Our team, including new Parent Champions Paul and Rachael, went to Blackpool earlier this month to meet people from the other A Better Start sites and to share the positive progress we’re making connecting with local parents.

Earlier this month the team from A Better Start Southend spent a day in Blackpool sharing our experiences of community engagement with our sister Better Start sites.

It was the first official outing for Rachael Gardner and Paul Finch, A Better Start Southend’s new Parent Champions, who will play a key role representing local parents and getting them involved in changing things in Southend. They were joined by Alison Semmence, CEO of SAVS (Southend Association of Voluntary Services) and Georgia Cleaver, SAVS’ Project Team Leader working on engagement, as well as members of the A Better Start team, including Interim Programme Director Alison Clare.

The event, held at the Winter Gardens, focused on working with local communities to create change. It was an opportunity for the team to meet with people from the other Better Start projects in Blackpool, Bradford, Nottingham and Lambeth, and to come together and discuss the critical role that communities play in A Better Start and what the sites are doing to engage them.

Our Interim Programme Director Alison Clare explains:

“Our main priority is engagement with local people so the event really struck a chord with the team who attended. For me, it was particularly interesting to hear some of the lessons from Sure Start, an early years initiative that was a precursor to A Better Start, which included the importance of prioritising work at a community level, as well as focusing on individual parents or families.

“Often people’s problems aren’t just about their personal experiences, but reflect what’s happening in the wider community around them, so it’s important we’re talking to everyone, not just individuals. Prevention is better than cure but communities must be given the opportunity to suggest their own solutions to the issues they face.”

Alison Semmence, CEO of SAVS, explains:

“Ultimately it doesn’t matter how good local services are unless families are using them, which is why our main priority at the moment is engaging local parents, especially those with the greatest needs. Our Parent Champions have been on board for over a month now and are playing an important role in this engagement.”

Both Rachael and Paul had a great time learning from the team and really getting involved in all the activities and discussions at the event, including a visit to Grange Children’s Centre.

Paul said:

“The sessions in Blackpool were fantastic, working with key workers and parents made me feel part of something big. I came away feeling that I could contribute to my area but that I was really supported by the team around me, which is really motivating. A big thanks to Blackpool for hosting and we look forward to seeing you at the next event.”

Rachael added:

“I had a really good time, and found speaking with the other parents really informative to get a broader view of what they are trying to achieve.”

For more information on the evaluation of Sure Start visit http://www.ness.bbk.ac.uk/


What are Parent Champions?

Parent Champions have a key role in representing local parents at the various boards and meetings where decisions about how we change the way things are run and develop new services are made.

For more information on our Parent Champions or to get involved, contact the SAVS Better Start Team on abss@savs-southend.co.uk or 01702 356069.


Article published March 2017