Pioneering £45m Lottery funded Blackpool Better Start programme extended for another two years
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Blackpool Better Start was launched in 2015 as a partnership between Blackpool Council and children’s charity the NSPCC, and was due to end in March 2025 but has secured a two-year extension until 2027.
A £5m underspend during the lifespan of the scheme so far will be used to keep services going for the extra two years.
Work is focused on families with children aged under four, addressing speech, language and communication needs, diet and nutrition support, and services to help with the cost-of-living crisis.
But some schemes were interrupted by the Covid pandemic, meaning there is still money left in the pot.
Clare Law, director of the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development, said: “This extension is wonderful news for Blackpool as we can continue to invest in services and support for our families that need it most.”
She added: “The Covid pandemic led to many of our services being scaled back, as face to face contact was prohibited.
“This, and our cautious approach to how we have invested the funding throughout the programme’s lifespan, has resulted in the partnership still having £5m to invest.
“This was because everyone working across the town, with nought to fours, knew the importance of making sure we spent the money when the timing was right.
“We are thrilled the National Lottery Community Fund has agreed to us spending our funding in the town over an extra two years after seeing the impact the programme has had on our children.”
Sir Peter Wanless, chair of the Blackpool Better Start partnership and chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “This is excellent news for the town and is a sign of the National Lottery Community Fund’s confidence in the work that has been done to date supporting babies and young children in Blackpool.
“The interest in this work goes well beyond Blackpool and this extension gives us time to not only benefit local children and families, but to continue to build the town’s reputation as a centre of excellence in the early years.”
Neil Jack, chief executive of Blackpool Council, added: “This extension of the programme is very welcome news for the town and will allow this vital work to continue so that children receive additional support during their most critical years of development.”
What does Better Start do?
- The programme is designed to break the cycle of poor outcomes among families who are struggling for support.
- It has focused its resources on those with pre-school children, from the point of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of four.
- Funding has been targeted in the seven wards of Bloomfield, Brunswick, Claremont, Clifton, Park, Talbot and Victoria where families were in most need.
- As well as offering direct help and intervention, the scheme has played a big part in research into early child development.
- In March 2019, its experts met with the now Prince and Princess of Wales during their visit to Blackpool to discuss its work, with the Princess subsequently launching the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood in 2021.