At the beginning of May, A Better Start Southend welcomed Jeff Banks to the team as the newly appointed Director. Jeff has joined us from the family support charity Home-Start Essex, based in Chelmsford, where he was Chief Executive.

Jeff (pictured above with Parent Champions Michelle, Ileana and Julia) has been quickly familiarising himself with all aspects of the programme and brings to the role a wealth of experience and expertise, with almost three decades working in the third sector, principally leading educational charities focussing on developing programmes with/for disabled and disadvantaged children and adults.

With Jeff’s arrival, our interim Director, Michael Freeston, will return full-time to his role as Director of Quality Improvement at our lead organisation the Pre-school Learning Alliance, but will be continuing his association with the programme through his role as theme lead for data, research and evaluation. We are pleased that Interim Programme Manager Debbie Payne, who has played a key role in supporting the programme office alongside Michael, will be continuing her role as Programme Manager moving forward.

Jeff says: “I was delighted to be appointed to this exciting role and look forward to working alongside partners and local parents, to help make Southend-On-Sea to be the best place in this country to bring up a child and to be a parent. Over the coming months we will build capacity and launch a range of new ‘test and learn’ projects and at the same time, begin to explore opportunities for wider system change creating a sustainable legacy for the programme.”

Jeff’s appointment came soon after we welcomed our first Independent Chair of the ABSS Partnership Board, Alex Khaldi. Alex, who joined just before Christmas, is taking the role alongside his full time position as a Partner at global consultants Grant Thorton UK LLP.

Leading our Partnership Board, Alex works closely with all our partners to take an overview of the governance, outcomes and impact of the programme, and he explains how his first six months have gone: “We have had a fantastic six months which saw the recruitment of Jeff as Director and the beginning of our projects focused on diet and nutrition. There is a lot of work to do, but we are excited about the challenge ahead and our work is beginning to make a real difference to the lives of 0-3 year olds and their families. As some of our partners continue to face hard financial choices, it is more important than ever that we make early intervention really count – not only because it is the right thing to do, but also to help make vital public services more economic in the long run.”

It is an exciting time for the programme with the new Group-based Breastfeeding Support project just underway too, and our 3-4 Months: Introducing Solid Foods project beginning this month [June]. Run by EPUT Health Visiting Service, the 3-4 Months: Introducing Solid Foods project is an additional enhanced offer to the Healthy Child Pathway. Look out for more details on this very soon!

It promises to be a busy second half to 2018, so be sure to look out for our future activities!

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