Better Care

Birmingham Forward Steps - one year on

Birmingham Forward Steps - the health and wellbeing service for the city's pre-school children - reaches its first birthday this week.

Providing ‘joined up’ support to families of young children is at the heart of its mission - so creating closer working relationships between health visitors and children’s centre colleagues and easier access to the full range of services available to parents is key to success.

At Frankley Plus Children’s Centre in Rubery, health visitors and Birmingham Children’s Trust social workers use the building freely, making professional conversation and collaboration much easier.

Barnardo’s, which manages the centre on behalf of the Birmingham Forward Steps partnership, provides additional support in the community - and also onsite to those families that need it.

Frankley Plus Children's Centre
STAY AND PLAY: (l-r) Community and parental engagement worker Emma Greaves with mum-of-eight Tammy Clayton and two-year-old Baylee.

Paediatricians from nearby Allens Croft child development centre visit regularly to conduct clinics to ensure families do not have to travel further than necessary.

Centre manager Charlotte Spall said: “We’re here for every family that needs us. Our team of highly skilled, friendly practitioners can offer support for whatever a family needs – whether it’s support or reassurance with their child’s development or signposting to advice – for example, accessing benefits.

“What is very positive about the Birmingham Forward Steps model is that we’re reducing the amount of times families have to explain their story, as we and health visiting are now one integrated service.”

Mum-of-eight Tammy has long experience of the development of services to support the families of young children, having had her first child Katie 20 years ago.

“I’d say the support is much better now than it was when I had Katie,” said Tammy.

“Most of the support I had was from the NHS – first from the GP, then the midwife and then the health visitor.

“Over the years, there’ve been more ‘drop-in’ sessions at children’s centres and other locations and I’ve really come to appreciate those opportunities for my children to ‘stay and play’ and develop socially with other kids while I chat to other mums or raise any concerns with professionals.”

Tammy added that when two of her children were diagnosed as needing speech and language therapy, specialist support was available in the children’s centre while they waited for their first appointments with the NHS speech and language therapy service provided by Birmingham Community Healthcare.

And when seven-week-old Isla had to be admitted to intensive care, the children’s centre team helped Tammy access funding for three-year-old Roman to stay longer each day at nursery for a few weeks – targeted short-term support to help a family cope with a moment of crisis.

Now, Tammy is putting her experience to good use by actively participating in the local parent forum, part of a citywide network that is taking shape as part of the development of Birmingham Forward Steps.

Health visiting transformation lead Elaine Meredith said: “The Birmingham Forward Steps model is all about making the universal Health Visiting services and the additional Children’s Centre support services more joined up for families.

 “It’s been a very busy – and sometimes challenging - year since the launch of Birmingham Forward Steps but we are steadily building a service that will be more efficient in the way we deliver services and more accessible and responsive to families and their individual needs.”

  • Citywide health visiting provider Birmingham Community Healthcare (BCHC) leads the Birmingham Forward Steps delivery partnership, with Barnardo’s, Spurgeons Children’s Charity, St Paul’s Community Development Trust and the Springfield Project delivering children’s centre services. The development of Birmingham Forward Steps is key to BCHC’s work to improve services provided for children and families, including reducing health visitor caseloads and improving safeguarding procedures.