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Sure Start Services

The main aim of Sure Start is to offer support to parents from pregnancy and give young children under four from the most disadvantaged areas the best possible start in life. It will aim to promote the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development of pre-school children to ensure they can flourish at home and when they get to school.

What services are provided

Sure Start services are provided through a holistic approach, bringing health, education and parenting support services together in a coordinated way. It is designed and delivered at a local level through a network of local statutory agencies and community-based voluntary organisations working in the fields of health, early education and family/parenting support.  

In each local area, different programmes are set up according to the range of existing services and the particular needs of the community, though programmes must include a number of core services which are laid down by policy.

The core services are:

  • outreach and home visiting
  • family support
  • primary and community healthcare and advice
  • good quality play, learning and childcare experiences for children, both group and home-based
  • support for all children in the community, recognising their differing needs

The types of services and support offered will vary among each local Sure Start, but may include:

  • ante natal support and advice
  • post natal support including breastfeeding support
  • programmes for babies and young children such as baby massage, baby yoga, play sessions
  • programmes for parents such as parenting courses, nutrition, nurturing, fathers groups, support for ethnic minority families
  • health related support from midwives, health visitors and speech and language therapists

This list is not definitive. Each local Sure Start can provide more detail on what is available in their particular area.  

Developmental Programme for two - three year olds

All Sure Start projects now provide a Developmental Programme for two to three year olds which aims to enhance social and emotional development, build on communication and language skills and encourage imagination through play.  

This can help some children to be prepared for starting pre-school education. The Programme is not intended to be a universal service for all children in the year before starting pre-school education but is aimed primarily at those children who are likely to benefit most from this support.

Where Sure Start Services are available

Sure Start services are currently available in at least the top 20 per cent ward areas of disadvantage in Northern Ireland, and the top 20 per cent Super Output areas, as defined by the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010. Currently plans are in progress to gradually extend services, over time and as budgets allow, to the top 25 per cent most disadvantaged wards, commencing in this budget period (2011/2015).

There are currently 35 Sure Start Programmes.

Further information on Sure Start services can be obtained by contacting the local Sure Start Partnership directly. Names and addresses of each Sure Start Partnership are detailed below.

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