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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Responding to the announcement of £500m to support parents and children in the Budget, Tom Symons, Deputy Director of Nesta’s Fairer Start mission to reduce educational inequalities, said:

“It’s positive to see investment in children and families, in particular the expansion to the Family Hubs programme. However, without a funded commitment to developing, testing, evaluating and optimising innovative approaches, there is a risk that these initiatives will not deliver what people need.

“Family hubs present a real opportunity to create local assets that genuinely respond to families’ needs, but they will only be effective if Whitehall allows councils and national delivery partners to be innovative with how they are established and run.

“It is important that Family Hubs are centred on the experiences of parents and children and respond to local contexts. The Hubs need to have funding not just for buildings and services, but also to embed systems that allow innovation. Family Hubs will need the funding and flexibility to truly respond to local families’ needs through research, user-journey mapping and co-production.

“New data infrastructure, the use of rigorous evaluation methods, and flexibility to adapt in the face of feedback about what works will be equally essential. Without that, there’s a risk we fall back on ‘more of the same’ - rigid top-down models that do not do enough to meet people’s specific needs.

“The same applies to parenting programmes. There are some really strong, well-evidenced programmes, but to be effective they must be well-targeted and responsive to local contexts. To get the most out of parental support programmes, it is important to test different ways of delivering them. For example, are they more effective when delivered in groups or one-to-one, online, offline or hybrid, in different intensities, or in different combinations with services such as NHS and voluntary sector support programmes?

“Overall, the additional investment in early years services is welcome but won’t go far unless it is underpinned by a commitment to empowering local councils and delivery partners to innovate and adapt.”

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