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A £215m grant has been awarded to five areas across England to run programmes supporting the wellbeing of families with children under the age of three.
The Big Lottery Fund’s A Better Start initiative has provided funding to programmes in Lambeth, Southend, Nottingham, Blackpool and Bradford to improve and change the way babies and families are reached and helped by agencies and services in the community.
The ten year programme will be focused on improving the future health, social and educational outcomes of children up to the age of three. This will be achieved through initiatives which include improving breast feeding rates, reducing childhood and maternal obesity and reducing domestic violence.
Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund England director, said: “Parents want the best for their children and as a society we know that what happens in the first three years of life profoundly affects a child’s future life chances.
“A poor start in life can affect your health, wellbeing, outlook on life and how you form relationships. Prevention matters more in the early years as we have a much greater understanding of what can and might improve the life chances of a future generation, that is why this investment is focusing on the three key areas of social and emotional development, nutrition, and language and communication development.”
Research has shown for every pound spent on early years education seven would have to be spent to have the same positive impact on an adolescent.
One focus of the long term funding initiative will be to improve language and communication in children under three, after it has been found half of children living in disadvantaged areas already have a communication problem.
Among the areas set to benefit from the funding, the Pre School Learning alliance will be leading improvements in the Southend area by reforming maternity care to improve support for mothers during pregnancy.
The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has been awarded £36m to work with the Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) to create fifty new Community Champions who will be trained to reduce social isolation of new parents in the community.
The LEAP and NCB partnership will also work to improve the social, emotional, communication and language development of babies and children, with projects due to be delivered in 26 sites across the centre of Lambeth.
Elaine Simpson, chair of the National Children’s Bureau said: “We believe that this support can help to initiate a step-change in services which will improve the lives of children not only in Lambeth, but across England, and we are committed to sharing learning and helping develop working practices and approaches which will ensure this happens.”
“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively across the partnership; with residents in the borough, local delivery partners, Lambeth Council and Lambeth CCG, to create real lasting change, not only for those families in the borough, but to implement system wide reforms.”
Blackpool, the sixth most deprived local authority in the country, will work in partnership with the NSPCC after receiving a £45m grant from the Big Lottery Fund initiative.
The partnership will work to decrease substance misuse, domestic abuse and poor social cohesion within families in Blackpool, which has the highest levels of looked after children in the country.