NEWS12 November 2021

NatCen to lead children’s programme evaluation

Charities Inclusion News Public Sector UK Youth

UK – The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) will lead the evaluation of the £215m early childhood development programme A Better Start.

Children in a circle

NatCen will join a consortium including the University of Sussex, Research in Practice, the National Children’s Bureau and tax firm RSM in evaluating the National Lottery-funded programme.

A Better Start began in 2015 and is a 10-year programme that aims to improve the life chances of babies and young children through reforming the commissioning and delivery of services.

The programme funds local partnerships in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend-on-Sea.

The evaluation will investigate whether A Better Start has improved children’s life chances and will focus on diet and nutrition, social and emotional skills, and language and communication skills.

Researchers will also examine the experiences of families and parents from diverse and assess whether A Better Start reduced costs relating to primary school-aged children.

The findings of the evaluation will be published in the newsletter A Better Start – Shared Learning, produced by the National Children’s Bureau on behalf of the National Lottery Community Fund.

Martina Vojtkova, director of NatCen’s Policy Research Centre, said: “We are delighted to lead the national evaluation of the innovative A Better Start programme.

“The consortium led by NatCen will bring together internationally recognised expertise in the field of early childhood development, supported by our strong track record of delivering complex and large-scale evaluations.”

Tina Haux, director of NatCen’s Centre for Children and Families, said: “At a time when societal inequalities in the UK are disproportionately affecting children and families, early childhood support has never been more important.

“This evaluation will provide invaluable insights into the interventions that work best for supporting local families and their children’s development.”

Sophy Proctor, senior head of funding (strategic programmes) at the National Lottery Community Fund, said: “This evaluation, undertaken by NatCen and partners, will allow us to share with our stakeholders evidence demonstrating the contribution A Better Start has made to improving early childhood development.

“The evaluation will include families’ experiences and insights, so that, together, we can improve early childhood services for the better.”