Children’s Minister launches £6.8 million action fund

National voluntary organisations are being invited to bid for a share of a new £6.8 million fund, designed to help improve children’s lives.

The Early Years Early Action Fund, launched by the Children’s Minister Adam Ingram will be open to national voluntary organisations to enable them to:

* Improve early years services covering parenting, play, childcare, child and maternal health and family support, with the aim of helping parents and communities build better lives for themselves and their children.

* Provide earlier support for families to prevent problems escalating into costly and difficult crisis situations, as well as supporting health improvement and helping looked after children.

Launching the fund during a visit to North Edinburgh Arts Centre, Children’s Minister Adam Ingram said: “The early years lay the foundations for a child’s future live and life chances. Improving support to them and their families during those crucial formative years can therefore make a real difference to their future health, well being, education, attainment and career prospects. This was highlighted last week by Professor Deacon when she published the findings of her work on improving children’s early years.

“Research also shows that effective, early support for vulnerable children and families in Scotland, to help tackle problems before they turn into crisis situations is both beneficial for children and young people, as well as society.  A Scottish Government study published in November showed the potential short, medium and long term savings of effective early intervention in Scotland and estimated that the medium term savings could be up to #131 million a year.

“This Early Years Early Action Fund is focused on both these efforts and will enable national voluntary sector organisations to work with Inspiring Scotland and local projects to help local people and local communities create better lives for themselves and their children. This type of collaborative working which Inspiring Scotland specialises in – bringing the public, private and voluntary organisations together to support local projects and local communities, is also very much in line with one of the key recommendations from Professor Deacon’s report.”

Andrew Muirhead, Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland – who will administer the fund, said: “The first few years of a child’s life has a very significant impact on their ability to grow into a happy and healthy adult. Sadly, for many children in Scotland their early years do not give them the positive start we would all wish for. The voluntary sector is ideally placed to reach into communities to support families who are in most need to make the most of their children’s potential. 

“We are confident that through our venture philanthropy model of providing substantial development support from the private sector in addition to financial investment, we will strengthen the voluntary sector’s response in supporting families and children with the best start in life. 

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Scottish Government through Early Years Early Action and look forward to opening the fund in May.”

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the SSSC welcomed the announcement and said: “Our children are our future and as the regulator and sector skills council for this vital workforce, I welcome today’s launch of the Early Years Early Action Fund, launched today by the Children’s Minister Adam Ingram. As Professor Deacon’s report Joining the Dots highlighted last week, the care and support children receive in their early years has a massive impact on their future potential. The people who work in early years settings like nurseries are a major influence in the development of our children and  often provide direct support to their parents and carers, who need access to skilled, caring professionals and well led and managed services that put children’s needs at the centre of what they do.

“I am delighted that the new Childhood Practice qualifications designed for managers of these services are already starting to have an impact on the way that early years services are being delivered. These work based qualifications are based on the standards developed by the SSSC in collaboration with public, private and voluntary organisations which is a great example of the tremendous benefits working together can bring and one of Professor Deacon’s key recommendations. This funding is a perfect opportunity for organisations to develop new and innovative approaches to support  children and I look forward to seeing impact over the coming months.”