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Tower Hamlets

Across London, a third of children are living in poverty and Tower Hamlets is one of the worst affected boroughs with a 51% child poverty rate. The factors behind this are complex but include high levels of unemployment and spiralling housing costs. At the same time, the borough is also home to one of the country’s primary financial centres - Canary Wharf.

Through our work in Tower Hamlets, we’re aiming to improve outcomes for young children living in poverty by empowering parents to support children, aged 0-6, with their early learning and development. 

What are we doing?

Since late 2018, we have partnered with a range of statutory services and community-based organisations to enable us to work more closely with families. Our offer has been three-pronged:

  • Enabling innovation projects to be locally designed and delivered
  • Taking a convening role to support the local early years system
  • Delivering our evidence-based Families Connect parenting programme through local partnerships

We aim to influence practice through sharing learning and evidence, around the best ways to support children’s early learning, both with local organisations and through a national network of partner organisations.

Systems working

We have built a network of over 60 local organisations working within the early years system in Tower Hamlets. Taking a relational approach, we have engaged with these organisations to understand the local context and their role within it. This has been mutually beneficial, with one partner telling us that ‘SCUK has increased my knowledge of local partners and national services’.

We contribute to systemic change for children aged 0-6 and their families by creating the time and space for organisations working with this age group to come together, connect and collaborate. This is evidenced through a partner’s view of the Parent Power Advisory Group, which provides ‘a platform for partner agencies to meet each other, liaise, share knowledge, ideas, and learn from each other’. 

Orion, 2 and Musa, 2 play at a Toyhouse Toy Library in Tower Hamlets, London. (Credit: Dan Dennison/Save the Children)

Examples of our work

We worked with an NHS partner in Tower Hamlets who is responsible for delivering health and development reviews for families with babies aged 0-2. The partner had identified that due to the pandemic many families may not have had the usual number of reviews and wanted to test offering an additional review to families to address that gap. 

The pilot was devised to address the gaps in professional contact between a child’s 12- and 24-month check. Our NHS partner was able to provide a universal offer to all families within their area.  Of the eligible families, around 100 took up the offer between August 2022 and January 2023. Most parents said they would recommend the review to others, and many found the opportunity to discuss their child’s development helpful.

In a minority of families (14%) a development need was identified, and all these families were offered a referral for further support. Having this extra review, at 15 – 18 months, supported early intervention for children with any developmental delay with a timelier care plan. The findings not only shaped our discussions with local NHS officials but will inform broader research into early years health services across England.   

In September 2022, we entered a partnership with the Tower Hamlets Parent and Family Support Team to run a yearlong pilot for children aged 3 & 4 years of age, of Save the Children UK’s evidence-based Families Connect parenting programme.

 Led by the team’s family engagement practitioners, the pilot had a profound impact on relationships between parents and their children, as well as between schools and the local community.

Outcomes included increased confidence amongst parents in areas including their child’s understanding of and ability to manage their feelings. Parents also felt there was a better ongoing dialogue with their child’s nursery or school. One local school said: “Parents that attended the course are more comfortable to approach the [school] team if they have any issues and the relationships have become more friendly on a day-to-day basis.’

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