Early Support Training Revised

Early Support have announced that their training packages have been fully updated:

Underpinned by the 10 principles Early Support training has been revised and redeveloped to now cover birth to adulthood, taking into account not only the extension through the age range, but also developments in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Early Support resources have also been revised and they are offering ‘resource specific’ training as well, to enable users to fully understand the resources available and how best to apply them.

Early Suppport Logo

Early Support have developed Key Working training which will be delivered nationally, and will enable multi-agency staff, including parents and young people, to access training for free.

Click here to view event dates and locations for the Key Working training.

Early Support will also be delivering free national capacity building training, which will enable local areas to develop their own Early Support & Key Working trainers as part of our on-going sustainability plan. Once trained, the local Early Support & Key Working trainers will be able to cascade  the training in local areas and across regions to managers, practitioners, parent carers and young people.

This will enable each individual area to decide how best to build a sustainable model of Early Support training delivery into their current good practice, up-skill their workforce in line with their strategic planning and embed Early Support approaches. Freelance trainers and training organisations will also be able to attend to add the Early Support and Key Working strands to enable the delivery of Early Support training to local services who would find it difficult to deliver the training themselves.

Current Early Support training providers will need to access the revised training in their local area, either as part of the national capacity building training or when the training is cascaded locally. This will ensure training providers undergo continuous professional development and are updated on key legislative changes, extending Early Support through to adulthood, changes in the sector, and developments in Early Support resources and training.

Building Confidence Through Training and Leadership

James Hempsall.

This week we have been introducing Early Support to the latest cohort of childminders in Birmingham.  The training was organised with the city council and the Birmingham branch of the National Childminding Association.  It was enthusiastically received by the 15 practitioners in attendance, who by their own admission knew little or nothing about the programme before coming onto the training.  Which is, of course, why they were there on the Saturday and the following Wednesday evening.  For us, Early Support training courses for early years and childcare practitioners have been transformational.  They have impacted on practitioners’ integrated practice and their essential contribution to early identification, working in partnership, and successfully using procedures such as family service plans.  It’s always great to see those pennies dropping and confidence rising, says Kate Sparling, Hempsall’s Training Manager.  Practitioners see the benefit too:

“I now know the policies and procedures to inform and grow my professional development and practices”.

“I now know where to go to get support to help with my families I work with”.

In Birmingham, we have been impressed with how the local authority rolled out Early Support right from the start and how they maintain a drive and commitment to continue its approach and principles.  It has been terrific to have been closely involved in all stages along the way.  Their continuing investment in supporting all parts of the children’s workforce is an indication of the work necessary to ensure Early Support is maintained through this period of difficult decisions and challenging resources.

It all started in 2007 with our launch events for managers working in the sector, partner organisations and children’s centres.  This set the tone for the way forward and gave inspirational leadership (from outside and inside the local authority) within a culture of shared goals and values.  We have found that senior leadership commitment is vital to make things happen, and with such commitment established and publicly demonstrated, it was then time to deliver a programme of introductory seminars to the wider workforce.  This allowed our trainers to explore Early Support with those charged with the idea of integrating it into their day-to-day practice.  It takes concentrated effort to manage change, objectively audit your work, identify improvements needed, and develop ways of building even better partnerships with parents.  Once this process had started, we could feel a sense of direction and joint commitment.

Delivering WIP was a really useful next step to embed the vision into routines and procedures.  It helped the development of new working relationships, and a deeper understanding of everyone’s different roles, starting points, and future contributions.  Partnership working does take work, and training like WIP goes a long way to making this happen.  Since the beginning many courses have been delivered with numerous multi-disciplinary and specialist groups of professionals and parents.  We have learned that training alone does not deliver the Early Support outcomes we all want.  Work before, during, and after training has been vital in Birmingham to join everything up and really make a difference.

Supporting the workforce through informed and empowered parents, staff, managers and leaders is essential.  So, it was great we were able to use our Early Support capacity building status to support Birmingham’s continued progress.  We advise and support through training trainers for the WIP course, and by attending the Birmingham Early Support Task Group where we have contributed our perspective, objective view, and training advice.  It has been great to know that everyone around the table was interested in listening and acting upon everyone’s views and ideas to drive the way forward for implementation and innovation.

This also supported us to jointly develop the delivery of Service Audit Tool and Key Working training.  We also supported a review of Early Support and the roll out of Early Support Champions in all children’s centres across the city – which for Europe’s largest local authority was certainly a challenge. The role of children’s centres is as a single point of contact for practitioners to implement the Early Support approach.  A clear example of how integrated practice can link to models of delivery, share resources and work together between practitioners and parents.

Throughout these five years we have learned lots of lessons and have identified key elements we feel need to be in place for successful implementation and delivering Early Support outcomes, some of these are:

Training is an essential ingredient of any Early Support strategy, and it needs to be universally available in the long-term.  This is because staff change and develop, and services are reviewed and restructured regularly.  This results in understanding varying through the natural ebb and flow of service delivery.  Training alone cannot achieve Early Support goals.  The approach needs to be at front of mind, so there needs to be a firm commitment from senior managers in place and agreed local pathways to support effective implementation.

 

One specific learning point has been for training delivery, the WIP course does need to be delivered to multi-disciplinary learner groups.  This provides for an environment of highly effective interaction, the sharing of professional perspectives, and the continued process of developing mutual respect and partnership working.  Which is, of course, at the very heart of the Early Support approach.

Telford & Wrekin Embracing Early Support.

Use of Early Support with Families of Hearing Impaired Children
in Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire Local Authorities.

The Sensory Inclusion Service (Hearing Impaired) has been part of Early Support as a pilot programme and then as a Pathfinder.  Over this period of time SIS have undertaken a number of small scale evaluations of the work and developed policies and procedures informed by family views.

Principles of SIS work

The Sensory Inclusion Service supports the principles and methodologies of Early Support and is committed to meeting its objectives.  SIS uses these principles and methodologies to empower families and put them at the centre of decision making for their children.

Use of Early Support Information / Supporting Informed choice

Following the detection of hearing loss, families are presented with a ‘minimum offer’ which includes the ‘Deafness’ Booklet alongside the Early Support Blue Box and Family File.  This ES information is used alongside NDCS Materials that promote informed choice.  Families have access to the full range of ES materials through SIS and an Information Hub based at Telford & Wrekin’s multi agency centre ‘Stepping Stones’.

Adaption of Family Files by Sensory Inclusion Service

Following the consultation period, many elements of the Family File were considered by families not to be useful.  Families however are still be offered the Family File and supported in its use if they wish.  Families however considered the Family Support Plans to be useful.  These are now incorporated into an Initial Needs Assessment as well as ongoing Foundation stage reports.  This ensures that at every stage the family’s voice is heard and valued.

Use of Developmental Journals

The Common Monitoring Protocol (CMP) acts as the core assessment material for hearing impaired children 0-3 years.  Families continue to hold the CMP.  It remains the choice of the families how they complete the CMP.  The advent of the Newborn Hearing Screening means that The Sensory Inclusion Service are often the first agency that work with hearing impaired children who may have additional difficulties.  In this context SIS staff use the Early Support Developmental Journal and Downs Syndrome Journal with families.  SIS use an adapted version of the CMP summary sheets and Level 2 materials as a Teacher of the Deaf held assessment tool.

 

Early Support – The Context In Solihull

Solihull holds both challenges and opportunities for the Early Support approach. The challenge of bringing diverse groups together is easier for a unitary authority than for some of those with two or three tiers to manage, but whilst the small size of the borough helps with flexibility and communication, it also means there is a lack of wider capacity which larger boroughs benefit from, and the economics of change are also affected by the limitations of a reduced purse.

Early Support in Solihull has benefitted from some successful innovations that have driven current thinking. These have included:

2002 – The Solihull Child and Family Support Model: This model allowed Early Support to sit alongside other Early Intervention agendas in a seamless process. Key achievements were that:

  • An integrated process was developed to support children and families with needs.
  • The Early Support Training and Common Assessment Framework (CAF) training were aligned. Our understanding grew of how families who had complex needs often sat within several agendas. This later became Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support (LINCS).
  • The support scaffold was developed to support the needs of professionals and parents working in this new way. This was not continued when LINCS developed but learning from this is used with the work undertaken by SignPost Inclusion Community Interest Company (CIC). This company was successfully set up by parents to support parents using work inspired by the Early Support Parent Workshops and with the help of the Disabled Access to Childcare Programme.

2004 – The Early Support Pathfinder: This work enabled us to support the development of the Early Support approach across a number of different services and agendas, with children 0-5 and their families, within Solihull. Key achievements included:

  • Embedding Early Support in the Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support (LINCS) process. Our aim was to integrate the approach across all services and from birth through to adulthood. We saw the approach sitting across the Every Child Matters agenda and Aiming High for Disabled Children with a Disability agenda.
  • Developing the Parent Champion Role. This carried on through to the Disabled Children’s Access To Childcare (DCATCH) Project and resulted in Solihull’s Children with Additional Needs (CAN) parent/carer forum being formed.
  • Supporting access to information for both parents and professionals.

2009 – Disabled Children’s Access to Childcare (DCATCH) Programme: This programme took some of our local work and placed it within a broader context which had at its core the ability of parents of disabled children to be able to access work. As the focus moved away from the Early Support Pilot, Solihull was able to retain an Early Support focus through several projects that sat within this programme. This programme included the following projects that helped the Early Support approach:

  • The Parent Champion Project led directly to the Signpost Inclusion Community Interest Company. This is a parent led CIC that has been set up to promote and embed Early Support across Solihull and the region. They do this through direct parent support, training for professionals and parents, through the development of information and a web site. Signpost Inclusion work closely with Solihull CAN.
  • The ‘Embedding LINCS Project’ led to the Early Support agenda continuing through until adulthood within Solihull. The aim of this project was to increase the take up of the tools (common assessment, single plan, lead person/key working functions and team around the family) used to support integrated working within universal and specialist services with families with an unmet need. Early Support was embedded within this process and the Early Support approach was seen to underpin this model. The Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support process works with children from birth through to adulthood and includes families where a child or children have a disability.
  • The Early Intervention Project’s aim was to support Schools through to the end of Foundation Stage and Childcare in the Private, Voluntary and Independent sector (linking to Short Breaks), to include children with additional needs and embed the Early Support approach within working practices. This work is carrying on within the Early Years team and through the development of the Early Support Schools Project.
  • The Extending Early Support Project was driven by parents who had asked for Early Support to extend through to adulthood. This led to the development of the Early Support Parent Workshops for older children with additional needs and extending the use of the Early Support family file with older children.
  • The Data and Information Systems Project aim was to use information systems to support Solihull to understand the needs of children with additional needs. Our learning from this project is used within several agendas currently. It has a specific link to Short Breaks and is supporting us to identify which children are using our current Short Breaks offer.

2011 – Early Support contract with NCB: Solihull now holds the contract with NCB for the development and delivery of a programme that will embed Early Support, not only within Solihull itself but also across the West Midlands region. As a result Solihull MBC hosts the post of Early Support Regional Facilitator for the West Midlands. This post is held by Fiona Holmes.

Examples of work taking place in Solihull currently

Parents and Young People

The complementary imperatives of Early Support and the Green Paper Pathfinder work together when it comes to empowering parent carers and families.

Hayley Moran is a parent of two boys who have a disability and is the Chair of Solihull CAN; Solihull parents’ forum for parents of children with a disability. At her instigation, members of the forum will be trained to use the Multi-Agency Planning and Implementation Tool (MAPIT) by the Early Support Lead. As a consequence of the MAPIT training request this Early Support training will be offered to the other parent forums in the region. One of the key aims of this training is to give parents knowledge of the frameworks and the common language which will enable them to engage with the strategic leads within their respective authorities. As such it contributes to the aim of supporting integrated service improvement and parent participation. This programme of training is due to start in January 2013.

Signpost Inclusion is a newly established parent led Community Interest Company, established by Nikki Reeves and Lisa Hunt, both parents of children with disabilities. The aim of establishing the CIC was to enable the embedding of Early Support practice and principles in Solihull and across the region. Significantly the company is parent led and the training programmes that form part of its work focus on cascading knowledge and skills. The organisation offers:

  • Parent to parent support offering groups and drop in sessions around Solihull in a friendly environment. This includes work with Mums, Dads and Young People
  • Early Support training and capacity building
  • A growing resource base with books and sensory resources
  • Signposting to relevant services
  • Work with local structures and services to reduce duplication of effort and to ensure a joined up agenda

The opportunities to hear from the Solihull community about what is really going on and their hopes for the future would come through this piece of work. The parents involved take an interest in all the Governments agendas, e.g. SEND Green Paper Pathfinder (parents involved in the CIC are also Pathfinder Parents), Early Intervention, Short Breaks and Early Support.

Solihull is developing a Case Study on the CIC and guidance on sustainable approaches to training on behalf of the DfE and Early Support Consortium. Signpost Inclusion and Solihull CAN work closely together and more information about both can be found at: http://signpostinclusion.org.uk/

Early Identification and Assessment – Special Educational Needs (SEN) and the Disability Green Paper Pathfinders.

Solihull is one of the 20 SEN Pathfinders with the remit to examine how the Single Plan might develop in Solihull. Our core areas of focus are:

  • A multi-agency approach to assessment and planning, with clear lines of accountability;
  • Links between support planning and strategic commissioning, particularly through health and well-being boards;
  • Pooled and aligned budgets;
  • Focus on outcomes in a single plan;
  • Transferability of social care support across area boundaries;
  • Value for money and cost; and
  • Increased use of mediation for parents.

With the additional area for examination being:

  • Personal Budgets, and
  • Support to parents and young people.

It is recognised within our Pathfinder that the principles of Early Support underpin everything we do. The Early Support Lead and the Green Paper Pathfinder Lead work closely together to ensure a LEAN (preserving value with less work) approach to these agendas. We are currently focussing on the way in which Early Support training is able to support the requirements of the Pathfinder, and on how their respective processes can work together in a way that is seamless for parents.

Learning and Achieving

As the remit of Early Support has extended to the age of 25, parents have expressed a desire to see schools adopt the Early Support approach. School leaders in turn expressed a wish to see examples of the approach in action and achieving positive outcomes through case studies. To this end Early Support and Achievement For All collaborated on establishing the Schools Project. This project will be entering its second term in January 2013 with case study material being produced and disseminated from early 2013.

The Early Years Team already has a history of facilitating the implementation of Early Support within Solihull. Two nationally trained trainers and capacity builders are members of this team, and it is they who support Signpost Inclusion with its parent workshops. The team also has the remit of embedding the Early Support approach across third sector childcare settings.

Services working together for families

The Solihull Early Support Lead is working with Margaret Ruane, the Authority’s Workforce Development Manager to examine the ways in which Early Support training can be integrated within existing training plans. This will ensure that the approach is incorporated into the working practices of the area’s workforce as a whole.

The LINCS Team aims to support children and young people before they reach crisis point.  It is a way of giving support early to prevent problems later on.  LINCS (Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support) brings the different agencies that are involved with a child together so they can share information. It incorporates:

  • Common Assessment Framework (CAF)
  • Lead Person (LP, also known as Lead Professional or Lead Practitioner)

Evidence shows that 9 out of 10 children and young people supported through LINCS experience improved outcomes as a result. Early Support is already integrated within the LINCS process.

Building Resilience

One of the key challenges identified by Pathfinders and being voiced at Action Learning Network events and the recent SEND Regional Events has been the need for parents to have opportunities to build their confidence, increase their skills whilst also building family resilience. This results in empowering them to make the most of the opportunities that new Bill will offer. Early Support has a well established, highly evaluated series of peer led Workshops aimed at delivering these outcomes. They have also proven to be extremely effective as entry level Parent Carer Participation training, ensuring a steady flow of knowledgeable Parent Carers to work in partnership with local services.

Early Support is a core delivery partner for the implementation of the proposals set out in the Governments Green Paper, which identified Early Support as a key approach to meeting the needs of disabled children, young people and their families. The approach has been extended across the full age range from birth to adulthood.

Outline of the workshops

These are a series of workshops that follow on from each other and follow the parent carer’s ‘journey’. They are peer led having been written by, and are led by trainers who are parent carers themselves. They are aimed at the parent carers of children and young people of any age, with any additional need or disability and at any stage on their ‘journey’. They aim to support parents to work actively with services to get the very best outcomes for their family:

Workshop 1: Understanding This Unknown World-the importance of information, including what Early Support can offer

Workshop 2: Changing Relationships-looking at working with practitioners, multi-agency assessments and planning

Workshop 3: The Child Beyond the Disability-looking at different levels of acceptance and the child beyond the disability



Workshop 4: Ordinary Lives?- looking after yourself, reviewing the skills gained on the workshops and looking to the future

Workshop 5: Growing Up, Moving On-helping your child to grow up and get the most from life as they make the transition to adulthood. (For parent carers of young people 14+)

The workshops have recently been reviewed and updated, and a capacity building programme is underway. Please contact the Early Support team for more information about this and about making contact with training providers who are currently available to work with you to establish a programme of Workshops in your area. Email Priya Plowman pplowman@ncb.org.uk or call her on 020 7843 6350. You can also visit the Early Support website for more information – www.ncb.org.uk/earlysupport or email Eileen Strevens (estrevens@ncb.org.uk) for information about our regional facilitators who can offer more localised support and information.

Warwickshire Training Group

In September 2009 a multi-agency training group was formed to devise an Early Support training package for Warwickshire. Parents have been involved throughout the process helping to put the training together and also delivering a regular slot where they share their experiences and answer questions.

The one day training course has been delivered across the county to an audience of multi-agency professionals who work with children 0-5. The professionals included Paediatricians, Health Visitors, Child Development Advisers, Social Workers, IDS Key Workers, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Teachers, Nursery SENCO’s/staff and Children Centre Staff.

In total approximately 500 Warwickshire multi-agency professionals have attended the Early Support Training.

Our philosophy has always been:

“Don’t just attend the training go away and do it.”

That has certainly been the case. Families who have a child with complex needs and a range of professionals involved are now benefiting from having an Early Support Lead Professional. Early Support team around the child (TAC) meetings are regularly taking place in homes, clinics, nurseries and Children Centre’s across Warwickshire.

It gives the training group great satisfaction to receive comments from parents/carers demonstrating that Early Support is really beginning to make a difference for children and families in Warwickshire.

 


Early Support – Parent Evaluation Comments

 

How useful did you find the Early Support process?

 

  • Very useful to have a point of contact
  • I think the Early Support process is very useful and important
  • Felt like everyone was on the same page and working together
    • Was good to hear everyone’s individual opinions and I could give mine too
    • Everyone was there and suggestions relating to my child’s needs were made which maybe wouldn’t have been thought of by just speaking to one person
    • By everyone being in one place at the same time, rather than trying to get in contact with lots of different people, especially appropriate as we have a lot of medical appointments
    • Highlights areas to concentrate on and also quite motivating as it highlights progress
    • Excellent service
    • It meant the professionals were able to communicate directly concerning my child
    • This support is very important in order to ensure parents/carers are aware of how to best support their children

 

How use was it to have an Early Support Lead Professional?

 

  • Very useful, she helped to get all health professionals together, so everyone knew what was happening and ways to move forward and help and support me
  • Very useful, she helped to get all health professionals together, so everyone knew what was happening and ways to move forward and help and support me
  • Opens up lots of additional resources
  • Before I found it was me that to ensure all involved professionals came to meetings

Early Support Regional Events

The West Midlands had the honour of hosting the final regional event in Birmingham on the 19th October. The event was chaired by two parents from the West Midlands Parent Carer Forum and the day began with a film about Early Support featuring parents and practitioners from Solihull. The parents spoke about the difference Early Support and key working has made to them and practitioners spoke about the benefits of using the Early Support approach when working with families. You can view the video here.

There were presentations from Peter Gibb from DfE and Christine Humphreys from DH. Peter Gibb is the DfE official leading on the Single Assessment and Plan and he was keen to hear parent’s views on the proposed changes. Again, many parents welcomed the change in principle but are less sure about how it will work in practice, particularly the health and social care elements of the Plan. Peter again emphasized that the draft provisions were very much just what it says on the tin and real detail will come in the new Code of Practice and the Regulations. Fiona Holmes and Nikki Reeves presented a workshop on Early Support and key working. Nikki spoke very movingly about her own experience and particularly about the lack of sensitivity and support she and her family encountered when they received her son’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Nikki described how the Early Support Parent Workshops, not only helped her to come to terms with her own situation but gave her the confidence to go on to support other parents. Nikki, along with other parents have recently set up Sign Post Inclusion, a Community Interest Company, which delivers training and support to parents in Solihull. You can access the presentations from all the Regional events here: http://www.shortbreaksnetwork.org.uk/policyandpractice/impact/events-workshops/regionalevents

Family Fun Day Success!

Signpost Inclusion held its inaugural Family Fun day in October. The event, which was planned and staffed entirely by volunteers, was a resounding success. Over 150 people attended to enjoy the fun and games, with activities, raffles, hot food and refreshments on offer. There were some fantastic prizes to win on the day including the use of a Mini Convertible for a weekend, meals, hotel stays and beauty treatments.

The day was supported by Synter BMW Mini, Cadburys, Ramada Hotels, De Vere Village and many other local businesses. Together they helped raise over £1600. This money will be allocated to the running of the Signpost Inclusion resource library. In particular it will be focused on purchasing some brand new weighted items, including jackets and blankets. The items will be available for parents and professionals to loan from Signpost Inclusion on a “try before you buy” basis.

Executive Director, Tony Ibbotson says:

“Many parents have expressed the need for the availability of such resources and are prevented from buying them due to the high costs and the uncertainty that the product will work for their child. The Signpost Inclusion Resource Library system allows them to borrow a product to see how their child responds to it before deciding whether to purchase the item”.

The next event is now being planned and the Signpost Inclusion Christmas Fayre, will be held on December 8th 2012 at Hatchford Brook School Community Room. More details can be found on the organisation’s website (www.signpostinclusion.org.uk)

Signpost Inclusion is a social enterprise based in Solihull. It offers support and training to parents and professionals who care for young people with additional needs and disabilities. It is part of the Early Support Consortium and has been contributing to the re-writing of the resources and materials. Signpost Inclusion’s Parent Directors are trained to deliver Early Support Parent Workshops and Train the Trainer workshops. More information on Signpost Inclusion can be found at www.signpostinclsuion.org.uk

Embedding Early Support In Dudley

Jane Marsh, Head of the Specialist Early Years Service and Early Support Manager in Dudley tells how Early Support there has grown from it’s start in 2003.


The initial seeds of Early Support in Dudley first got underway after myself and two other colleagues attended a Pilot Early Support consultation event in Kenilworth late in 2003.

A multi agency meeting was called and our enthusiasm shared with many colleagues.  We applied to be a second phase pilot area but were unsuccessful.  However, having gained sign up for chief executives during the bidding process, we decided to go ahead with developing the programme.

We secured training for being a key worker from SNIP and 10 practitioners from different areas of expertise did a five day intensive course looking at the emotional and practical implications to families of having a child with special needs and the role of a key worker.  We adapted this training to include familiarisation with the Early Support materials and started to roll it out.  Even though just 12 people are trained at a time, we have now trained 345 practitioners including specialist teachers, therapists, health visitors, children’s centre staff, educational psychologists and parents. This training has evolved over time but is an ongoing programme that continues to be well received:

 “I am not sure that I will become a key worker but feel confident to share information about key working with staff and volunteers in the voluntary sector.  Thank you for an excellent two days”

Early on we decided, that to ensure that Early Support was embedded and not just an enjoyable training course with few real outcomes for families, we needed someone to manage it and an administrator.  The role of manager became integral to my day job of managing the Specialist Early Years Service here in Dudley and Jacquie Caine was employed as administrator.  Jacquie’s role is key to ensuring key workers feel supported and not overwhelmed by paperwork.  She organises and attends all the TAC meetings and distributes the family service plan.

A multi agency steering group continues to meet three times per year to keep the profile high and to address any challenges, new initiatives etc.

Three conferences have been held again to raise the profile of Early Support and to celebrate the positive outcomes for families.

We currently have 64 families officially on Early Support with a key worker and regular Team around the Child meetings.  But this method of working is now firmly embedded for all children 0-5 with Special needs, for many families being supported by other services and for those families accessing support through Children’s Centres.

Another success that we are proud of is the number of parents who become enabled, through the Early Support process, to become their own key workers, completing the training and accessing Jacquie’s support for their own meetings.

Three of our parents also became trainers for the Early Support Parent Workshops; three successful rounds of training have been completed, again with excellent feedback:

The parent trainers wrote:

“We are now three parent trainers who were different individuals who thought we knew how the system worked, but when we got together for parent workshops it was a different experience.  We achieved true friendship and learnt new things from one another everyday.  We were empowered by decision making and informed information which we gained from one another.  We learnt the concept of voicing our ideas, fears and desires sharing them in a group.  Most importantly we got ME time.”

A note from the dad of one of our first Early Support children Sam might help to explain the benefit to the families involved with Early Support:

 “I would like to thank all the professional/friends that help Sam to achieve his best, as many dads at work, who cannot attend his sessions to see all the hard work you put him through.  Also your time to be in this meeting may seem trivial but it is not.  I wish I could say that I did not need your help, this is said in the nicest possible way………thanks again plus as I write this I would like to thank Claire for her ultimate dedication and patience in trying to give Sam as normal a life as possible…. Thanks xxxxx (kisses from Sam)”

An off shoot of the Early Support programme, requested by the families and key workers has been termly get togethers for current key workers covering contemporary issues, and two separate parent groups.  The latter are run by teachers in my team supported by children’s Centre staff and volunteers, this ensures that we are able to proved a crèche and a place where parents can meet, get professional advice and mutual support.  These are parent led and very popular a recent evaluation of them provided so many positive responses that we are now looking to expand this provision:

 “I love coming to this group.  I really need to spend time with other moms in a similar situation.  Everyone is so welcoming and friendly.”

“This group has been a lifesaver for me”

“This has helped me daily getting through the bad times”.

Here in Dudley we look forward to meeting the new challenges ahead and ensuring that our families and children are at the centre of this.

Being Listened To, Being Heard.

Although my working life has been related to issues of inclusion to one extent or another, I am new to the world of Early Support. The conversations that I had in the making of the short video, Being Listened To, Being Heard were therefore eye opening, both because of the personal impact that results from a poor experience, and because of the positive difference good practice can make.

We can all doubtless recite mantras regarding the importance of professionals and practitioners actively listening to people that they are working with and attempting to help, but hearing parents and young people talk of their personal and isolating experiences brings the message home. The chance to then hear of the simplest of ways in which the negative can be made positive should I think provide those working to implement the Early Support principles with reassurance that a) their work is needed, and b) it makes a difference.