Equally Well test sites are due to come to an end in March 2012 – East Lothian has been looking at the lessons from the test site as part of a review of early years services commisssioned by the Support from the Start planning Board. The following represents the current thinking in that review of how the lessons from the test site can be developed in the coming years. The ideas in the following paper will be disccussed and developed further at a conference on the 7th Feburary.
East Lothian Council Champions Early Years
A launch pad for the second phase of Support from the Start
1. The Case for Early Years
We know that getting it right for children and young people, families and carers, from the start, ensures that young children are healthy, happy and ready to succeed in life. To a very large extent, children’s life chances, depend on the quality of experience they have in their first years; the secure and reliable attachments they have with parents and other adults important to them; the relationships they build with other children and within their families and communities; the quality of care they are given by parents and other carers; the richness of the learning opportunities they have; and the support and services which children, parents, families and carers can rely on.
East Lothian Council and its partners in health, the voluntary, third and private sectors have done much in recent years in this area. A key development has been the Support from the Start test site which has been running in some areas of the county. Learning from the outcome of the test site will be used to launch an engagement and partnership approach across the county, for the benefit of all East Lothian’s children.
The main aim is to ensure that East Lothian’s children all get the best possible start in life.
To achieve this we will:
· Promote awareness of the importance of early years for everyone in the county
· Engage with parents, young people and partners to take local action to improve the lives of young children and families
· Raise the profile of East Lothian as a national and international example of a place where people work together to give all young children the best possible start in life
· Create an approach free from jargon and unnecessary red tape which is firmly rooted in our communities
· Do things which fit in well with other council and partner priorities and ways of working
· Be open to and share information about imaginative sources of funding, help and learning about what works
· Work with partners to help local people reach their own solutions
2. Engagement with Local People is Key
We will, with our partners, engage with parents, carers, young people, and other people in the county to find out how they think the quality of life of young children and their families can be improved and work with them over the coming years to take action for improvement. We will engage with them to find ways of working together and supporting each other to ensure all young children:
· Have positive parenting and experience good attachments at an early stage
· Are ready to learn and achieve
· Can access quality child care experiences
· Are healthy & happy
· Are not living in poverty
· Have a good opportunity for play, and
· Are protected from harm
3. Cluster Based Engagement
3.1 To achieve this level of engagement we will establish Support from the Start Link-up groups in each cluster area (East Lothian’s school cluster model). These groups will have close relationships with and be linked to local community planning structures where these exist. Each Link-up group will comprise of, champions from a range of services and organisations from all sectors as well as, parents and carers, and others having an interest in the early years. The Link-up groups should be empowered to engage with any relevant Council or Health department.
3.2 In keeping with the lessons from the evaluation of Support from the Start, Council and Health colleagues on Link-up groups should be regarded as Early Years “Service Champions” who should think and act imaginatively and nimbly to assist local parents and communities to improve the quality of life of young children and their families. Council and Health staff serving in Link-up groups should be given time to devote to this work.
3.3 The link up groups will be supported with administrative time and Public Health Practitioners employed by the NHS will help to establish, facilitate and coordinate the work of each Link-up group. A key role will be to ensure that all parents and carers, especially those who do not have positive experiences of working in groups like these, have a voice.
3.4 In keeping with one of the main messages from “Joining the Dots” there should be a “bias for action” and reporting and scrutiny should be kept to a minimum. The Public Health Practitioners would, however, be expected to ensure that any public monies spent by Link-up groups are properly accounted for. In the establishment phase development funds would remains with the Education and Children’s Services department and be administered by the Public Health Practitioner (s), but this may change to more local arrangement as the groups develop.
3.5 Each cluster based Link-up group will be provided with detailed information on their local area, including population trends and service availability and accessibility. This will be provided by Council and Health information analysis working together. Information would be updated on an annual basis. Updates will include data from the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) which will help provide an evidence base for early year’s community development. This data from EDI will be available next year but the establishments of Link-up groups should not wait until this is available. Link up groups should also gather and evaluate information about their own areas.
3.6 Link-up groups will be empowered to discuss how services are currently delivered and to engage with service managers to secure change and innovation to better meet local need where change is required. This is not a “one size fits all” approach. Rather it is an approach which will help tailor services to meet the discrete needs of different communities. There will be challenges made to the current way of doing things in some link-up group areas and service managers and staff will need to be responsive to these challenges.
3.7 To be fully effective, each Link-up group will have access to funding which they can deploy to develop new initiatives in their area, or to adjust or build upon existing provision to achieve the objectives set out in sections one and two above. Link-up groups will be encouraged to secure matching funding from a variety of sources.
Link up groups are accountable directly to the Support from the Start Planning Board and their local community through the locality community planning structures. The chair of each link up group would have a seat at the Support from the Start Planning Board. Each link up group would operate within terms of reference set by the Planning Board but would adopt its own ground rules and procedures. The terms of reference would include ensuring that appropriate representation and reporting is established at ommunity/neighbourhood planning groups where these exist.
Each group would have a “simple rules” process for local champions to access the development fund. During the development phase link up groups will report through the Support from the Start engagement officer to the head of childrens services and the Support from the Start Planning Board. The budget for each group would ibe held by the had of chidlrens services and managed by the public health practitioners who would provide reports to the Support from the Start Planning Board. Arrangements for locally held budgets will be developed in accordance with local need and require approval by the Planning Board.
5.1 The Public Health Practitioners will seek to establish Link-up groups in each cluster from autumn of 2011. While each group will have their own distinct character and priorities, and while each will develop at a varying pace, learning between each will be important and encouraged.
5.2 A county wide conference will take place in February 2012. This conference will be the formal launch pad for the second phase of Support from the Start, it will bring together the range of parents and partners engaged in each of the Link-up groups, Early Years Champions and elected members. The minister for Children and Early Years, national or international experts in the field will be invited to address the conference.
Head of Children’s Services October 2011