20 Aug 2013


A project in Greater Manchester has been awarded £399,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to develop long term plans to help thousands of struggling parents give their children the best start in life.

Nearly three quarters of new mums (71%*) say they would like more support during pregnancy and the first years of their baby’s life according to research commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund. 

The first three years of life can profoundly influence a child’s life chances and today’s awards are part of the Big Lottery Fund’s £165 million investment to improve the futures of over 10,000 vulnerable babies across England. The investment, A Better Start, aims to improve the physical, emotional and psychological foundations built during a child’s first few years, the most rapid and important phase of their development. 

From the 15 areas across England today awarded this development funding, the Fund will select up to 5 areas to receive a major investment of between £30 and £50 million to improve services over the life of the project. Over the next ten years the initiative will gather evidence to demonstrate the benefit of support in the early years for children, society and the economy.

Over the next ten years the initiative will gather evidence to demonstrate the benefit of support in the early years for children, society and the economy.

In Greater Manchester, the money has been awarded to The Children’s Society as the lead organisation to create a fully integrated early years support network which will radically transform the lives of children under the age of three and their parents living in Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham, Salford and Manchester.

The Children’s Society will work closely with local partnerships across the five areas to ensure parents, and expectant mothers and fathers, are knowledgeable and confident so they can support the development of their children. The project aims to make sure children have strong communication, emotional and social skills to better prepare them for school, enjoy their childhood and eventually make the move into being a young adult.

The project plan will include the provision of family mentors, healthier lifestyle support, and supporting parents in providing healthy, safe environments for their children’s development. Provision will include breastfeeding peer support, advice on healthier lifestyles, and parenting programmes.                                                                  

An ‘Early Years Innovation Lab’ is planned which will act as a hub for ideas and for evaluation, to ensure that successful programmes can be sustained for many years to come and shared as examples of good practice.                                          

Rob Jackson, The Children’s Society’s Area Director for Greater Manchester, said: “A Better Start in Greater Manchester will provide parents with vital support to help make sure their children thrive. Children within the five areas we are focusing on will be equipped with the vital building blocks to provide them with the brightest possible present and future.”

Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, also backs The Fund’s investment. 

He said: "Our earliest environment, even before birth, has a profound effect on our later lives. Our health, our educational attainment, our personality and our relationships are hugely influenced by what happens in the womb and particularly during those first three years of our lives as small children. Research shows the massive value of improving the quality of those earliest years. This welcome investment from the Big Lottery Fund means that we shall be able to help the most vulnerable babies get a better start – it is an important investment for the future of our society."

Nat Sloane, Big Lottery Fund England Chair, said: “Sometimes parents do not always know what is best for their children despite wanting the best for them. If all parents knew that they could take steps in pregnancy and the first years of their child’s life to help them in later life by reducing the risks of getting heart disease or diabetes, helping them to achieve better grades in school or even improving their chances of a successful career, surely parents would want to know how. We know they want more support – 71 per cent of mothers say they do.

“Costly health and social problems can be traced back to some children not having a good start in life. A Better Start will aim to stop harm to a child before it happens by providing the right support in those crucial years between birth and the age of three. No mother wants to see their child end up in prison, suffer poor mental health or have no sense of self worth. Helping parents give their children the best possible start in life will not only have a positive impact on society but will also mean less costly spending treating entrenched problems later on.”

The Fund has been working with a number of experts in the field of early years, including Naomi Eisenstadt, former Director of the Sure Start Programme and Social Exclusion Task Force and Kate Billingham, an international advisor on children’s public health and George Hoskings, Chief Executive of the Wave Trust. 

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888

Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572

Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk 

Ask a question here: https://ask.biglotteryfund.org.uk

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Notes to Editors 

*71% of new mums want more support during pregnancy and their baby’s first years – a survey of 1,890 new mothers, (July 2013, Bounty - the parenting club).

A child’s development at 22 months can serve as an accurate predictor of its educational outcomes when they are 26: Millennium Cohort Study by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies. 

Boys assessed by nurses at the age of three as being ‘at risk’ had two-and-a-half times as many criminal convictions as the group deemed ‘not to be at risk’ at age 21: From Child To Adult: The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (1996).

A child’s physical, social and cognitive development during the early years strongly influences their school-readiness and educational attainment, economic participation and health.

Dyson A, Hertzman C, Roberts H, Tunstill J and Vaghri Z (2009) Childhood development, education and health inequalities. Report of task group.

The development of early cognitive ability is strongly associated with later educational success, income and better health.

Fernstein L and Duckworth K (2006). Development in the Early Years, Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of learning, Research Report 20.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are at significantly increased risk of developing conduct disorders that could lead to difficulties in all areas of their lives, including educational attainment, relationships and longer-term mental health.

NICE/SCIE (2006) Parent-training/education programmes in the management of children with conduct disorders. NICE technology appraisal guidance 102.

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.

The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 the Fund has awarded close to £6bn.

The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006. 

Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.