Pump Priming Funding Scheme: Policy Evaluations in the Early Years

The Maternal and Child Health Network (MatCHNet) aims to harness cross-country administrative data to evaluate national policy impacts on maternal, infant and child health, and health inequalities across the 4 UK nations.

The MatCHNet pump priming scheme promotes and cements collaborations to undertake work that will help inform future MatCHNet grant applications. The aim is to support underpinning work that will enable future policy evaluations. 

We are supporting proposals that focus on the priority areas identified by our network members and partners. These are: welfare grants in pregnancy and early childhood, early years education and childcare, and Universal Credit.

Funded projects

Project 1

Perinatal Mental Health: Mapping potential administrative data sources in England and Scotland to inform future population level policy evaluations

This project aims to map and evaluate the administrative data available for capturing indicators of adverse perinatal mental health (PMH) outcomes that can be harmonised in England and Scotland.

Research team:
Rosie Seaman (University of Glasgow); Ruth Blackburn (University College London); Dawn Cameron (University of the West of Scotland)

Read more about the project.

Project 1 – Perinatal mental health data animation

Rosie Seaman developed a new animation about perinatal mental health and the power of administrative data for public good.

The animation was created by media co-op and is the result of a public engagement project funded by Research Data Scotland.

It was launched last week at ‘Small Talk, Big Data’, an event in the CCA organised with the Mental Health Foundation as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (2023). Two other short films exploring mental health during the perinatal period were shown at the event, each collaboratively produced with individuals with lived experience, healthcare professionals and other project partners.

Learn more about the project – Research Data Scotland Public Engagement Fund Presentation.

Project 2

An evaluability assessment of Sure Start (Northern Ireland) and Flying Start (Wales) using administrative data and  naturally occurring experiments

This project will conduct an evaluability assessment (EA) of Sure Start in Northern Ireland (SSNI) and Flying Start (FS) Wales, two flagship Early Year Intervention programmes in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Research team:
Meng Le Zhang (University of Sheffield); Martin Elliott (Cardiff University); Gareth Griffith (University of Bristol)

Read more about the project.

Project 3

Harmonisation of electronic birth cohort datasets. Born in: South London, Bradford, Scotland, Wales

This project will map and harmonise 4 electronic birth cohorts across the UK nations: Born in Wales (BiW), Born in Scotland (BiS), Early Life Cross-Linkage in Research (eLIXIR – Born in South London), and Born in Bradford (BiB4All).

Research team:
Michael Seaborne (Swansea University); Sinead Brophy, Hope Jones (Swansea University); Lucilla Poston (Kings College London), Rebecca Reynolds (University of Edinburgh); Gillian Santorelli (Bradford Institute for Health Research)

Read more about the project.

Project 4

How do early years education and childcare policies affect child development, health, and education in England and Scotland? A time-series analysis

This feasibility study will use administrative datasets to explore the differences in childcare provision and uptake amongst low-income families in England and Scotland.

Research team:
Bina Ram (Imperial College London); Rakhee Shah (Imperial College London); Anna Pearce (University of Glasgow); Dougal Hargreaves (Imperial College London); Jacqueline Barnes (Birkbeck, University of London)

Read more about the project.

Call for Applications


We are supporting proposals  that demonstrate how we can evaluate the impact of national policy contexts on health outcomes in early childhood. This includes mapping the best methods and available administrative, population wide routinely collected data.

Our second call focused on the priority areas identified by our network members and partners. These are: welfare grants in pregnancy and early childhood, early years education and childcare, and Universal Credit. For more information on how these policy areas differ across the 4 UK nations, please see our policy briefings.

We are supporting projects that provide evidence on data availability across the UK and refine research questions. This includes collaborations across the network that foster connections between academics, policy makers, data experts, and service providers.

What activities will be funded?

* Proposals must employ or seek to demonstrate how administrative, population wide routinely collected data can be used to evaluate policies in the early years. This does not include survey data.

* Research teams must include at least 2 partners from different UK nations. The team should include non-academic members such as local or national government, data providers, public health agencies, third sector organisations or service providers.

What are the key criteria?

1. All applicants must be MatCHNet members (click here to join MatCHNet)
2. Proposal should be within MatCHNet’s remit – pregnancy, infancy, pre-school
3. Proposal should focus on ONE of MatCHNet’s policy priority areas
4. Proposed projects should span at least 2 UK nations
5. Projects should include at least 2 partners
6. Projects should focus on routinely collected/administrative data
7. Projects should demonstrate a clear pathway to future funding applications

How can I apply?

We are no longer accepting applications for call 2.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please get in touch with the MatCHNet team.