Sure Start is a Government initiative targeting 0-4 year olds and their families, recognising the importance of supporting parents/carers and the value of quality experiences to very young children.

There are now 36 Sure Start programmes across Northern Ireland which cover a wide geographic spread and have a good urban and rural mix. These are located in areas within the top 20% of electoral wards which are designated as deprived under the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure. Within these areas all services are universal and available to all.

Sure Start works with parents and children to promote the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development of pre-school children - particularly those who are disadvantaged - to ensure they can flourish at home and when they get to school (DHSS&PS Guidance 2000).

The key foundation principles of Sure Start are:

  • To co-ordinate, streamline and add value to existing services for young children and their families in local communities
  • To involve parents
  • To avoid stigma
  • To ensure lasting support
  • To be sensitive to local families needs
  • To promote the participation of all local families

Sure Start projects are locally based and operate in areas of highest need through a holistic range of services and partnerships and aim to:

  • Add value to existing/planned services
  • Be based upon evidence of what interventions are successful
  • Imaginatively respond to local need
  • Be informed by strategic direction

What are the Core Services?

The core services of Sure Start are:

  • Outreach and home visiting services, to make contact as early as possible in the child's life and draw families into using other services
  • Family support, including befriending, social support and parenting information, both group and home based
  • Good quality play, learning and child care experiences for children, both group and home based;
    Primary and community healthcare and advice
  • Support for children with special needs, both within the Sure Start services offered and through signposting to more specialised services where necessary

Please click on the links to the right for details about local Sure Start services run by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.