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Mums want more support to improve start for vulnerable 0-3 year olds

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Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start
Release date:
20 8 2013

Close to three-quarters of new mums (71%*) feel they need more support during pregnancy and the first years of their baby’s life according to research by the Big Lottery Fund.

Today, the Big Lottery Fund is announcing £5 million in development funding to be shared by fifteen areas in England to build long term plans to support thousands of parents in giving their children the best start in life.

The investment is from the Fund’s A Better Start initiative which aims to improve the life chances of over 10,000 children by investing £165 million for up to ten years. Next year, up to five of the areas will receive a major investment of between £30 and £50million.

The first three years of life can profoundly influence a child’s life chance. The investment 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. 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.

The start a child gets in life can have an impact on a number of long term personal and social problems as the fifteen areas receiving funding today show.

In Northumberland the referral rates to children’s social care are three times the national average with the number of children below three under a child protection plan being double the national average. Newcastle has the highest child obesity figures in the country for children in reception year. In Luton poverty, lone parenting, large families, overcrowded housing, long term unemployment and domestic violence are all higher than the national average. And in Nottingham 30% of domestic violence incidents are reported from four wards where life expectancy is significantly below the national average.

Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, also backs the 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.

Areas receiving development grants:



Lead VCS





East Midlands



Nottingham Citycare Partnership CIC

East Midlands



Pre-school Learning Alliance

East of England



Pre-school Learning Alliance

East of England



National Children's Bureau




The Children's Society









North East




North East



Children North East

North East


Greater Manchester

The Children's Society

North West




North West



Family Action

South East



Bradford Trident

Yorks & Humber



Sheffield Cubed

Yorks & Humber



Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Textphone: 0845 6021 659
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
Follow The Fund on Twitter: @biglotteryfund #BIGlf
Find us on facebook: www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFund

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.