Since beginning in May 2017, our Engagement Fund has helped parents involved in A Better Start Southend design and implement a number of different ideas to increase engagement and awareness of the programme amongst parents and the wider community.

The community-focused Engagement Fund, first proposed in January 2017, builds on parent engagement that is already happening through the Parent Forums and Parent Champions. The fund is looked after by a Grant Officer, who supports parents to get the right information together to get approval of ideas, logs and tracks applications and feeds back to both parents and ABSS.

The ideas are generated and developed by parents at the three different parent forums: Kursaal, Cluster (Milton, Victoria and Westborough) and Shoebury (Shoeburyness/West Shoebury). Ideas which would require a budget of over £500 or are more long-term than a one-off activity pass to the Ward Panels (a combination of parents and local professional representatives from the ward) for further input. Upon approval, the ideas are put to our Partnership Board and [our funders] Big Lottery Fund who then give the go ahead for them to be put into action.

And parents haven’t been shy in putting forward ideas and getting them into action. To date 45 ideas have been put forward from parents, £1,200 spent and another £2,600 approved to spend in the coming weeks and months. The activities carried out with the fund have varied in the number of people attending, depending on the activity itself. For instance, 10 families of which half were new to a Better Start took part in healthy eating cookery sessions, and 48 people joined a Halloween party in Shoebury, with over 20 new people engaging.

Reviewing the feedback of parents who take part in the activities designed in the Engagement Fund is part of the learning process for the fund, which has helped engage new parents and families in the ABSS programme. As the number of activities being made a reality has increased we are targeting half of those attending each to be new to the work of Better Start, as parents attending have brought friends along, and go on to attend parent forums also.

The fund has seen parents and families enjoying a sports day at the Balmoral Centre, Halloween party in Shoebury, a healthy eating cookery session and Hungry Caterpillar theatre visit, exercise classes, and First Aid courses for treating under 5s.

Upcoming ideas include an Autumnal party, an outdoors wildlife sessions in Priory Park, swimming, recipe cards with low-cost, healthy meals and ICT classes for parents.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Engagement Fund please contact Gemma Cartwright on 01702 356008 or

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