A pilot of the Early Action Neighbourhood Fund was launched last week, representing an investment of £5.3m in three early action projects.
This joint-funding initiative, pioneered by the Early Action Funders’ Alliance, was welcomed as an “exciting moment” by Dawn Austwick, CEO of the Big Lottery Fund – one of the three funders who are directly involved. Indeed, it is the product of over a year’s work and illustrates not only the growing interest in the important idea of early action, but an attempt to ensure that innovative projects are well-funded and provide evidence for future initiatives.
The three criteria for a successful application were partnerships that could:
• Change local systems and structures
• Affect the future commissioning of services
• Demonstrate the wider case for early action
The three projects
The first project is based around an organisation in Hartlepool called Changing Futures. It originally started as an informal gathering of parents and young children for the purpose of socialising, but eventually grew into an organisation that helps families in the Tees Valley through a variety of different services. They aim to reduce spending on acute childcare services by 10%, whilst also having a positive effect on outcomes such as the emotional wellbeing of children.
The second, Mancroft Advice Project, will work with three schools in an attempt to improve the wellbeing of children and young people whilst also reducing acute spending in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. This will free up future money to be invested into preventative measures.
The third and final project, Ignite, is based at the Coventry Law Centre and aims to address the problems that many of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of their community face with the legal process. By building the legal knowledge, confidence and skills of local people they will enable them to address problems for themselves and empower others to do the same.
Thriving lives: costing less and contributing more
Each of these projects has three important things in common. Firstly, they all try and reduce the demand for acute services, and therefore also the amount of money that is spent on them. This won’t happen overnight, of course, and so the second common theme is an explicitly longer term approach – a key element of early action. Finally, they all want to achieve better social outcomes for those that they work with. This is not merely a matter of supporting people to overcome problems, but also enabling people to be ready to seize any opportunities that come their way; whether that’s a training course, a new job, or even better relationships between friends, families and the wider community.
It is great news, then, that these projects have been funded via the piloted scheme. Hopefully both they and the pilot scheme itself will provide plenty of evidence for the common sense idea that preventing problems is far better – both in financial and social terms – than picking up the pieces after a crisis has already occurred.