East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and East Sussex County Council have launched the service to ensure they can offer more effective support regardless of which organisation is delivering services.
Health visitors and children’s centres will work together to ensure all children aged 0-5 years receive early intervention, prevention and health promotion services to get a better start in life.
Celia Lamden, head of health visiting and children’s centres, said: “By working as an integrated service and breaking down traditional organisational boundaries we are able to offer families a better service.
“Our new service will contribute significantly to the long term resilience, wellbeing and safeguarding of families and children, particularly the most vulnerable. It will help promote good parenting, the foundation for emotional resilience and good physical and mental health for all children. But most importantly, it will make a significant and positive difference to the development of children and their readiness for school, particularly the most vulnerable.”
As part of the integrated children’s centre service, health visitors provide all families with five universal reviews during a child’s early years. This includes advice and guidance to parents in the antenatal period and children’s developmental reviews are completed at birth, at six weeks, at one year and at two to two-and-a-half years.
Each of these universal reviews provides an opportunity for the health visitors to provide support to parents and identify additional needs within the family then allocate resources accordingly, so that the family receives the required support in a timely manner.
Once additional needs have been identified for a family, such as breastfeeding, healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, postnatal depression, sleep and routines, parenting challenges, domestic abuse, mental health or substance misuse; children’s centre staff will provide support through home visiting or group work interventions, working in partnership with families to make positive changes.
The new service is part of the East Sussex Better Together programme to transform and integrate local health and social care. It is designed to encourage a wide range of agencies to the work with families, including GPs, early years’ settings, schools and all partners on the East Sussex Safeguarding Children’s Board.
The service aims to help families be self-sufficient in their communities by providing appropriate early intervention and support, and keep children safe and healthy by providing accessible, comprehensive, high quality services, promoting social inclusion and equality and respecting diversity.
While East Sussex County Council will no longer staff drop in sessions open to all families, there are now a range of children’s centre volunteers and community organisations running groups from many centres.