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The Early Action Neighbourhood Fund

The Early Action Neighbourhood Fund (EANF) is a pilot joint-funding initiative between Comic Relief, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Big Lottery Fund, The Legal Education Foundation, and Barrow Cadbury Trust. The EANF will provide up to £5.3 million over five years to three local partnerships led by voluntary sector organisations, working with statutory agencies, to develop and implement early action initiatives in family support, young people’s wellbeing and legal advice.

About Early Action

Early action, also called early intervention, is work that prevents problems from occurring, rather than dealing with the consequences of those problems.

In 2011, the Early Action Task Force brought together charity, business and government leaders to make the case for a shift in spending towards prevention. In response, a group of funders formed the Early Action Funders Alliance, which aims to make the public case for early action, help funders to embed it in their work, and ultimately help the shift towards early action.

Five members of the Alliance committed resources to the Early Action Neighbourhood Fund in order to test and demonstrate the potential impact of early action work and funding in England. The grant funding comes from Big Lottery Fund (£2.75m), Comic Relief (£1m) and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (£1.5m), with Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Legal Education Foundation providing additional support and guidance.

What are we funding?

Changing Futures North East (£1.56m over five years)

Changing Futures aims to reduce spending on acute children’s services in Hartlepool by 10%, as well as improving school attendance and children’s emotional wellbeing, and reducing parental and family conflict. It will do this by improving the way its services and staff relate to each other and by building stronger family relationships through intensive support.

Mancroft Advice Project (£1.64m over five years)

Mancroft Advice Project aims to reduce acute spending in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service budgets in Norwich and unlock a percentage of the future budget for preventative work, as well as improving children and young people’s social and emotional wellbeing, and reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training. It will do this by targeting 13-14 year olds in 3 schools with a range of interventions, mentoring and family support.

Coventry Law Centre (£1.53m over five years)

Coventry Law Centre’s Ignite project aims to reduce demand on specialised services (e.g. children’s services and housing) and initiate a shift in how resources are allocated in Coventry, as well as raising people’s aspirations for their lives and expectations of themselves, improving communities’ ability to resolve their own problems and ensuring fewer people reach crisis point. It will do this by building legal knowledge, confidence and skills in people to help them deal with every day law-related issues.

How we made our decisions

The Early Action Neighbourhood Fund is the result of 12 months’ work by the Early Action Funders Alliance to design a targeted programme which could provide evidence for the value of early action. We worked with New Philanthropy Capital to devise a theory of change for the EANF and 12 community based organisations located in different areas of England joined with us to help develop the programme. These organisations were invited to submit expressions of interest and we then gave 5 shortlisted organisations up to £20,000 to develop their planned interventions. We were looking for the 3 partnerships most likely to change local systems and structures, affect how services are commissioned in future, and demonstrate the wider case for early action.

Evaluation – how will we know early action is working?

Evaluation and learning will be key to the success of the projects and the EANF itself. The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University has been contracted* to evaluate the impact of the three pilot projects over the next five years, in order that evidence can be produced to feed into future approaches to early action and preventative ways of working.

The aims of the evaluation are: to track the success of the pilot and projects within it; to identify what works, why and in what circumstances. The evaluation aims to increase overall understanding of how to develop early and preventative services, and to identify practice at a local project level that could influence how existing services are planned, funded and delivered in the future.

The Legal Education Foundation are also managing a separate evaluation of the collaborative process of designing and running the Fund.

*The appointment of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University is subject to a contract being agreed.