26th March 2018

Growing up North: Ensuring a better start

Author: Merle Davies, Director, CECD

Blackpool was fortunate enough to be one of 5 sites in England to be funded by the National Lottery through A Better Start, to take a place based approach to early child development. Apart from 10 year funding, which is novel in statutory services these days, our approach is based on 4 cornerstones which are:

  • Grounded in a Public Health Approach – looking to change behaviours through different and innovative approaches with our communities
  • Using  evidence-based interventions – including test and learn and co-designing with community members
  • Deliver Systems change through commissioning differently, Reframe Early Child development and having a common language to describe it
  • A Centre of Early Child Development to drive the change on behalf of the partnership and bring in National and international experts to work alongside us

To improve our three overarching outcomes of 1) social and emotional development, 2) language and communication, and 3) diet and nutrition at a population level, our community development approach was adopted. By tailoring and aligning action to community assets and priorities, building community resilience and aiming to engage those traditionally known as “hard to engage” we believe we can make sustainable change.

This has already had an impact which has resulted in major changes to services. By using a different approach to commissioning Blackpool will from April ‘18 have a Health Visiting service which goes beyond the 5 mandated visits to a minimum of 8. Working with Oxford and Exeter Universities we will be introducing Behavioural Activation as part of the toolkit for Health visitors for women with early onset Perinatal Mental Ill-Health. With Speech and Language our new commission features a Home Visiting service which can be accessed directly by Health Visitors, who now use the Wellcomm Assessment meaning they can get timely support for children requiring it. Parents have worked alongside Professors from the University of Michigan to develop the Survivor Mums’ Companion, a pyschoeducation programme for pregnant women who have survived childhood trauma and abuse,into a model for Blackpool which is now being piloted.

Our community members are taking on new paid roles as Community Connectors, engaging their communities in services and giving key messages about early child development. One of our Connectors has an Oral Health Focus and, in partnership with PH England, now works with Dental surgeries across the town to engage them in preventative work

Our workforce have access to the most up to date thinking in early years through our conferences and twilight learning sessions. As part of this work, agencies are looking at how we play our part in becoming trauma aware. Parents understand the impact of toxic stress through community volunteers trained in the Brain Game working with parents in the community helping them understand the long term impact of adverse childhood experiences and the importance of resilience. Dads are engaged in working with the Illuminations Dept to build early years reading zones in our libraries and our parks have Early years Park Rangers to work with families and volunteers

Underpinning this, our research team are ensuring that our services are reaching those who need them and can benefit from them the most.

It’s an exciting time, and every day is a new adventure