Sector Challenge Programme

Early Years

Challenges around providing parents and carers with easy access to devices and support

Early childhood development which begins before birth and extends to the preschool years is a critical life stage. The experiences and environments a child encounters will have significant impact on their social, emotional and physical development. Unequal access to support for families of different ethnicities, geographies and income brackets has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

We are supporting four sector challenges for organisations that support families from pregnancy to the age of 5. These challenges have come from a series of open discussions between Shift and organisations working in early years as part of Beyond.

Challenge 5: Reaching digitally excluded families▼

We want to find ways to ensure parents and carers without easy access to data or devices get the support they need.

As COVID-19 hit and lockdown began, the organisations that support families reacted swiftly in adapting their services for remote delivery. Their quick action brought resources and help to many families, but now, months into the crisis and in the face of even more uncertainty, it is clear that some families are still not receiving the support they need.

A lot of work has been done to bring devices into homes, but when there’s one device or limited connectivity in a household, a child trying to do schoolwork will take priority. Many families who need help have lost out as services have moved online.

We are looking for three organisations, particularly those who focus on the families hit hardest by COVID-19, to join a funded opportunity to work collaboratively with an expert digital partner over 11 weeks to design and test alternative ways to get support to those who can't access it.

If you're not able to apply for the grant, we'd love you to contribute your ideas through paid consultations. Sign up below and we'll be in touch.

Apply for this challengeSign up for consultation

Challenge 6: Creating parent centered signposts▼

We want to rethink the sector’s approach to signposting and referral by adopting a parent-centred point of view.

The landscape of services available to children, parents and families is fragmented and complex, and COVID-19 has amplified this problem. Families and community workers find it hard to identify if a service is suitable, free or available to them.

The current sector response to this challenge is the creation of individual referral pathways by building one-to-one relationships with professionals in the health system, tapping into the knowledge of someone in the community or the dreaded long list of services that offer no context. Each of these is a potential blocker to families getting the help they need.

We are looking for three organisations, particularly those who focus on the families hit hardest by COVID-19 (e.g. those facing issues around mental health, digital poverty, isolation, or bereavement), to join a funded opportunity to work collaboratively with an expert digital partner over 11 weeks to design and test alternative ways to navigate the services they need.

If you're not able to apply for the grant, we'd love you to contribute your ideas through paid consultations. Sign up below and we'll be in touch.

Apply for this challengeSign up for consultation

Challenge 7: Redefining volunteering▼

We want to rethink the volunteering model to leverage volunteers as a skilled group of people who are driven to help families and can support different areas of the ecosystem when it’s needed.

Volunteers are a core part of how organisations supporting families deliver their services. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit and organisations adapted their services for remote delivery, some volunteers have been inundated with work and responsibilities while others have less to do than before.

Volunteers in this sector have had a great amount of training and a lot come with lived experience and context. To have such talent overworked or undervalued undermines the great respect they deserve.

We are looking for three organisations, particularly those who lead peer support programmes, to join a funded opportunity and work collaboratively with an expert digital partner over 11 weeks to design and test new models of volunteering in the sector.

If you're not able to apply for the grant, we'd love you to contribute your ideas through paid consultations. Sign up below and we'll be in touch.

Apply for this challengeSign up for consultation

Challenge 8: Supporting Black families▼

We want to find ways to support the individuals and small organisations caring for Black families in their communities to do their best work, so that children and their families receive the support they need.

The pandemic has highlighted the additional pressures facing black families, a group disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. We've been compelled by the energy and activity happening in communities where individuals and small organisations have stepped up to champion, support and advocate for Black families. To keep up with the pace of need and to allow them to do their best work those people need to have support, resources and respect.

We are looking for three organisations, particularly small organisations that directly support Black families in their communities, and medium to large organisations with a proven track record of supporting Black families through their programmes, to join a funded opportunity and work collaboratively with an expert digital partner over 11 weeks to create and test ways for the sector to support black children, parents and guardians.

If you're not able to apply for the grant, we'd love you to contribute your ideas through paid consultations. Sign up below and we'll be in touch.

Apply for this challengeSign up for consultation

This is one of four themes in the Sector Challenge Programme.

You'll find more information about the programme, eligiblity criteria, and how to apply here:

Find out more and apply