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National Lottery funded programme to take Early Action from common sense to common practice

A hanging sign on the side of a building which reads "Community Links"

The Early Action Task Force, which was established in 2011, is run by Community Links and supported by a panel of cross-sector leaders.

The grant, which has been awarded by the Big Lottery Fund – the largest funder of community activity in the UK – is a significant and exciting sector development and a boost for early action work.

The new National Lottery grant will support work to embed early action among charities, funders, and public sector bodies across the UK, where preventative services and activities are given greater prominence.

The funding will enable the development of the Early Action practitioner network of over 650 member organisations, and underpin a new training program for small voluntary organisations on early action approaches. It will also support the charity to build on its evidence based research into local issues with national reflections, such as mental health, housing and welfare.

To begin this new phase, Community Links will undertake an audit of the Task Force membership, with a view to better understand and involve existing members in the mobilisation of this new phase of work. The audit and its conclusions will be published in autumn 2018, at a launch event for the new programme.

Community Links defines early action as any service or activity that focuses on unlocking people’s potential to prevent social issues before they arise. It promotes the vision of a society which can adapt to change and is defined by its strengths and opportunities, rather than by the problems it is looking to overcome. The work of the Task Force is central to Community Links’ strategy, which aims to create ‘Ready for Everything’ communities and takes a place and asset based approach to delivering tangible social outcomes.

As well as influencing front line practice, the work of the Task Force has also had a significant impact on policy at a local and national level. The Task Force was instrumental in the seminal landscape review of government expenditure, supported the development of the “Future Generations” legislation in Wales, started the Early Action Funders Alliance and has helped some of the UK’s biggest funders to develop dedicated early action funding programmes. The Task Force also introduced the concept of “bucketing”: a tool to classify and measure spending on early action as opposed to money spent on picking up the pieces once things have gone wrong.

David Robinson, Chair of the Early Action Task Force and Senior Advisor at Community Links, said:

“The Early Action Task Force has created a groundswell of support and the evidence base for early action. Now, thanks to this National Lottery grant, we can take early action from common sense to common practice. It’s hard for charity leaders to find the time to think preventatively when we’re battling to tackle increasingly complex social needs. But it is precisely because frontline needs have become more complex that we need to think preventatively. Tackling individual problems early has benefits for the whole of society. We thank the Big Lottery Fund for its ongoing support.”

Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at the Big Lottery Fund, said:

“Early action is about shaping how we solve social issues, putting communities in control and supporting them to prevent problems before they arise. Since launching, the Early Action Task Force has made a significant impact – both locally and nationally – and this new funding will drive its work forward.”