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Agenda item


To consider an update on the work being undertaken by the Centre for Early Child Development on behalf of the ‘A Better Start’ partnership.



Ms Merle Davies, Director, Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development (CECD) attended the Committee meeting to provide an update on the work being undertaken by the Centre for Early Child Development on behalf of the ‘A Better Start’ partnership.


The Committee was reminded that Blackpool had been awarded £45 million from the National Lottery as part of a ten-year strategic investment to develop new approaches designed to improve early child health and development. Using a place-based approach, the ‘A Better Start’ partnership, consisting of the Police, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group, the Local Authority, the NSPCC and the community, worked collectively with the aim of breaking the intergenerational cycle of poor outcomes for children. Ms Davies informed the Committee that the partnership aimed to reduce critical pressures, for example mental health and substance misuse and build capabilities such as self-efficacy and positive parent-child interaction, in a collaborative manner to achieve collective impact.


Early indications of success included a significant reduction in childhood dental caries, reduced numbers of children admitted to hospital due to unintentional and serious injury and an increase in the number of children achieving a good level of development by the end of reception. Members asked for further details of the change indicators and Ms Davies confirmed that she would provide this information for circulation to the Committee. 


Ms Davies expressed that culture change was at the heart of the desired improvements with the community identified as a key partner as well as the importance of external agencies working together to address the issues. The Committee was informed that the scheme consisted of evidence-based programmes designed to bring about long-term behaviour change, with the Enhanced Health Visiting Service cited as an example. The ‘Be Your Baby’s Hero’ campaign was discussed, with Members hearing that the project was a three year scheme aimed at tackling alcohol consumption during pregnancy, with the whole community being asked to support pregnant women in stopping drinking and changing unhealthy behaviours.


The low take up of breast feeding was questioned, with Ms Davies explaining that behaviour change was more successful when the information provided addressed the specific needs of new mothers, which in some cases was advice on safe bottle feeding as well as information on breast feeding. It was specifically queried why the breast feeding buddies scheme was no longer available, and Members were informed that Public Health had identified a decline in breast feeding during the time of the campaign, with very few women taking part. Therefore the decision had been taken to cease the buddy scheme. However, the CECD had been training Learning to Feed Supporters to provide additional help to new parents in infant feeding.


Ms Davies described the aim of A Better Start to be the bringing together of the community, including volunteer recruitment, in order to intervene before it became necessary for Children’s Social Care to be required and that all agencies needed to be influential in bringing about the changes.


The Committee raised the concern that private Early Years providers were not being adequately informed of the help available from A Better Start. Ms Davies assured the Committee that private nurseries were informed of any available assistance, citing the toothbrush scheme and twilight training sessions as support that had been widely implemented across private Early Years facilities. It was acknowledged by Ms Davies that more could be done in this area, with the Early Years Strategy aiming to produce better trained nursery staff via work with the college and the provision of further support. In addition, Members were informed that Early Years settings were encouraged to take part in the training programme on offer. A further priority was identified as the training of staff around speech and language, as well as the recognition of Special Educational Needs by staff.


When asked if A Better Start had performance data, Ms Davies confirmed that the first full set of key performance indicators would be available for consideration by the A Better Start Executive Board in October 2019. It was requested that the Committee also receive the data, with Ms Davies agreeing to provide the report for circulation to Members after the information had been through the appropriate governance channels.


The encouraging work of A Better Start was noted, with confirmation received of the expected funding end date of 2024.


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