Sure Start

Naomi Eisenstadt explains how Sure Start is now targeting
poverty through the promotion of employment for families on low incomes.

Providing children with healthy choices at mealtimes,
getting children to health checks, providing toys and books, and safe places to
play are all harder for families on low incomes.

Employment can
alleviate these problems. Paid work gives families choices that are simply not
available to those relying solely on benefits. Because of this the government
spending review in 2000 required Sure Start to go further than helping parents
overcome the worst effects of poverty. Sure Start is now also charged with
helping parents of young children find employment.

In the past there
has been a split in approaches to services for young children. Some services
were aimed at family support, for example, improving parenting, developing
children’s social and cognitive skills and building community capacity. Others
were designed to meet the needs of working parents. Full day care meant that
for those who wished to, work was possible. However, the cost of such care
meant that it was economic to combine work and parenthood only for those in
well-paid jobs.

Sure Start is now
working closely with the Employment Service and the New Deal for Lone Parents
to help parents prepare for the workplace. It is also working closely with the
Department for Education and Skills’ National Childcare Strategy, and in
particular the neighbourhood nurseries initiative, which aims to create 45,000
high quality, affordable full day care places in England’s most disadvantaged
communities. We are encouraging the inclusion of full day care facilities in
new buildings in Sure Start areas.

This approach values
the important contribution that a parent makes when they do decide to stay at
home with their young children. But it also recognises that for those who want
work, employment can make a huge difference in the lives of children and

Naomi Eisenstadt
is the head of the Sure Start Unit

Bradford work shadowing

The Sure Start
trailblazer Barkerend in Bradford has set up a shadowing programme. It believes
that it is difficult for people to make career choices unless they know what
options are available and what the work of professionals such as health
visitors, speech therapists, teachers, social workers, dieticians and so on,
actually involves. The Barkerend shadowing programme gives local parents the
chance to shadow people in these occupations, combined with career advice, so
that they know how to follow this up as a career option. Just as important for
the parents is that their young children benefit from local day care
facilities. Each placement lasts for three months and gives parents the chance
to taste the work/life balance so that whatever they aspire to in life they are
able to make informed judgements about their future.

Haringey help

Sure Start Haringey,
in north London, is planning a respite exchange service where parents can leave
their children in a crŠche while they attend an interview or training. Parents
will then return the "favour" by working in the crŠche on another

Shopping for jobs

Sure Start
Hollinwood, near Manchester, has just helped Joanne, a parent with three
children who has been a "stay at home mum" for seven years, to gain
employment. Joanne came to Jobshop in January 2002 looking for a job in child
care. She was helped to fill in her application form, and given training in
interview skills. In March she was successful at getting a job as a day-care
worker. The Sure Start Hollinwood Jobshop was set up in response to the need
for a local service offering practical help to people looking for employment.
The Jobshop provides support with job searches, skills training, filling in application
forms, designing a CV, local courses, help with interview skills and much more.

boost in Norfolk

An extra dimension
has been added to the services that Sure Start Thorpe Hamlet, Norfolk, provides
with the setting up of the Sure Start Extra Project to provide a locally based
advice and learning service for parents in the area. The project is in its
early stages but during its first three months it has given advice and guidance
to over 27 parents and provided a range of courses with the aim of building
confidence and improving employability. Ten Sure Start parents have achieved a
First Aid qualification, and a further 10 have completed the introduction to
childminding practice course. Some of these parents are currently in the process
of registering as childminders. Sure Start Extra is currently planning a
dedicated local advice and learning centre for the community with 11 PCs and a
large room for courses and meetings.

Bridging the
child care divide

Sure Start is
piloting a scheme, delivered through early years development and child care
partnerships, which will enable new neighbourhood nurseries and existing child
care facilities in rural areas and pockets of disadvantage to develop Sure
Start-type outreach and health activities. It hopes to break down the split
between community support and full day care by offering a range of family
support services and services that help parents get back into employment.


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