Big Lottery Fund study will track outcomes from early intervention with families


A new online database has been launched which will help to shed light on the issues faced by families with complex needs across the UK and how to work more effectively with them to improve the life chances of their children.

The Improving Futures Monitoring Information System has been developed by public policy research organisation Ecorys on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).

It is part of an extensive five-year evaluation that BIG has commissioned to assess the impact and outcomes from its £26m Improving Futures programme. Through the programme, BIG is funding 26 partnerships across the UK that bring together local voluntary sector and public services to give joined-up and earlier support to families with multiple and complex problems whose eldest children are aged five to 10 years old.

The new system is open to practitioners from the 26 partnerships to share data about the families being supported through the programme, including positive and negative aspects of their lives and their relationships. Practitioners will use a set of 36 ‘risk and strength’ indicators that have been identified through a detailed review of literature – previous research and evaluation reports - and in consultation with the funded partnerships. This will provide a unique insight to the outcomes from third sector family projects across the UK.

An accompanying IPSOS Mori survey will track a cohort of 650 Improving Futures families over the next three years as many of the children move into their teenage years to provide insight into how the support from Improving Futures is making a difference to their lives.

Laurie Day, Evaluation Director at Ecorys, commented that:

“Improving Futures aims to improve the life chances of 5-10 year olds and their families who have complex needs. One of the things that really sets the programme apart is the focus on early intervention – the Big Lottery Fund is aiming to roll back the stage at which families are supported, and to develop a stronger role for the third sector as the lead organisation in these partnerships.

“The monitoring system, as part of an extensive evaluation of the programme, will give us a very comprehensive picture of these families, and help us to better understand how and why they move in and out of different levels of need over time. It will also allow us to draw comparisons with other family intervention programmes.”

Other aspects of the Improving Futures evaluation include an online community where partnerships can share learning and insights from their work, bi-annual reports evaluating the work of each of the 26 partnerships, longitudinal and snapshot case studies of families benefiting from the programme, and a cost-benefit analysis of the projects and programme as a whole.

Ceri Doyle, Director of Strategy, Performance and Learning at Big Lottery Fund, said:

“Through Improving Futures, BIG is taking an innovative approach to improving the life chances of children from families with multiple and complex problems. By bringing together all the relevant organisations at a local level, we want to give these families, earlier, holistic support that is tailored to their needs and effective at helping them address issues - such as health, housing, unemployment and domestic violence - which can have a profoundly negative impact on children.

“Thousands of children and families will be helped through the programme as it is delivered over the next five years. But this evaluation is designed to provide much wider benefits still, generating insights in real time and building and sharing the UK evidence base on what works in supporting families in difficult circumstances.”

The Improving Futures evaluation partnership also includes Parenting UK and The University of Nottingham. Further information about the Improving Futures Monitoring Information System, including a full ‘evidence paper’ can be found on the evaluation website:

Background / Notes for the Editors

Contact details for press enquiries:
Laurie Day, Ecorys, or 0121 212 8877 and 07969 675 043 or Katharine McKenna, Ecorys, or 0121 212 8889.

Background to the programme

BIG’s £26m Improving Futures programme is funding 26 ground-breaking partnerships that will transform the lives of children growing up in families with multiple and complex problems. BIG's backing will see families benefiting from earlier, joined up support that is tailored to their needs delivered by local voluntary sector organisations working in partnership with public services. Each partnership will receive up to £900,000 over three to five years to work with families whose eldest children are aged five to 10 years old. Around 10,000 families will directly benefit from this programme.

Background to the evaluation

Big Lottery Fund has commissioned a partnership led by Ecorys with the University of Nottingham, Parenting UK and IPSOS Mori to undertake an independent evaluation of the Improving Futures programme over five years from 2011 to 2016. The partners bring complementary expertise from across research, academia and the voluntary sector. Together they will ensure that the evaluation is robust and maximises the impact on policy and practice.

The evaluation aims to assess the effectiveness and impact of the programme. It will support the projects with identifying outcomes and measuring progress over time and will focus on capturing and sharing learning between the individual projects, and disseminating to policymakers and practitioners across the UK.

Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888, Out of hours: 07867 500 572, Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030, Textphone:  08456 021 659

Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: is an online service designed to support and encourage parents and carers of children aged 5-19, with a collection of videos addressing day-to-day questions and concerns spanning wellbeing, behaviour and learning.