Big Lottery Fund launches £20m scheme to join up services for families

The Big Lottery Fund is to launch a £20m initiative to finance joined-up support services for families with complex needs.

The Improving Futures programme will fund up to 20 partnerships that bring together voluntary and public sector organisations, such as children’s charities and services that address families’ housing, health and employment needs.

These local partnerships will receive grants of up to £900,000 to work with families with children aged five to 10 years old.

Anna Southall, interim chair of the Big Lottery Fund, argued that families with multiple needs require joined-up support across adult and children’s services if their life chances are to be improved.

She added that the programme could save money for the taxpayer as a result of reduced need for costly interventions such as taking children into care, housing evictions, hospital stays or criminal proceedings. “Families in these circumstances interact with many different public services — from housing authorities to mental health services, schools to police,” she explained.

“While some have benefited from integrated assistance, many have not. With this new funding we aim not only to make a difference for the children, families and communities fortunate enough to be touched by the programme, but to demonstrate to others that there are better ways of organising support around families rather than specific services or individual causes.”

Naomi Eisenstadt, one of the creators of Sure Start, helped the Big Lottery Fund design the Improving Futures programme. She claimed that a programme focusing on primary school children is long overdue.

“We’ve done a huge amount of work on under-fives but haven’t really focused on that age between five and 10, before secondary school, where there’s still a chance to change trajectory for children who may be on the wrong path,” she said.

“We’re in difficult times but we’re also in exciting times. The public sector is open to trying new approaches — not least because there’s less money to go around — and working with local voluntary and community partners could really help them meet the needs of families in a cost-effective way.”

Kim Bromley-Derry, chair of the National Family Intervention Strategy Group, described the £20m investment as “a great opportunity” for the voluntary and public sector to improve the lives of children and families.

“By building on best practice, mobilising a whole range of local partners, and providing new funding, Improving Futures will make a real difference,” he said.

Improving Futures is part of Replication and Innovation, a new UK-wide funding initiative that aims to help resolve deep-rooted social problems.

The Big Lottery Fund plans to finance an evaluation of Improving Futures to find out how its approach can be replicated elsewhere.