The Rotherham Portage Service is a home visiting service working across the whole of Rotherham with very young children who have significant additional needs. The core aims of Portage are to support the development of young children's play, communication and relationships and to encourage full participation in day to day life within the family and beyond the home.
A member of the service visits the child and family at home weekly to support the development of play, communication and relationships and to encourage full participation in day to day life within the family and beyond the home (including accessing local preschool provision). The team consists of two service leaders, who are both educational psychologists (1.0 FTE), a resource technician (0.39FTE), a senior administration officer (0.77FTE) and five home visitors (3.8 FTE), including a bilingual worker.
Referrals come from a number of sources, the majority from the child development centre, but also from health visitors, family support workers and other practitioners. Parent carers can self-refer.
Families joining the service receive weekly visits from a home visitor. On the first visit the child’s current development is observed and recorded using a checklist of skills. In this way home visitors compile the information on which to plan future teaching. Parent carers can say what they consider to be the most important skills a child should be learning. Then they agree together the structured teaching objectives and linked activities to stimulate new development in the child. Each programme is tailored to meet the requirements of the individual child. Activities are designed to boost the child’s development in those areas where help is needed.
In order to do this the Portage home visitor works alongside parent carers offering practical help and ideas to:
make learning fun for all the family
encourage a child's interests
and address problematic situations
The emphasis is on the positive – finding out and building on what a child can do.
In addition, Portage home visitors encourage families to make links to their local provision. Contact with children’s centres, PVI settings and childminders is instigated if not already in place. Mentor visits are offered to settings where Portage children attend to ensure that helpful strategies are shared and applied consistently.