A Better Start

A Better Start

A Better Start

Improving the life chances of children aged 0-3

A Better Start is a 10 year, £215 million National Lottery funded programme focused on promoting good early childhood development. The programme funds local partnerships in five areas across England to test new ways of making support and services for families stronger, so that children can have the best start in life.

Aims & approach

What is ‘A Better Start’ doing?

A Better Start builds on research, which shows that early childhood can set the foundation for future learning, behaviour and health.

From 2015 to 2025, our five programme partnerships will design, implement, deliver and test ways to support babies and very young children and their families that respond to the local context, environment and needs of the children living in their local area’s community.

Each partnership has developed individual strategies to promote good early childhood development, drawing on existing science and research. While each of the programmes look different, all are working towards the same three outcomes to help children up to four years old:

  • Improve their diet and nutrition, to support healthy physical development and protect against illness in later life.
  • Develop social and emotional skills, to help them build positive relationships and cope with difficult situations.
  • Develop language and communication skills, to help them engage with the world around them.

A Better Start is enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life.

People in the lead

Parents are best placed to shape potential solutions and that’s why they are involved in every aspect of our programme as equal partners. They take part in decision making, designing and commissioning services, delivering and promoting activities, supporting other families and evaluation activities.

Across all five partnerships, parents play a key role in making change happen in their communities by reaching out to other parents who may not know about the support available to them, or who may be struggling.


Over the lifetime of the programme, our five partners will learn what works, and what doesn’t in improving outcomes for children living in their local areas.

We also want learning from the programme to be useful to other people in similar fields of work so that many more children can benefit.

Read A Better Start Programme Briefing (PDF, 800KB) for learnings from the first three years of the programme.


The national evaluation of A Better Start is being delivered by the Warwick Consortium and will run throughout the 10 year programme. Mixed methods will be used to evaluate the impact and cost-effectiveness of the programme and help us understand the difference it has made.

Our programme partnerships will also undertake evaluation, ensuring that improvements and decisions are made based on the best evidence.

Find out more about the national evaluation at abetterstart.org.uk


Read updates from the A Better Start programme:

Sharing is caring

Characters that change behaviour

Improving Outdoor Play Spaces

Replacing ‘should’ with ‘why’ and ‘wow’

Research, policy and practice news – May 2019

Our responses to government

Science and Technology select committee – Evidence-bases early years interventions (PDF, 198KB)

Education select committee – Life Chances (PDF, 225KB)

Health and Social care select committee – First 1,000 Days of Life (PDF, 115KB)


From 2015 to 2025, our five programme partnerships will design, implement, deliver and test ways to support babies and very young children and their families in their local community.

  • Blackpool Better Start

    Blackpool Better Start

    Blackpool Better Start’s strategy focuses on reducing critical pressures on families, like drugs and alcohol, mental ill health, domestic abuse and social isolation to build better parenting knowledge and skills. Visit website
  • Better Start Bradford

    Better Start Bradford

    A Better Start Bradford works with the community, public agencies and local academics to offer services and support - provided by trained volunteers and a skilled workforce - in people’s homes and in the community. Visit website
  • Lambeth Early Action Partnership

    Lambeth Early Action Partnership

    Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) delivers a range of services - co-designed with the community and local partners - for parents and early years professionals and practitioners, to support children, families and the wider community. The development of these services has been underpinned by a public health approach, meaning that they are supporting individual children and families as well as their wider environment. Visit website
  • Small Steps Big Changes

    Small Steps Big Changes

    Driven by local parents and communities, Small Steps Big Changes puts parents and communities at the centre of design, commissioning and decision-making services for children in Nottingham. Visit website
  • A Better Start Southend

    A Better Start Southend

    A Better Start Southend brings together professional and volunteer workers with parents and carers of children, up to the age of four, to transform the way that children’s services are delivered. Visit website

For further information about the programme contact: Sarah Gibbs, Head of Funding abetterstart@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk

Case studies