Skip to content


£1million fund to help kids reach developmental milestones by fifth birthday

  • Five programmes funded to support parents and carers of 0-4 year olds
  • Nesta and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport champion social action to help families in need, reaching people professional services often struggle to

13 September 2017 - Five projects have today received funding from the £1 million Early Years Social Action Fund, run by innovation foundation Nesta and supported by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  The fund aims to help more children, aged four and under, achieve their developmental milestones by backing ‘social action’ programmes where volunteers support parents and primary carers.

Social action is any practical activity where people give their time alongside public services to improve others’ lives and solve the problems important to their communities. With a focus on supporting families most in need, the projects funded today aim to build confidence in parents and carers - recognising the critical role they play as ‘first educators’ in children’s development.

Parents are supported by trained volunteers to help children reach developmental milestones focused on areas of behaviour, cognitivity and attachment. Types of support range from supporting new parents to connect with services and peer-to-peer support, through to using technology to help track and improve a child’s word usage.

Each of the five grants are between £205,000 and £250,000, with additional non-financial support to scale up their operation significantly. The grantees are:

Citizens UK, £205,000 - Parents and Communities Together (PACT) seeks to help parents in most need. PACT bring community organising principles to early intervention and involves trained volunteers from community institutions such as churches and mosques signposting and connection parents to services, facilitating parent discussion groups and booksharing. PACT aims to help reduce the isolation experienced by families by improving access to knowledge and support services. Citizens UKl will create 254 new PACT volunteer roles, expand to Newcastle, Lewisham, and Leeds, and drive further growth in Southwark.

Family Lives, £249,990 - The national family support charity, Family Lives, will bring the well-evidenced Parent Child Home Program (PCHP) from the US to at least eight locations across England. The PHCP model involves two years of intensive home-visiting with children 16 months to four years old, with trained specialist giving parents the tools, skills and encouragement to engage positively with their children. Over 230 volunteers will be mobilised to support over 270 families.

Home Start UK, £214,805 - LENA Home is a US model whereby trained coaches support parents to expand the frequency of child conversations. Children under four wear a digital word pedometer one day a week and the data is analysed for ways of improvement, based on comparisons to wider population sets.

Working with partners in Leeds, west Dorset and Southwark, Home Start UK is piloting LENA Home as a volunteer-led model and aims to expand to reach to 21 more settings across England, mobilising over 500 volunteers who will support over 900 families.

NCT, £225,094 - NCT aim to grow their Birth and Beyond Community Supporters (BBCS) peer support service to five new locations across England beyond their current activity in Queens Park, where 24 volunteers have been trained and as many families supported. BBCS trains peer supporters to help women who are at risk of isolation. 220 women are to be matched with new volunteers in the first 1,000 days of childbirth, supporting growth in confidence in parenting and access more services.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, £249,850 - The well evidenced Empowering Parents, Empowering Communities (EPEC) programme combines peer-led parenting groups with training and supervision from specialists in child mental health and parenting. Designed to improve access to parenting support for families in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods, EPEC will create 256 volunteer positions across 16 new locations in England in an aim to help over 1000 families.

Vicki Sellick, Director at Nesta, commented: “We know that when volunteers work alongside public services they can achieve great things together. I’m delighted to announce these grants today which will help innovations, that are proven to help children prepare cognitively and socially for school, to scale to new areas, meaning they can help more young people across the country. Parents and primary carers are the first teachers a child has, and evidence shows a supportive home learning environment is the most important factor for later success. By growing the most promising approaches, we hope many more parents will be empowered to help their children succeed.”

Nesta and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have a strong legacy in social action - supporting people that professional services may not reach as effectively or complementing existing public services with volunteers.  The Early Years Social Action projects are a part of Nesta’s wider work in government innovation, and will be supported over the next two years with progress shared on an ongoing basis via the Nesta website.


For more information contact Anna Zabow in Nesta’s press office on: 020 7438 2616/2543,  [email protected]

Notes to Editors

  1. Social Mobility Commission (2017), ‘Helping Parents to Parent

About Nesta: Nesta is a global innovation foundation.  We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills.  We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities.  We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment.  To find out more visit

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.