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Sure Start Services

Sure Start is a government led initiative aimed at giving every child the best possible start in life and which offers a broad range of services focusing on Family Health, Early Years Care and Education and Improved Well Being Programmes to children aged four and under

What is Sure Start?

The main aims of Sure Start is to offer support to parents from pregnancy and to give young children under the age of four from the most disadvantaged areas the best possible start in life.

It will also 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 - with a keen focus on improving each child's ability to learn.

What services are provided

Sure Start services are provided through an holistic approach, bringing education, parenting support and health services together in a coordinated way. They are designed and delivered at a local level through a network of local statutory agencies and community-based voluntary organisations working in the fields of early education, health 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 six core service areas which are laid down by policy.

The core services are:

  • outreach and home visiting
  • support to families and parents
  • primary and community healthcare and advice
  • support for good quality play, learning and childcare experiences for children, both group and home-based
  • support for speech, language and communication
  • 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:

  • antenatal support and advice
  • postnatal 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 and 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 their 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. Parental involvement is a key element of the Programme which actively encourages and supports family participation in a variety of learning and development opportunities.

Where Sure Start Services are available

Sure Start services are available within the top 20 per cent most disadvantaged ward areas in Northern Ireland, together with some other pocket areas of disadvantage. By April 2015 services will be expanded to the top 25 per cent most disadvantaged wards, budgets permitting.

There are currently 39 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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