Community Involvement

Community Involvement - Sure Start,  Consultation,  Community involvement,  RegenerationThe most outstanding services for young children and families are the ones where parents are consulted, included and welcomed:

  • consulted on what is needed in their community,
  • included in decision-making processes,
  • welcomed as equal partners at every stage.

Parents know their own children and community better than the professionals who are employed to work with them, unless, of course, those professionals hail from that same community.

Outstanding early years and child care professionals are well aware that parental opinion can make or break their service; therefore involving them, and indeed the whole community, in your organisation makes good business sense.

Area of deprivation

The former mining community of Bilsthorpe in North Nottinghamshire is home to second and third generation families, many of whom have been involved in community consultation for decades. Sometimes consultations have seemed to be nothing but a formality, and popular opinion has been ignored; other times people really feel that they have been heard.

Closure of the pit deprived an entire community of work and put it on welfare. Financial lifelines dried up. Bilsthorpe lost other major industries too, such as Guy Warwick, the clothing factory where many women worked part-time jobs to supplement the family income. Some former mining communities were left with only a school, village hall, miners’ welfare, and a handful of shops serving hundreds of families.

Reading between the lines, it is easy to see how the stress of financial strain can affect the whole family, particularly the children. There is no shame in asking for help. Every honest parent knows how it feels to come to the end of your tether. Put under continual duress, even the strongest relationships can be stretched to breaking point – and the children suffer.

The painting of this gloomy picture is intentional – and real. Young parents who raised their children during the times of pit closure are now grandparents and they well remember how former mining villages earned the titles ‘area of deprivation’ and ‘area of disadvantage.’

Living in an area of deprivation or disadvantage does not mean that every single person in that area is personally deprived or at a disadvantage. On the contrary, the allure of cheaper houses and new builds has tempted new families into these areas. However, there are still many parents who are struggling to make ends meet because there are not enough jobs of the right kind to suit their ability to earn an adequate wage.

Rebuilding with Sure Start

This brief history tells how the concept of building stronger communities based around families with young children is such a good idea.

Sure Start teams all over the country work to support children and families in areas such as Bilsthorpe, that have been deprived for many years of their wage-earning infrastructure; not only this, they are disadvantaged by poor transport, insufficient childcare, expensive local shops and so on.

Those same second and third generation families that have been involved in community consultation for decades are now being consulted by Sure Start. As noted earlier, experience shows that in the past consultations have sometimes seemed nothing but a formality, and popular opinion has been ignored; other times people really feel that they have been heard.

People know their community and their family far better than the professionals who are employed to work with them and so are a vital source of information and support. Harnessing this local knowledge and expertise is a real skill. There are men and women with years of life experience who now find themselves with time on their hands; these people are a rich volunteer source, if only one sees their potential and has the ability to coax out their self-confidence and self-worth.

Yes indeed, community involvement is a major factor and a measure of Sure Start success.

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