Flying Start is the Welsh Government’s flagship early years programme for families with children under four years old living in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Wales. By looking at and linking individual level Flying Start intervention data from local authorities across Wales – together with hospital admissions, A&E attendances, and education absence data – the project aims to provide a picture of the outcomes of families whose children are eligible for the Flying Start programme compared to those who live outside of Flying Start eligible areas.

Led by our researchers working within academia and Welsh Government, this project has demonstrated the richness that can be drawn when linking data from policy areas and organisations that would otherwise have remained separate. The project has built an engaged stakeholder group, with representatives from the six local authorities involved in the pilot. The group has played a key role in guiding the direction of the project, including analysis based on their experiences of delivering the programme.

Initial research findings for the City and County of Swansea have been produced by analysing data from the Flying Start programme linked with other health and education data. When comparing children living in the Swansea area who had received Flying Start health services and children who had received no Flying Start health services, the study found: a limited, preliminary indication of a possible positive impact of Flying Start on low birth weight and births to teenaged mothers; no impact on overall A&E attendances; a possible ‘protective effect’ of Flying Start on hospital admissions; a possible positive impact of Flying Start on primary school absences; and a possible positive impact of Flying Start on unauthorised primary school absences.

It is anticipated that the findings of this project will help policymakers to evaluate the impact of the Flying Start programme which may, in turn, shape future policy and direction. The findings will also be relevant to other research to evaluate area-based initiatives and early interventions to tackle poverty.

You can find out more about the initial findings of this research here.