis, this meant that while I had symptoms that suggested Schizophrenia I was too young to be officially diagnosed. I was placed onto medication called Quetiapine, and it took me a while to learn how to say and spell it!

In June 2012 I took a substantial overdose of my Quetiapine and Co-codamol, and because of that I was referred to the Early Intervention Service.

A lot more happened after that: I was in an inpatient unit; I had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT sessions, I was given Sertraline, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug, and I still self-harmed.

In January 2014, I began to feel better, so much so that my youth worker asked if I wanted to go to a workshop. I didn’t really know much about it but I said yes. Little did I know that a project called HeadStart would change my life.

HeadStart is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund to help support young people, aged between 10 and 16 years old with their emotional health and wellbeing, and to build their resilience. As of this moment, we have been through a lot. We’ve bid for money, started our pilot projects, travelled to many places in England and even been to Canada; worked with amazing people who have taught us so much, and now, we’ve been awarded £10 million to begin the five-year project in Blackpool.

Now that we have the money we can officially begin our project, focusing on four areas; online, family, community and school. I would say my favourite thing we are doing is the universal whole-town approach. This means that we can support every single 10 to 16-year-old in the whole of Blackpool. This is so important because Blackpool has a lot of transience issues, with families moving around and out of Blackpool.

While it is an ambitious dream, it is possible. Blackpool has seven mainstream secondary schools, 34 primary schools, three special educational needs schools and one pupil referral unit (PRU). Granted our PRU is the largest in England, but it is possible to build the resilience and support every single 10 to 16-year-old in Blackpool.

In five years’ time, I hope that HeadStart is still here, and I hope it is still supporting every 10 to 16-year-old and the biggest thing I hope is that it isn’t seen as just another project, I want it to be the way Blackpool is.

As I mentioned earlier, right now we need services that are helping young people face the challenges in their lives, whether it is self-harm or low self-esteem, or concerns about sexuality, gender, religion or whatever it is.

However I hope that one day these services aren’t needed at all. I hope everyone, regardless of their background is resilient and can face whatever life throws at them. I know that seems impossible but anything is possible, it just takes someone to get the ball rolling.

If you, or someone you know is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or dreads going home, or prefers to stay inside then the best thing I can suggest is to talk to someone, whether it’s a teacher, your parents, a youth worker, a social worker, a friend. Talk to them, let them know what you’re feeling, because I know from experience that bottling your emotions up isn’t healthy.

Taylor Morrison-Eaves is 18-years-old and was involved in the pilot phase and development of HeadStart Blackpool.

Six areas in the UK, including Blackpool, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental well-being of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities. Find out more about the funding

*On average, three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, 90 per cent of head teachers have reported an increase in such problems over the last five years and hospital admissions for self-harm among the under-18s are up 50 per cent. IPPR, May 2016

What do you want to celebrate?

6 July 2016

Up to £10,000 in new funding is available for local communities to celebrate.

In a recent Big Lottery Fund survey, six out of ten people* said they have never or cannot remember ever coming together to celebrate with their community. Big Lottery Fund wants to help change this with a new funding programme, Celebrate, which launches today.

With £5 million available across the UK we’re calling on local groups and organisations of all shapes and sizes to apply for funding to hold events or activities that will bring people together and celebrate what makes their local community special.

Celebrate-blog-picIt could be to celebrate something in their local history or a local community hero, to mark something important to their community like Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday, or simply to get to know their neighbours better.

Applications for funding open today, 6 July 2016. To be eligible, applicants must be part of a constituted group which has its own bank account. We welcome applications from voluntary or community organisations, schools and statutory bodies, particularly those who have never considered the Big Lottery Fund as a potential source of funding.

Organisations are encouraged to submit their applications early to avoid disappointment as once funds have been allocated, Celebrate will close to new applications.

What would you celebrate in your local area?

For more information and to apply for a Celebrate grant please visit our website.

You can also follow us on Twitter @BigLotteryFund and join the conversation at #BigCelebration or Facebook.

*YouGov poll on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund with 2109 respondents, June 2016



LEAP celebrates Fathers’ Day!

20 June 2016

The Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) had a great time celebrating Fathers’ Day at Larkhall 1 o’ Clock Club and the Liz Atkinson Children’s Centre with special events for dads, male carers, and their families. The sun peeked out briefly to shine on the many activities on offer, from face painting to cake decorating and even some kite-making. 

Jennifer Robson, Programme Manager for LEAP, spoke to Mark James, outreach worker at Larkhall, about why events like this are so important.

LEAP-Fathers'-Day-blog“Dads and male carers are part of families – whether parents are together or not – but they often need encouragement to take part in children’s services”, Mark explains. “This might be for various reasons such as dads working in the week, or not feeling comfortable coming along to services mainly attended by women.”

Mark also noted that there tends to be fewer men working in children’s centres, but seeing other male faces really helps dads feel comfortable. One of the dads we spoke to said he often felt activities weren’t for him, until he attended and felt welcomed by staff and other parents.

So how do we help make dads feel more comfortable? Mark said his approach has always been to think about dads from the start: “When mum comes into the centre for the first time, we always ask about Dad, and we register the whole family. We want everyone to know from the start how important their role is.”

The Partnership spoke to several dads who reiterated how important it was to think about more ways to involve fathers. One dad said: “When my partner was pregnant, I went to all the appointments and really wanted to be involved, but nobody asked me how I was feeling. After our baby was born, we both suffered separately with post-natal depression. My partner had support but I felt overwhelmed and alone and had to get through it myself.”

Another dad told us that when his first child was born, he felt very isolated and unprepared. “Hearing about Family Foundations, which LEAP is offering to first-time parents, I thought if I’d had this I would have felt more ready to be a dad.”

LEAP-Fathers'-Day-blog-2The Partnership will be working with some of these dads, and other male carers across the four wards, to design services for the whole family. This will help us understand the particular experience of dads and ensure they are involved, and if they need it, offered support.

Mark says it’s crucial that when organising services and activities, we think specifically about dads – everything from what time they can come along to how to keep the networks dads have built going. It’s also important to ensure there’s ongoing contact after the service has finished.

Another worker at the Larkhall event told us: “There’s a tendency when we see dads at events like this to say “aren’t they engaging well with their children’. These dads aren’t engaging, they’re just being dads, and we need to see it the same way.”

Mark sees LEAP as a fantastic opportunity to promote and celebrate the important role of dads and other male carers in children’s lives, and encourage them to take part in the services on offer.

Thanks to Larkhall and Liz Atkinson for such fantastic Fathers’ Day events, and to all the marvellous dads and male carers who spoke to us. We can’t wait to work more closely with you in future!

To find out more about LEAP Lambeth, you can follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or visit their website.


LEAP is supported from the Big Lottery Funds A Better Start Programme with the aim to improve outcomes for children in three key areas of development: social and emotional development, communication and language development, and diet and nutrition.


Libraries in Blackpool get a boost from local dads

17 June 2016

Today, as part of Father’s Day we take a look at how the ‘A Better Start’ programme is supporting dads in Blackpool.

Local dads have joined up with A Better Start, Blackpool Council’s Libraries Service and the Blackpool Illumination’s Lightworks Team to improve the reading spaces for children aged 0 – 3 in local libraries. FRED, otherwise known as the Fathers Read Every Day programme, kicks off in September, with designers helping out to ensure the contributions of dads are reflected in the furniture and art work installed in five local libraries across Blackpool.ABS

Some of the new pieces of art include giant tree bookcases and a raised reading tower. On Friday, Lightworks hosted a ‘Build It Day’ with dads and designers teaming up to build all of the pieces. To coincide with the launch of FRED in the libraries, dads are being supported to increase the time they spend reading with their children thanks to story telling sessions by the library service.

Scott Moseley, a local dad involved with FRED, said

I’ve been involved with the project from the first library we worked together on. This project has got me excited and I’m looking forward to getting more involved. We meet regularly and there are always some new volunteers who want to come along and join us.

I know that it’s going to make a real difference to families who use each of these libraries, and encourage more families to read to their children. I feel proud of being part of it too and look forward to inviting my friends and family to see what I’ve achieved.


How to give volunteer projects a better start

10 June 2016

""In 2015, we commissioned Parents 1st to carry out an evidence review of volunteer models and early childhood outcomes to support our strategic investment A Better Start.  A Better Start is a 10 year ‘test and learn’ investment totaling £215 million across five local area partnerships within BradfordBlackpoolLambethNottingham and Southend on Sea.

These geographical areas have a high level of need in terms of deprivation, educational achievement and child health.  A Better Start will facilitate a system change locally, which means:  a shift in culture and spending across children and families agencies towards prevention;  that local health and other public services,
VCSE and the wider community work together to co-produce and deliver less bureaucratic, more joined up services for all families living in the area; and that these services work with the whole family effectively to improve outcomes for children focusing on pregnancy and the first three years of life.

These new pathways of care aim to make better use of local resources and set out to improve outcomes for children in three key development areas of:

  • Social and emotional
     preventing harm before it happens (including abuse and/or safeguarding, neglect, perinatal mental health and domestic violence) as well as those that promote good attunement and attachment
  • Speech and language development: developing skills in parents to talk, read and sing to, and particularly to praise their babies and toddlers and to ensure local childcare services emphasise language development
  • Nutrition: starting out by encouraging breast-feeding and promoting good nutritional practices.

The five A Better Start partnerships have put local people in the lead and built on the strengths within their communities in a number of ways including supporting local services through volunteering, peer support and ‘community champions’ working alongside a professional workforce. To support the five partnerships to plan and implement these, the evidence review explores ‘what works, when, for whom and in what circumstances’ in contributing to the three child development outcomes with a particular focus on:

  • Availability of suitable models and programmes
  • Expectations regarding outcomes for children
  • System requirements
  • Governance and safeguarding
  • Collaboration with the professional workforce and statutory services.

The Big Lottery Fund recognised that one size doesn’t fit all and the evidence review has not sought to arrive at a set of recommendations, rather a framework for developing a range of approaches to volunteering in different contexts which is applicable in a number of different environments.

Key Findings from the Parents 1st Evidence Review

Volunteer projects can:

  • Contribute to A Better Start outcomes in ways that are distinct from, but complementary to, professional support.
  • Build relationships of trust and equality with parents; reach and be accepted by parents who do not engage with other services; and help to create the conditions that can lead to change.

No two volunteer projects will be the same, because it is essential to adapt the volunteer support to the local context, to its communities and parents. Nonetheless, we can identify some principles and features of volunteer projects that have successfully contributed to the child development outcomes of interest to the A Better Start partnerships and to others working in, or with an interest in, this field.

Six key principles on which to base volunteering projects

  • Strengths-based: with an emphasis on empowering parents to gain the information, confidence and skills they need to find solutions and become the best parents they can be.
  • Relationship-based: developing trust between everyone that is involved − parents, volunteers, coordinators and local professionals.
  • Reciprocal: ensuring that everyone affected by the project feels their voice is heard and that they contribute to and benefit from being a part of the project.
  • Evidence-based but adaptive: rooted in evidence of what works, based on a theory of change and constantly reflecting, and prepared to innovate and adapt to local context.
  • Collaborative: aware of the distinctive roles of professional and volunteer support and working cooperatively with local professionals.
  • Clear about parameters: the aims and the boundaries of the volunteer projects are clearly articulated and understood by parents, professionals and commissioners.

Six key features of successful projects

  • The key role of the project coordinator, understood as the lynchpin of a successful volunteer project. Skilled coordinators can:
    • Attract, engage, train, support, supervise and retain volunteers.
    • Facilitate processes that enable volunteers to engage with vulnerable parents.
    • Build relationships with and between professionals and other voluntary sector projects.
  • Fully costed to provide a proper operational base: staff to coordinate, train and supervise; marketing resources; volunteer expenses such as travel or phone; and data systems.
  • Strong organisational leadership with a core purpose of nurturing grass-roots community involvement.
  • Realistic timescales which account for long lead-in time, while a robust implementation design process is carried out with stakeholders, relationships are built with the local community and public sector professionals, and volunteers are recruited and trained. Initial funding should last for at least three years to allow for meaningful evaluation of impact.
  • ‘Just enough’ data collection. Tracking impact is important, but data collection can be intrusive and burdensome for volunteers and parents. Consider what impacts can be meaningfully measured and how this data can be collected with as light a touch as possible.
  • Leadership models the principles of the projects: Leaders in commissioning and provider organisations must model the strengths-based, relational and collaborative working required for successful volunteer projects.

To find out more about designing and delivering volunteer models please read the full report and framework.