Parents are being asked to help give special recognition to the hard working professionals across Wales whose skill and dedication is providing thousands of youngsters with a flying start in life.
A new award entitled ‘Stars in their Lives’ aims to highlight the amazing contribution made to youngsters in their crucial early years by staff such as health visitors, midwives, parenting and learning support specialists, and other childcare and development workers.
The accolades are targeted specifically at workers operating in Flying Start areas; those districts and neighbourhoods where families are facing highest levels of disadvantage and the biggest challenges in raising their children.
In Ceredigion alone, over the past year, 414 children took part in the flagship programme, which aids families through additional contact with health visitors, free childcare and practical support in developing youngsters’ behaviour, social skills, learning and play.
Parents, carers and grandparents in these areas are being invited to nominate a Flying Start worker they believe has made an outstanding contribution to their child’s development.
Flying Start is one of the Welsh Government’s key programmes for tackling poverty and it aims to make a decisive difference to the lives of children under four in the most disadvantaged communities by offering parents free quality childcare for 2-3 year olds, parenting support, an enhanced health visitor service and help for early language development.
Over 2,000 highly-trained staff across Wales are involved in delivering these critical services. The new award coincides with a major expansion of Flying Start that will see 36,000 children benefitting from the programme by 2016.
Recent research with Flying Start parents concluded that for some families experiencing the Flying Start programme has been ‘life-changing’.
Rhian Rees, Ceredigion’s Flying Start Manager said: “Those involved in supporting children and families are often the unsung heroes and heroines in children’s lives. They lay the foundations for youngsters to thrive by helping parents and guardians to ensure their health, confidence and ability to learn. The value of their contribution carries on for years, as toddlers grow into happy, self-assured children, teenagers and eventually adults.
“We routinely hear positive comments from parents about the contribution of Flying Start staff and how they go the extra mile to help their little ones. We want to give them a platform to acknowledge this excellent work and express their appreciation of what is being done in their children’s lives,” she added.
Rhian continued: “To provide this support successfully requires a huge amount of initiative, creativity and compassion. We want to hear stories about those individuals who have shown particular tenacity and genuine care for the children and families they support.”
Flying Start activities within the Ceredigion area include Parents and Toddler Groups, Young Parents Groups, Health visitor Drop in clinics and Ante natal classes, Incredible Years and language courses as well as Flying Start Fun Days.
Nominations forms for the Stars in Their Lives awards are available from local Flying Start centres or via the Family Information Service, or can be made online at www.facebook.com/FlyingStartWales.
The closing date for nominations is August 31st and awards will be presented at the Flying Start conference in Autumn by the Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty, Vaughan Gething.