What is Sure Start?
Sure Start is a Programme targeted at parents and children under the age of four living in the most disadvantaged areas. There are 38 Sure Start projects across Northern Ireland. It brings together health, family support and early education services which are designed to support children’s learning skills, health and well-being, and social and emotional development. Services are offered both in the home and in group based settings.
What are the Aims of Sure Start?
The Aims of Sure Start are to improve:
- The ability to learn by encouraging stimulating play, improving language skills and the early identification and support of children with learning difficulties;
- Health by supporting parents in caring for children and promoting children’s health and development;
- Social development by supporting the development of early relationships between parents and children, good parenting skills, family functioning and early identification and support of children with emotional, learning or behavioural difficulties.
The Key Principles of Sure Start are:
- Co-ordinate, streamline and add value to existing services for young families in local communities, including signposting to specialised services;
- Involve parents;
- Avoid stigma;
- Ensure lasting support;
- Be sensitive to particular families’ needs; and
- Promote participation of all local families.
Core Elements of the Sure Start Programme are:
- Outreach and home visiting services, to make contact as early as possible in a child’s life and draw families into using other services;
- Family support including befriending, social support and parenting information, both group and home based;
- Good quality play, learning and childcare experiences for children (both group and home based);
- Primary and community health care and advice;
- Speech language and communication support;
- Support for all children in the community recognising their differing needs.
The Policy Outcomes of Sure Start are:
- Improved language skills.
- Early identification of developmental delay.
- Improved access to services.
- Enhanced parenting skills.
- Effectively integrated services.