All the latest news from the Flying Start Team in Luton.
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I am pleased to welcome you to the 2nd edition of the Flying Start newsletter.

When we started this journey over 2 years ago the point we are at now seemed like a dream. We were driven by a passion to give the best to the children born in Luton to enable them to have the best outcomes in life.  Working on the bid to the Big Lottery using the best evidence from all over the world then ‘Lutonising’ this helped us arrive at the interventions we needed to meet our priority outcomes which include: improving communication and language skills, social and emotional development and diet and nutrition. 

Working as a GP, I had the privilege of giving care at the coalface to families and a purely health focussed approach will not do. The collaboration between Health and Social Care is the way forward. This also includes our key partners Pre-School Learning Alliance, Public Health and the Voluntary Sector. Primary and Secondary Care colleagues have been very supportive of this way of working and continue to champion a cross organisational approach.

As Clinical Director for Children, Maternity and Families and Assistant Clinical Chair for Luton Clinical Commissioning Group, I am part of a team directly involved in commissioning Health Services for children and their families. We are very committed to commissioning services that have the greatest impact as early as possible.  We now have one strategy for our children from pregnancy to five years (Flying Start) ensuring we work in synergy and avoid duplication or waste in any part of the system. Flying Start particularly relies on the voice of parents, and we are supported by a partnership with our local community in Luton. 

Please take the time to look at this newsletter which aims to provide you with information on the implementation of Flying Start. Please circulate widely to your staff and colleagues. We welcome your comments and feedback.

You can also visit our website for more detailed information on Flying Start

Best wishes

Dr Monica Alabi


Please cascade to colleagues in your organisation who are working with expectant families and those with young children. 








Day in the life of a Flying Start worker


      Jenny Crisp & Helen Clackett -   
      Flying Start Workers

The role of the Flying Start Worker (FSW) was developed as a pilot project to work alongside community midwives to provide increased capacity to focus on primary prevention work from as early on as possible in pregnancy.  The role was designed to provide accessible and acceptable workers who can spend more time with families; ensuring families are motivated and empowered to make changes during this important period of time. The workers aim to build relationships with the expectant family, give practical help, advice and support and help them develop key skills, build resilience and engage with a range of preventative and early intervention services.  The FSW encourage the promotion of healthy lifestyles and support the delivery of high quality services to improve outcomes for babies, young children and families.

Click here to read the full article.
Take Five Cafés

Following the Five to Thrive training a group of Children’s Centre staff met to discuss how they could put the Five to Thrive approach into practice. As a result of these discussions Take 5 cafés were developed and have now been launched across Luton.

The Take 5 cafés are informal small group sessions where expectant parents and parents / carers with children under 6 months are welcomed. Each session is part of a rolling programme based on the five building blocks of the Five to Thrive philosophy. The session enables staff to provide practical advice and support and ideas for activities that parents can undertake to help support healthy personal, social and emotional development in their babies. The sessions run 5 days a week and are an excellent resource for parents to attend and professionals to signpost families to.

At the cafés parents are able to get advice and support on all aspects of parenting such as routines, breastfeeding and infant feeding, crying and sleep concerns and weaning. Furthermore staff are able to signpost parents to other children’s centre activities such as baby massage, benefit and housing  advice, baby groups and should extra support be required this can be identified at an early stage.

Mum and daughter at Hatters Children’s Centre receiving a certificate of attendance.
Five to Thrive training

Five to Thrive is an approach which has been developed and tested to train practitioners to support parents to develop strong attachment with their babies through the use of five simple messages RESPOND, CUDDLE, RELAX, PLAY and TALK.  This simple approach builds on the significant scientific evidence of the importance of these five activities in promoting optimal brain development in babies and young children. Since January 2015 over 380 staff from across the children’s workforce have attended five to thrive training and are starting to integrated the key message into their practice.

We have some new training dates available:
  • 14th September 2015
  • 16th November 2015
  • 20th January 2016
  • 23rd March 2016
Follow this link to book on a course.
Luton Stronger Families Programme

Luton has developed a programme specifically designed to help families who are finding it difficult to cope with all the hurdles they are facing.

The Stronger Families Programme can help families who are experiencing lots of different challenges to get back on track. The programme will provide support that is tailored to each family’s individual needs.  Some families may need help with getting children to attend school regularly or help with finding work; others may have family members involved in crime or with addiction problems.

The programme is designed to assist families in a positive way to help make long term changes to a family’s circumstances through dedicated and personal support and liaison with relevant agencies and services such as employment and training support, mediation and health.

You can get help from Stronger Families if you have dependent children and at least two of the following six problems:
  • parents and children are involved in crime or anti-social behaviour
  • children have not been attending school regularly
  • children who are at risk and need additional help
  • adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion, or young  people at risk of worklessness
  • families affected by domestic violence and abuse
  • parents and children with a range of health issues.
If you would like further information about the Stronger Families Programme visit or contact Catherine Barrett on: 

Parents of the Future

If we are to make the long term improvement to the health and wellbeing of our infants and children that impacts generations of families, we need to prepare our teenagers and young adults for healthy adult life and their role as Luton’s parents of the future. A priority of the Flying Start strategy is to maximise the health and wellbeing of young people. This will be achieved by supporting them to achieve their academic potential, and opportunities for better employment leading to improved lifestyle and living standards. This will lead to improvements in the health of their future children and their parenting abilities. The Health in Schools programmes support this part of the strategy.

Following a review of PHSE (Personal, Health & Social Education) in Luton secondary schools it was clear that the quality and content of the programme offered by each school was varied, not always reflecting the health needs that local health data, and what students stated were the priorities.

The recommendations of the review was to make PHSE in Luton reflective of school need, using local data to develop school health profiles based on the catchment of each school, ask students what they need, and develop an advanced curriculum and core training offer to every school using a directory of quality assured accredited trainers that schools have access to.

School Health and Well-being award

Wigmore Primary school celebrating achieving their Bronze award

The school award scheme is a partnership between public health, school support services, school leaders and external agencies committed to improving the health and well-being of children and young people of Luton. The award aims to promote life-long health through education using a whole school approach. This ensures that all pupils are equipped with the knowledge and personal resilience to make informed choices for themselves regarding their health and well-being and are able to identify risks and keep safe.

The award combines different components designed to support schools to deliver health education and PHSE through a three tiered programme.  This enables schools to gain accreditation at Bronze, Silver and Gold level and to be recognised for excellent practice and dedication by ensuring a high quality health education provision for their pupils.  For more information contact Tara Lewis on

Luton Family Information Service

The Luton Family Information Service (FIS) provides information, advice and guidance on a variety of services, helplines and websites that are useful to families, children and young people, and to the professionals who work with them.   We offer a free universal service for all areas of family life from pregnancy to 19 years old, or up to 25 years for young people with a disability or additional need.

  • Information on childcare for all family circumstances – including the free entitlement for 2, 3 and 4 year olds, before and after school, unusual working hours/patterns and additional needs
  • Help paying for childcare and claiming family related benefits
  • Each school holiday FIS publish a list of activities and holiday childcare options for all age groups across Luton and the surrounding area.  We offer a free subscription for professionals and families to receive the newsletter just before each holiday.
  • Support for children with addition needs and disabilities – including Luton Disability Register Cards, signposting to support organisations and local groups.

We also maintain a directory of local services that can support all family members with different types of questions and problems:

  • parenting
  • relationships
  • education
  • recreation and leisure activities
  • health information
  • substance misuse
  • loan sharks
  • and much more.

If you are working with a family who needs advice or support and you don’t know where to start then visit the directory or call the FIS and we can help you find a service to suit the family’s needs.  If you can’t find something on our directory, or a service to help someone, then let us know and we will research to find the services for you.

Visit our online directory at, call us on 01582 548888 or email

Sign 4 Little Talkers

Focusing on children’s early language development is a key priority of Flying Start. The data shows us that many children are entering Early Years settings with communication and language skills well below expected levels. These children are likely to be unable to manage their feelings and behaviour in their new surroundings, which makes the task for practitioners in these settings increasingly difficult.

Children using signing in an early years setting

Sign 4 Little Talkers was written and trialled in Luton with Funding from Flying Start to support children, parents and practitioners in the following ways:
To improve the achievement of children in  ‘Communication and Language’ and ‘Managing Feelings and Behaviour’ - as measured by Early Years Outcomes.
For parents to show a measurable increase in confidence to support their child’s communication and emotional literacy.
For practitioners to show a measurable increase in confidence in supporting the emotional literacy, behaviour and communication of the 2 year olds in their settings.

What did we do?

We developed new Sign 4 Little Talkers resources and then we trialled them in those Early Years settings in Luton where children have the lowest outcomes in Language for Communication and Managing Feelings and Behaviour.

Early Years Consultant Sue Thomas (LBC) worked with 0-3s consultant Colette McGeough (LBC) and British sign Language trainer Katja O’Neill to develop resources in which children would be encouraged to understand and use new vocabulary, through the signing of key words.

Research shows that young children learn best when they are actively engaged and with Sign 4 Little Talkers they are not just hearing and saying new words but seeing and doing them as well.

Click here for more information on Sign 4 Little Talkers

Harm from second-hand smoke during pregnancy and for young children - changes in the law from October

The harm from smoking and second-hand smoke and its impact on pregnant women and young children is well evidenced. From 1st October 2015 the law is changing to protect children and young people from the harms of second-hand smoke.  There will be new legislation that prohibits smoking in a vehicle with anyone under 18 present.  A breach of this law will result in a £50 fine.  The Department of Health legislative changes can be found here.

Look out for national and local campaigns to raise awareness of the changes running in conjunction with the Stoptober campaign.  Stoptober is an annual campaign based on evidence that if you can stop smoking for 28-days, you’re five times more likely to stay smoke-free for good. Through the Stoptober website, available from 3rd September, smokers are offered support in the form of support packs, an app and motivational emails and texts.

The legislative change provides an opportunity to raise the subject of smoking with smokers and families.  It acknowledges the harm of second-hand smoke to children who are particularly vulnerable because they breathe more rapidly, have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems. It also recognises that over 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and opening a window does not remove its harmful effects.  One of the best things a parent might do for their families health is to quit smoking and with the legislative change there will be one less place to smoke so one more reason to sign up to Stoptober. 

For guidance on how you may raise what can sometimes be an emotive subject please see the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training [NCSCT] online training.

If parents require support direct them to Live Well Luton whom supported by Luton Borough Council, will be helping quit attempts through the delivery of ongoing face-to-face support and quit medication to smokers living or working in Luton. For more information or to refer in parents who smoke please call: Jo Meola, Stop Smoking Service Manager, Live Well Luton, on 01582 757635.

For more information

Flying Start Implementation Manager: Christine Rogers
Telephone: 01582 548335

Flying Start Development Manager: Stephanie Cash
Telephone:  01582 547980

Flying Start Community Participation and Volunteer Manager: Joe Biskupski 
Telephone 01582 547980

Flying Start Midwife:  Dawn Jones
Telephone: 01582 548337

Copyright © 2015 Flying Start, All rights reserved.

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