A Better Start – National Evaluation Annual Report Webinar

This webinar is the second in an annual series of events, presenting the findings from the national evaluation of A Better Start.
  • Event time:
    26th June 2024 10:00 – 11:00
  • Format:

A Better Start (ABS) is the ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. There are five ABS partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham, and Southend-on-Sea, which focus on supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life.

Working with local parents, these partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language, and communication. The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and 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.

The Fund have commissioned NatCen and partners from the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), Research in Practice, RSM and the University of Sussex, to carry out the national evaluation of ABS.

The national evaluation has been running since 2021 and will continue until March 2026. There are four evaluation objectives:

Objective 1: To identify the contribution made by the ABS programme to the life chances of children who have received ABS interventions.

Objective 2: To identify the factors that contribute to improving diet and nutrition, social and emotional skills, and language and communication skills through the suite of interventions, both targeted and universal, selected by ABS partnerships.

Objective 3: To evidence, through collective journey mapping, the experiences of families from diverse backgrounds through ABS systems.

Objective 4: To evidence the contribution the ABS programme has made to reducing costs to the public purse relating to primary school aged children.

More information about the evaluation and its objectives can be found here

At this event, there will be an opportunity for attendees to hear from the research team for each objective and engage with the findings from the national evaluation of ABS so far. 

Practitioners, policy-makers and others working in the Early Years sector will find this session of interest, to understand the outcomes of the ABS programme and how the ways of working across ABS can influence outcomes. 

For parents and carers, the presentations at this event will help to demonstrate and explain the impact of how the ABS programme has had on the lives of families with young children.

For those with an interest in large-scale, complex evaluations, this webinar will illuminate the methods used in the project, explore the challenges encountered in data collection and the ways of mitigating such challenges.


  • Enes Duysak
    Research Director National Centre for Social Research
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    Enes is a Research Director in NatCen’s Centre for Evaluation and has a particular interest in using social science to improve education outcomes. He has worked on school-based Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Queen Rania Foundation, and the National Crime Agency.

    Before joining NatCen, Enes was a Lecturer in Economics (University of Essex, 2020-2021) and worked on several large-scale RCTs funded by the Poverty Action Lab at MIT. One of which was the impact evaluation of a programme which focuses on building inter-ethnic cohesion in primary schools in Turkey to facilitate integration by reducing social exclusion and in-school violence that Syrian refugee children face. He has expertise in the use of complex experimental and quasi-experimental methods in educational settings. He previously conducted primary data collection and primary data analysis as well as secondary data analysis.


  • Natasha Phillips
    Senior Researcher National Centre for Social Research
  • Janet Boddy
    Janet's research is concerned with family lives and with services for children and families, in the UK and internationally. She also has a long-standing interest in methodology, particularly in relation to complex evaluation, qualitative, longitudinal and narrative approaches, cross-national research, and research ethics and governance. Janet co-leads Objective 3.
  • Beth Young
    Associate Director RSM
    Beth is an Associate Director in RSM’s Social Policy team. She has over 15 years’ experience of managing and conducting research and evaluations on behalf of a range of public, private and voluntary sector clients. She has extensive expertise in project managing large scale, complex evaluations and stakeholder engagement exercises and reporting the findings in a clear and concise manner. Beth is leading RSM’s work on Objective 4 of the ABS National Evaluation. Objective 4 aims to evidence the contribution the ABS programme has made to reducing costs to the public purse relating to primary school aged children.


  • Mary McKaskill
    Research Director National Centre for Social Research