Sure Start Services

Sure Start is a government programme which provides a range of support services for parents and children under the age of four, who live in disadvantaged areas across Northern Ireland. It aims to support parents from pregnancy and to give children the best start in life.

How can Sure Start help?

Sure Start projects deliver a wide variety of programmes to parents and children aged 0 - 4 which are designed to support children’s learning skills, health and well-being, and social and emotional development.

The aims of Sure Start are to complement the work of existing local services and provide young families with advice on where to go and who to speak to, if they have more specialised needs or problems.

The ongoing support that Sure Start provides can help to make sure that children flourish both at home and when they go to school.

Sure Start aims to improve the:

  • ability to learn
  • health
  • social development

of the children that use its services.

What services does Sure Start offer?

The services that Sure Start provides are based on the needs of each individual community and what services already exist there.

Each Sure Start project works with parents as well as statutory agencies and community-based organisations from the area, to design and deliver a range of services that best meet local need.

However, there are six services that must be provided in all Sure Start projects. These are:

  • home based support for those families who could benefit from Sure Start
  • support to families and parents
  • healthcare and advice from local healthcare professionals, including, midwives and Health Visitors
  • support for good quality play, learning and childcare experiences for children both at home and together with other children in group activities
  • support for speech, language and communication
  • support for all children in the community and recognising that they all have different needs

Other types of services and support offered may include:

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

Contact your local Sure Start project to find out what services are available in your area. A full list of projects can be found at the links at the bottom of this page.

Preparing children for pre-school

To help children get ready for pre-school, Sure Start projects run a programme for two to three year olds. It aims to help their social and emotional development, build on their communication and language skills and encourage their imagination through play.

The programme is not intended to be used by all children but is available to those children in the year before their pre-school year who would benefit most from support.  

After a parent applies for their child to be involved with the programme, a panel will look carefully at a range of information on each child and will decide which children would benefit most from participating in the programme.   

Sure Start encourages parents to get involved in the programme too because, parents play a key role in encouraging and helping children to succeed at school and in life.

Where Sure Start Services are available

There are Sure Start Projects in disadvantaged areas across Northern Ireland. Find your nearest project:

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