‘Healthy Happy Bairns’

The output from a year long evaluation study led by the Queen Margaret Univerity ChangexChange team is linked below.


 The evaluation found that Support from the Start has created significant outcomes for children and their families. Children had new-found confidence, improved social relationships, were better equipped to cope with change, were more ready for school, and benefited from a more structured and more settled day and family life.  Parents involved improved their relationships with their children, were more able to avoid significant mental health issues, were less stressed and more able to cope with life events, had increased personal confidence, and were able to find support from extended social networks.

 We are confident that ‘Healthy Happy Bairns’ will be a source of ideas and inspiration for a range of professionals and organisations seeking to make a difference to health inequalities in the early years.  We would recommend that practitioners, managers and leaders take the learning and use it to make the changes required to create a positive impact in the early years experience of all children, so that they can secure a stable, healthy and happy future.



Dadswork the East Lothian charity dedicated to supporting the needs of  Dads as parents has been involved in the development of a national organisation of ‘Fathers’ organisations

Organisations and individual can sign up at this link  www.fathersnetwork.org.uk/index.php?home

The role of Dads  has been receiving a higher profile lately.

I am part way through reading Carol Craig’s book ‘The tears that made the Clyde’,  which makes a powerful case for how Scottish male culture impacts on health and social outcomes in Scotland. She argues that this macho male culture  developed partly as a result of men abandoning family life because of desperately poor housing and overcrowding during the industrialisation of Scotland. She goes on to argue that many of the social ills which have proved so resistant to change in Scotland are fed and nurtured by that culture.

 Similar arguments abut male culture and the need to change it are made by supporters of the white ribbon campaign in relation to Domestic Violence –  that it is a problem all men need to own if it is going to change.

At a presentation I attended this morning on ‘attachment theory & practise’ by an Educational Psychologist and researcher –  Penny Rackett,  the importance of dads in supporting children to have secure attachments in early life was stressed. She reported on studies which showed that Dads who felt that their contribution to rearing children had been valued were also the dads that were most attuned to the communication of their babies / children. So involving Dads is important.

Although most children still live in a home with two adults, it seems from statistics that increasing numbers of  Scottish women are raising children without the involvement of a ‘live in father’.  It also seems that lone parenting is a more prevalent experience for Scottish women than other European women. Why is that happening and what does it say about Scottish men and their attitudes to family life? Are men not coping with the kind of  stress involved in raising children and choosing to escape from it. Do men feel that they don’t have any real role in raising children now that their traditional role of breadwinner has faded? What is the role of a father in Scottish culture?

Big questions – and ones that  need to be part of a national discussion and debate. Perhaps what Dadswork have helped to start will be the start of a discussion between fathers of what it means to be a father in 21st century Scotland and how that role can be supported and valued.

Changing culture is very difficult – and I am sure can only start when lots of people ask the similiar question and talk to each other about the implications of those questions.

I am a father – its a role for which I had no preperation  beyond my own experience of parenting. Prior to becoming a parent I don’t think I ever discuseed what a dad is meant to do with anybody. For our first child I did attend the ante natal classes that were on offer, but like many men felt like a spare part. It may well have changed now but twenty years ago it was all about the mechanics of birth – lots of heavy breathing and discussion of pain control options.

I don’t recall my father ever talking to me about what it meant to be a dad. However, I have no doubt that his parenting style has heavily influenced me (for good and bad) because I occasionally catch myself saying things that make me think, ‘God I sound like my old man’.  In writing this I have asked myself the question – Do I know how to talk to my own sons about what it means to be a father? The answer is probably no,  at least not in any coherent way.  Having asked the question I am going to think about it – because I have a sense that Dads are important and that men ought to value  and celebrate the role of father.  In fact I am going to do more than think about it I am going to talk about it, with my wife! Well,  perhaps I will try talking to some of my male friends who are fathers. They may well think I have lost the plot but it will make a change from fishing and shooting. And who knows if enough Dads in Scotland talk to each other about what it means to be a Dad and how you can be good enough at it, maybe the next generation of Dads will have a better steer than the last.

Steven Wray

Civil society or big society – its still parents supporting parents

Most support for parents is provided directly by parents to parents both informally and as part of constituted groups. 

Over the last eighteen months I have talked to many parents involved in baby / toddler groups or groups for parents. The need for this type of support was summed up for me this week when I was at the Patchwork toddler group, which was having its first session back after a few weeks break. I had arrived before the group started and as parents arrived I overheard many of them saying something to the effect ‘This is a God send’ 

How well does society / community  support parents to support each other?  My impression is that funding in this area is a mosaic of overlapping grants which are applied for competitively and therefore time consuming to obtain and account for. Support for community groups can be patchy and it can be difficult to sustain. Yet these groups are clearly part of the fabric of communities – should we be supporting them more strategically?

Patchwork EH32 is one of the community champions for Support from the Start. They have also been a beneficiary of the service development fund with Lorraine Congalton community development officer in Prestonpans and a service champion for Support From sponsoring a bid to help develop the capacity of the parents group to reach more parents.

Here are some of the people involved in Patchwork talking about the group.

Patchwork parent

Patchwork parent2


Visit by new Permanent Secretary and Chief Medical Officer


On the 19th July Scotland’s new permanent secretary Sir Peter Housden, accompanied by Dr Harry Burns, visited First Step in Musselburgh to speak to a range of people involved in using or providing early years services. 

After a tour of  First Steps facilities staff, volunteers and services users took part in a discussion facilitated by Susan Deacon about some of the challenges to, as well as the supports for, early years in East and Midlothian.

Many issues were brought up in the short period that was available for discussion – but what heartened me was the tremendous positive energy there was in the room ( no doubt contributed to by the wonderful home baking provided by First Step) This energy and enthusiasm for what a difference early intervention can make was there despite the awareness of the challenges faced by parents and children in some of our communities,  and of the funding issues faced by statutory and voluntary services. 

The other issue that chimed for me was the importance of services not stigmatising their users and the importance of the community seeing a service that is something anyone can access when the need is there. I was reminded of a  rather ugly phrase use by Sir Micheal Marmott – ‘proportionate universalism’ – services that are universal but provided in proportion to the need. The universalism of a service prevents it from being stigmatised, but it makes no sense to provide universal services equally, because need is not distributed equally. First Step is respected within its community because of the hard work and dedication of its staff – but also, I think, because it has that element of a universal service with additional support built in to address more complex or enhanced need.

Susan Deacon to champion early years in Scotland

Susan Deacon

Susan Deacon has been advising the planning board for Support from the Start for the last 9 months and played an invaluable role as an external advisor.

Delighted that Susan has been appointed by the Government to look at how children’s early years experience can be improved. A big task in the face of cutbacks and budgetary pressures – but perhaps the economic conditions mean that it is more important than ever that we make sure that children get the best possible start. The following is a quote from Susan’s press release :-

What we do now – as parents, families and communities as well as through our public services – will have an impact on the lives of individuals and the prosperity of our nation for decades to come.

BBc website report

National breast feeding week celebrations

Breast feeding mums in Vogrie park

 Lots going on to promote the benefits of breast feeding over the last week. 

Parents  had a picnic in Vogrie park in Midlothian which aimed to underline that women shouldn’t feel that they have to be in a darkened corner to feed their child, but should reclaim the streets and parks for breast feeding. A great day for it and they got coverage in the local newspaper The NCT has been busy in East Lothian (see links)  with a range of events over the course of the week and on Monday next week  there is a public launch of the new look breast feeding friendly public premise award. 

Well done to Carolyn and Shauna for all the hard work

Breast feeding friendly award

 Breastfeeding Friendly Premises Awards Launch

June 28th, 2010

  Since 2007, the Breastfeeding Friendly Premises Awards have helped businesses create a welcoming environment for breastfeeding mothers and their families. The award helps mothers to feel more confident breastfeeding in public while assisting local businesses to actively participate in the health and wellbeing of their community.

To date, we have over 50 local businesses and organisations participating certified as breastfeeding friendly.

To celebrate the our new look and our expansion into Midlothian, we are holding our official launch at The Burgh Café, 62 High Street, Musselburgh on June 28th from 10-11am.

 For more information about the launch or to participate in the award programme, please contact Shauna Powers at: 0131 536 3528 or shauna.powers@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk

Below is a link to a leaflet explaining the award and how it is administered


Civic Conversation & Homestart

Linden Ross a community champion from the Homestart organisation has been hosting a series of civic conversation events focused on bringing together services to look at early years issues effecting local communities.

Here is the summary document from the Civic Conversation event held in the Early Years Centre a little while ago.  I attended this discussion and found it fascinating – particularly the gap in awareness about what was being being offered by local housing services and the needs that community based staff were identifying in relation to housing.  My impression was that community staff often frustrated over a particular need of a client, weren’t aware of services that could help with that need. It underlined for me the value of services investing a little bit of time in talking to each other face to face about what they are providing, where the overlaps are and where the gaps are.

Housing Summary

Champions Get Together

Just before xmas the  Service and Community champions met to review how the test site had developed over the last year. The first part of the session was an informal chance to catch up with each other and review the year using a timeline. The timeline showed key activities since the test site was announced and champions were asked to record their impression with sticky post its.

Below are photographs of the Support from the Start Storyboard which was displayed at the Champions Get Together, held on Monday 21st December 2009 in John Muir House Haddington. Th notes from the discussion are linked get-together-group-discussion-notes

This event was a good opportunity for the Service Champions and Community Champions to meet each other, the Project Board members and East Lothian council Chief Executive Alan Blackie was in attendance. It was a fun event with relaxation and culminated in a facilitated group discussion looking at future priorities.

The storyboard is a timeline for the test site from initiation in October 2008 to the time of the Get Together in December 2009, which details major events and deliverables from the project and lists the outcomes driving the project forward. There is also a list of the Service Development Fund proposals and many of the activities which have taken place. The Champions were encouraged to add their thoughts to the storyboard of what inspired them/disappointed them and what have been the achievements or barriers. These thoughts are also listed here.

Champions Thoughts