Sure Start

Sure Start is helping
to meet the needs of smaller pockets of disadvantage, such as those found in
rural districts. Naomi Eisenstadt explains.

Start is one of a number of area-based initiatives which tend to be designed
for urban areas with dense concentrations of 
disadvantage. It is harder to deliver Sure Start programmes in rural
areas. It costs more to deliver services to scattered populations, and it is
more difficult for families in rural areas to get access to specialist services
like speech therapy or disability support.

Nearly two years ago
we decided to revise the Sure Start guidance to allow a different approach for
rural areas and invited areas with high levels of rural poverty to apply the
new criteria. The special rural guidance allowed for longer planning time
because of the difficulties in developing local consultation. It also allowed
for a higher revenue cost per child, larger geographical catchment areas, and
some targeting of families based on referrals. Changing the guidance in this
way resulted in 10 rural Sure Start programmes. It is likely that if we had not
made these modifications, the districts chosen for these programmes would have
put their Sure Start in a large town or city.  

We have also devised
a pilot project of “mini” Sure Starts aimed at delivering better integration of
children’s services in areas with quite small pockets of deprivation either in
rural areas or in towns, and cities that have small numbers of families living
in poverty. To reduce the administrative burden for mini Sure Starts, they are
built on existing services such as neighbourhood nurseries, Early Excellence
Centres or other facilities delivering children’s services. Sure Start funding
is then provided to deliver outreach and additional health work. Co-location of
services and bringing services to homes and small villages is crucial for
families in rural areas where travel can be both costly and difficult. Of the
fifty mini Sure Start pilots, 29 are in rural areas.  

Naomi Eisenstadt is
the head of the Sure Start Unit.

Proof positive

The chairperson of
the Countryside Agency, Ewan Cameron, complimented Sure Start on its work
recently. The Countryside Agency was asked to report each year on how
government has performed against its commitment to rural proofing. Rural
proofing means that as policy is developed and implemented, policy makers
should systematically think about the impacts in rural areas and make
adjustments to their initiatives if appropriate. Ewan Cameron noted that “where
rural proofing has worked well, as with the Sure Start initiative, the results
have been promising”.

brought in

Sure Start Bolsover,
Derbyshire, covers three very isolated rural communities in a coalfield area,
which had very few services for young families before Sure Start began. Before
Sure Start some parents had to take their children on two buses to reach
appointments and it could easily take up the best part of the day. Now, state
of the art audiology equipment has been purchased by Sure Start Bolsover so
that toddlers can have hearing tests nearer home. A community paediatrician
also offers weekly clinics, in rotation, in all three villages. And, where
there were no play facilities previously, the scheme has now started a “little
rascals” group where parents and toddlers can meet.

to the hills

Sure Start Berwick
upon Tweed is planning to buy a second-hand post van to allow the programme to
reach traveller families, as an ordinary play bus would be too big for the
road. The bus will also be used to visit hill farms in the Sure Start area
where there might be four or five families living in cottages on a farm.  Because of the distance between families in
the Sure Start Berwick upon Tweed area, the programme is also working with all
primary schools to make access for parents easier. One school with only 11
children is turning a classroom into a sitting room with a play area to bring
mums and dads from the hill villages into the school for parent and toddler

must have one

Sure Start East
Lindsey, Lincolnshire, is looking at reaching their 580 under-fours dispersed
around six villages. They are aiming to have a Sure Start presence in every
village, whether it is in a room attached to an existing school, nursery,
village hall or other appropriate building. As it is 30 to 40 miles to the
nearest big towns where ante-natal services are available, the programme is
planning to buy some portable scanners to allow midwives to scan mothers-to-be
in the local community. The scanners will be connected by modem to consultants
in hospitals and will mean families can receive high quality care without
travelling long distances.

to play

Sure Start West
Allerdale, Cumbria, is working to provide indoor and outdoor play facilities in
its catchment area. Outdoor play areas are needed in the main town of Maryport
and the surrounding eight wards as a lot of the houses are terraced with
concrete yards and no garden. Even the seaside town of Allenby has no outdoor
playground. The programme is improving some village halls to make them more
child-friendly. It will also be providing outreach facilities in four
localities and a mobile support unit will transport staff and equipment, and
provide crèche facilities in various locations.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.