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Creating a supportive environment for growth and development

Every child has their own rate and pattern of development. Although research has identified what can be referred to as norms of development, babies and young children need to be allowed the time and the support necessary for their own personal development. Early on, growth and development must involve opportunities to play, to interact, to explore, to create, to learn and to problem solve. Additionally, it must be supported by:

  • Environments and adults that are flexible and responsive, that can adapt to children’s immediate interests and needs
  • Good relationships that encourage children to participate actively
  • Opportunities for children to communicate their feelings and their thoughts
  • Adults who are interested and attentive carers
  • Evidence shows that growth and development is complex and involves not only physical development but mental and emotional growth and wellbeing
  • To respond to children’s needs adults must learn to be closely observant and to be flexible in the ways in which they respond.

The Early Years Framework identifies the right to a high quality of life and access to play for all children regardless of race, income, gender or ability. Parents and communities play a crucial role in outcomes for children. That role needs to be valued by parents and communities themselves, but also supported by the community planning process and the early years workforce. The importance of high quality, flexible and engaging services delivered by a valued and appropriately qualified workforce is vital to the success of the framework and for Scotland’s future.


The Parenting Task Group Report

The Parenting Task Group Report sets out several key areas (with associated findings, below) to support the development of a supportive culture for Scotland’s children.

Key area: Developing a "Parenting Culture" at societal, community, family and individual level

  • At societal level, an increased awareness of the role of parents in securing positive outcomes for society in future
  • At community level, an increased willingness to support parents with young children to achieve better outcomes
  • At family level, a willingness to promote and support positive parenting
  • At individual level, an ability to evaluate whether we are ready to become parents and what we should do to manage fertility, and taking responsibility for developing the skills needed to be at least a "good enough" parent
  • Trying out more radical ideas to incentivise parents, particularly vulnerable parents, to engage with services
  • Looking for opportunities for parents to spend more time with their children in the very early stages of life, and embedding this within employment, benefits and other systems.

Key area: Embedding common values and service philosophy across early years, promoting children's wellbeing through supporting their parents

This needs to become a core part of initial training and CPD for a wide range of professionals and practitioners working with children and families.

Key area: A continuum of support from pre-conception through pregnancy, birth, postnatal and onwards

This is based around the following:

  • A staged intervention model
  • A capacity-building approach
  • Using family, peer and community supports to build capacity more effectively and efficiently
  • More capacity within universal services to deliver a core capacity-building programme
  • Common risk and common needs assessment approaches across services
  • A more effective "middle tier" of support that is fully integrated into universal services
  • Holistic approaches to additional and intensive support where needed
  • Linkage across life stages.

Key area: Enhanced joint planning and delivery models

Able to identify key contributions of each agency which when put together creates a bigger impact but also able to identify when agencies are best to get on with delivering their own services. In the process of enhancing the role of early years and early intervention within community planning and integrated children's services planning, the following questions are crucial:

  • Is the strategy the outcome of multi-agency work?
  • Is there a shared set of outcomes and indicators for all children and for children in their early years that apply across all services
  • Is there a clear accountability structure to accompany this?
  • Are basic levels of need in the local area known or have they been measured, and are they taken into account by the strategy? Does the strategy take into account different levels of need that families might have, tailor services towards these needs, and explain how the services are delivered?
  • Does the strategy provide for support that is suited to the age and developmental stage of children, and take into account different needs within these stages?
  • Does the strategy clearly set out what each service can do, who they can do it for and what it hopes to achieve with families, including follow-up work once they have left the service?
  • Does the strategy acknowledge any gaps in the provision of services and how these will be managed over time?
  • Does the strategy set out criteria for the use of compulsory measures, such as supervision or parenting orders?

Key area: Delivering successful prevention and intervention, underpinned by common success factors

  • A strong theory base, clearly stated aims, and programme integrity. Delivery by sufficiently trained and skilled staff
  • Attention to engaging families and sustaining engagement
  • Tailoring of service and response to the individual needs of parents and families
  • Integration of service approaches
  • Holistic approach to a family's needs
  • Multiple 'routes in' to services to ensure accessibility
  • Planning of exit strategies to support high risk families withdrawing from specialist services and rejoining mainstream support
  • A continuum of support - a strategic response to need according to stages of child development and risk.

Key area: Development and dissemination of the knowledge base

  • A structure which continually evaluates the developing knowledge base on parenting and early years internationally and in Scotland
  • Which uses this to inform planning at the local level
  • Which is used to inform training and development of staff
  • Valuing innovation and being prepared to try new approaches in a Scottish context.