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LGSS Digital Blog

Service design for local government

Kat Sexton

Digital Services Architect

Best start in life: designing with families 

The Best Start in Life programme has been underway for almost a year, and wow, what a year it has been!

Following on from previous blog posts about setting up the programme and research we carried out earlier in the year with families, we have more to tell you about the some of the progress made since then.

Best Start in Life continues to be an inspiring and rewarding initiative to be a part of.  The dedicated team of professionals across the system are continuing to come together to shape how services will look for families with a joined up approach.  This is incredibly exciting, and so is their commitment to involving families in the shaping of this work.  The great news is that the new BSiL strategy has been signed off and much of the thinking about what the system supporting families and young children will look like moving forwards, is also shaping up.

In this phase, we have been lucky enough to have been supported by 2 great organisations; Dartington and Collaborate, to help us think through our vision and what it might take to get there – using evidence and data as well as research with real people, to plan an integrated approach to service delivery across the county.  Both organisations are terrifically experienced and skilled in helping public sector accelerate their thinking and make meaningful and lasting system changes that matter to people.

To compliment and help shape this work, we spent time over the summer getting out and about, talking to families, professionals and community leaders about what is important to them, where they have struggled, where they have thrived and where they go for support

Families told us a lot about where they currently find help and support and what problems they face accessing the help they need.  We also discovered what it’s like parenting in the digital age and how this supports and gets in the way of good parenting.

Research focus

We built on everything we learned from the first round of user research and we worked as a team, including service specialists from the councils, NHS and charities, to identify where we would go and who we would speak to.  They went out into the field with some training, insightful questions to ask and a curious mind.  The research with families revolved around some key aspects of parenting that supports the main outcomes the programme is designed to achieve.  National research indicates a number of factors that can influence children’s outcomes.  The key themes prioritised by the Best Start in Life team were attachment, parents support healthy development, stress and mental health, play is valued and social support.

These posters show what we found when talking to families and professionals about these key themes.

Designing for the future

We heard a lot of stories from families about what barriers they face when trying to access help and support.  For example, we heard many stories from the Eastern European community about how hard it is to find childcare that fits with unsociable hours.

There is a real commitment from the Best Start in Life team to design the right kind of accessible support people need, with families.  This research has really shown how open people are and how willing people are to share their stories and experiences to help shape how we support them.

Our research took us to some amazing places where communities are doing so much for themselves, there are so many incredible people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who are creating safe places and support networks that reduce social isolation and expose families to new experiences.  Part of our work will be looking at how we can help facilitate and support these initiatives in the county and learn from these great examples.

Designing for the future

The integrated delivery model above was developed as a result of all of the work done in this phase of the programme.  It puts some meat on the bones and keeps the work aligned to the key vision and aims: children live healthy lives, children are safe from harm and children are confident, resilient and with an aptitude for learning. 

The next phase of this programme involves the team starting to bring the ideas to life and put it into practice by starting to think about how we might implement changes such as having place based teams supporting families will make an impact on people’s lives.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in Best Start in Life so far, your contribution is great and has really helped and will continue to help make an impact and shape the future.