Incredible Years programme changing lives
A year ago, Lisburn mum of three Amanda Portis was unemployed and facing some difficulties with her children. That was until she discovered an innovative parenting support programme to help her and her family.
“My son, who is now seven years old, started having difficulties in school and I was worried about how this would affect him. He was then invited to join the ‘Dina School’ through the Incredible Years Programme in Largymore Primary School and I was offered a placement on the parenting programme,” Amanda said.
Early Intervention Lisburn’s ‘Incredible Years Programme’, an initiative run by the Public Health Agency (PHA) in partnership with the Resurgam Trust and Barnardos NI, was set up to help parents understand and manage their child’s behaviour better and also to help teach children how to understand their emotions, with the aim of benefitting their long-term health and wellbeing.
It includes a range of initiatives designed to also help children reduce behaviour problems and increase problem-solving skills.
This includes a Dinosaur School – the Dina School – with friendly child-sized puppets for younger children and a parenting programme focused on strengthening parenting skills and promoting parent involvement in children’s school experiences.
“At the start I was a bit sceptical. I thought it was not going to make a change but I found that the programme was easily adaptable and related well to my son and my two girls,” Amanda said.
“The advice for parents was practical and helpful in the home. One of the techniques recommended was to use positive encouragement more. My course facilitator gave me an idea to have three jars each labelled with my children’s names to put reward tokens in to encourage progress. They set their own individual positive rules because positivity is the key to success in Incredible Years.
“When they achieve their goals by following the rules, they put an allocated amount of money into their jars which then can build up to earning a treat from ‘mum’s tuck shop’. They also have an option of a surprise treat of an activity of their choice which involves one on one time with me which they thoroughly enjoy.”
Chris Totten, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement in the South Eastern area at the PHA, said: “Investing in the early stages of a child’s life will produce the best outcomes for both their mental, social and physical health. An initiative like the Incredible Years Programme is very important in taking those first steps for a child’s wellbeing.
“The structure of the programme is also significant by involving parents on this journey and helping parents build on their existing skills to engage better with their children. Collectively the parents in the group now have a toolkit to help them cope better with everyday life.”
As well as benefitting her home life, taking part in the initiative also opened up new avenues to Amanda in ways that she had never considered. After completing the parenting programme, Amanda was motivated to think of developing a career working with children and young people. While attending Incredible Years she also took her son on day trips with the Resurgam Youth Initiative.
“The day trips were great to get my son interacting with kids his own age. Through the trips with Resurgam Youth I made connections with other mums and people involved in different child care groups and the opportunity came up to be a volunteer with the Jelly Tots youth group. This spurred me on and I have now completed the National Carers Service Youth Support Worker qualification and have since been accepted onto the South Eastern Education and Library Board’s Peer Advisor programme. Through this, I will gain youth work experience while getting 100 hours paid youth work.
"This will hopefully put me well on my way to securing employment in a career that I enjoy and feel capable of doing.
"Completing the Incredible Years parenting programme has inspired me. I feel that I’m a different person now. Before, I had no aspirations or goals and I felt trapped. I would like to encourage anyone who is in the same position as I was to consider any opportunities offered such as this. It really does change your life. I can only thank the Resurgam Trust, Barnardos and the PHA for all that they have done for me and the many services that they have made available especially Early Intervention Lisburn.”
Who are Early Intervention Lisburn and what do they do?
Early Intervention Lisburn Partnership is led by the Resurgam Development Trust and includes a collaboration of statutory, voluntary and political partners. It’s focus is to improve the opportunities for children and families within the communities of Old Warren, Hilden, Hillhall, Tonagh, Knockmore and Lagan Valley.
The Resurgam Development Trust commissioned a research report funded by the Public Health Agency to explore the possibility of an early intervention initiative to break the cycle of under-achievement amongst children and young people in disadvantaged communities in Lisburn.
‘The Best for Every Child’ Report 2012
The research report ‘The Best for Every Child’ 2012 (PDF), involved extensive consultations with a wide range of community organisations, schools and professional agencies working in Lisburn. It highlighted the needs of the target areas; the desired outcomes for children and young people and the evidence for taking an early intervention approach.
The evidence of the research demonstrates increasing social problems and poor outcomes for children which despite the best efforts of organisations remain unaddressed. The most striking message from the report is that early intervention clearly works. When it is an appropriate intervention, applied well, following timely identification of a problem; and mobilised as early as possible maximum impact and long term sustainability can be achieved. One great merit of an Early Intervention is that it can help so many families under stress to fulfil their mission of giving children a secure and loving space in which to grow.