Working together to give Warwickshire’s children the best start in life- Smart Start’s first annual conference

The Smart Start Programme held its first annual conference on Wednesday 29th June at Benn Hall in Rugby. The conference set out to report on the progress of the programme after its first year and bring parents and organisations together to shape the future of services for children aged 0-5 years and their families. 120 delegates attended representing early years’ education, health, social care and the third sector alongside parents and carers from Warwickshire.

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Dr John Linnane, Director of Public Health at Warwickshire County Council provided the keynote speech on the importance of parent-infant interaction and attachment, and how this can have a huge impact on a child’s brain development in the early years and their life chances.

John Linnane

Delegates were presented with an insight into the local context of the Smart Start programme and how more needs to be done to ensure all children in Warwickshire have the best start in life.

The results of the Smart Start research which involved hearing the needs and experiences of over 1200 parents and carers of children aged 0-5 years, and professionals working with these families, were then shared. Key themes that emerged from the findings include the need for services to work together and share information, to improve the reach and depth of support services to parents and the need for more mental health support for both parents and infants.

The draft Smart Start Strategy and proposal for integration of services for 0-5s were presented and discussed.

Cllr Les Caborn, Portfolio Holder for Health explained “Our first Smart Start conference has given us the opportunity to show parents, professionals and communities how the Smart Start programme is progressing and how their input will continue to shape the programme in the future.”

Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Chair of the 0-5 Strategy Group said “I am pleased that we are working with families to launch the Smart Start Strategy which aims to meet their needs and lead to providing all children in Warwickshire with the best possible start in life.”

Cllr Richard Chattaway, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group said “It is encouraging to see so many different organisations committed to working together with communities to address the gaps in provision for 0-5s to improve the life chances for children in Warwickshire. Warwickshire County Council needs to build on this to ensure this happens.”

To see a video showing the highlights of the conference please click

For more information about the Smart Start programme visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/smartstart