Specialist home visiting service continues despite lockdown

Published: 03 June 2020

A specialist home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with additional needs has made changes to its ways of working in response to the coronavirus outbreak to ensure families continue to receive support.

Known as Portage, the service provides support to the families of 74 young children aged three and under who have additional needs or a learning disability. This typically involves fortnightly visits to the family home to monitor the child’s development, set achievable learning goals and offer advice. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, however, home visits have not been possible and the team have worked hard to find imaginative solutions to ensure that families remain appropriately supported.

Portage workers have maintained contact with families via phone calls, video conferences and text messages. The challenges of lockdown are unique to each family and the team have tailored their support in order to meet the specific needs of individual parents, carers and children. For many families, the ongoing support of the Portage Service has been invaluable, especially as any disruption to children’s daily routines can make them feel especially unsettled.

The team have been getting creative and produced interactive video stories using hand puppets, toy animals and instruments to bring them to life. Videos of suggested activities that use basic household items have also been sent to families so that they can further support their child’s learning and development at home.

The response from families has been really positive and the children have particularly enjoyed watching the Dear Zoo story that the team produced. One parent commented: “Thank you so much! They have loved seeing you on screen and they even referred to you by your name when they saw your face.”

Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “I know that lockdown continues to present significant challenges to families with young children who have special educational needs. I am so pleased that our Portage Service has been able to continue offering crucial individual support to families, despite not being able to conduct home visits. The team have demonstrated admirable flexibility and creativity in their approach and I know that their efforts will be greatly appreciated by those families that they support.”

If you would like to find out more about the Buckinghamshire Portage Service and the support that it provides then please visit Buckinghamshire Family Information.