Rathlin Island Development and Community Association

A Better Start

Rathlin Island Development and Community Association

Aiming to deliver a change to improve the life chances of children aged 0-3

Funding size
£30 million - £50 million
Total available
£215 million
Application deadline

This programme is now closed

What's it all about?

A Better Start is a ‘test and learn’ programme investing a total of £215 million between 2015-2025 across five local area partnerships within Bradford, Blackpool, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend-on-Sea. These areas were chosen for their innovative and forward thinking approach to improving child outcomes.

The programme will facilitate system change locally. This means a shift in culture and spending across children and families agencies towards prevention so that local health and other public services, VCSE and the wider community work together to co-produce and deliver less bureaucratic, more joined-up services for all families living in the area. This will lead to these services working with the whole family effectively to improve outcomes for children, focusing on pregnancy and the first three years of life.

These new pathways of care aim to make better use of local resources and set out to improve outcomes for children in three key development areas:

  • Social and emotional development: preventing harm before it happens as well as promoting good attachment
  • Communication and language development: developing skills in parents to talk, sing, read to, and particularly to praise their babies and toddlers and to ensure local childcare services emphasise language development
  • Diet and nutrition: encouraging breast-feeding and promoting good nutritional practices, giving practical advice on healthier meals for young children and portion sizes.
Project Partnerships

The five areas receiving grants are:



  • Lead Organisation: Bradford Trident
  • Partnership and website: Better Start Bradford
  • Grant awarded: £48,969,270


  • Lead Organisation: National Children’s Bureau
  • Partnership and website: LEAP
  • Grant awarded: £36,035,060



  • Lead Organisation: Pre-school Learning Alliance
  • Partnership and website: A Better Start Southend
  • Grant awarded: £ 40,044,000

The partnerships are currently implementing their plans locally and co-producing their services with their communities.

Evaluation and project support

The national evaluation of this programme is led by Warwick Consortium. The evaluation team comes from a number of universities and research organisations, bringing subject and methodological expertise to successfully evaluate and share the learning from A Better Start.

The evaluation involved three strands of work:

  • Workstream 1: Implementation evaluation
  • Workstream 2: Impact and Economic evaluation
  • Workstream 3: Learning and Dissemination

As part of the contract for the third workstream, a new and dedicated A Better Startwebsite has been created to share the learning from the national evaluation. This complements information and resources about the A Better Start programme available on the Big Lottery Fund website.

There is also an economic study ‘Preventonomics’ by London School of Economics. This includes a toolkit to help the five funded partnerships understand the potential public sector cost-savings generated in the future, from delivering preventative services for parents and children aged 0-3 years in the three A Better Start outcome areas.

So that we can support the implementation of the local programmes and share the learning from A Better Start more widely, we have developed a Framework for Shared Learning and Development which features a number of projects co-produced with the partnerships to assist with service design, programme management, delivery, and disseminating learning. We will be publishing tools and materials from A Better Start to help inform others working in this field.

In 2015, we commissioned Parents 1st to carry out a review of volunteer models and early childhood outcomes. The report can be found in the Resources section on the A Better Start website.

Find out more about A Better Start in our 2018 briefing, including key achievements from the first three years and a summary of what we’ve learned so far.