A warm welcome at LEAP!

Georgia-May Campbell, Community Activities Facilitator, explains how the Lambeth Early Action Partnership has supported local families during the recent cold winter and the cost-of-living crisis.

The Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) runs a programme of free community engagement events for families with very young children (aged 0-3) which are designed to support parents and carers and encourage children to learn and interact with others through fun activities and play. Three themed ‘festivals’ of these events are produced each year.

Responding to local needs

In early autumn of 2022, we were hearing more and more from the parents and carers in our community about the impact of rising energy bills and other household costs. Many were struggling to afford to heat their homes or buy healthy food for their families.

So, in the winter months of December 2022 through to March 2023 we organised our ‘Home from Home’ festival with a series of ‘Warm Hub’ events.

Our promotional materials (digital, social, print) were all designed to look warm and welcoming.

Home from Home

Our Warm hubs offered families a whole day in warm, welcoming spaces to relax and the opportunity to have a hot meal, engage in activities with their little ones and access services and support from local providers. The events were held across Lambeth in local Children’s Centres and community centres.

Most of the warm hub events were held at the weekend or in school holidays when families would otherwise be at home having to put on the heating and cook.

We organised the warm hubs in partnership with the charity Healthy Living Platform (HLP).

Each of the events offered activities with a theme, such as ‘Family time’, ‘People that help us’, ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’, ‘Arty party’ and ‘A day at the farm’. Activities were designed to help babies and toddlers learn while having fun. Parents could get advice and information from a wide range of local organisations who came to support.

As well as the free, hot, healthy meals provided, families were able to access HLP’s pantries which provide low-cost food shopping for both fresh and cupboard items. Families who attended the hubs received vouchers to enable them to try the pantries.

“Accessing the food pantry was great and our children were excited to try the fruit & veg they had chosen from there”.

Together LEAP and HLP hosted 5 Warm Hubs. The final one was organised with an additional partner - Unity Matters - who ran a well-attended session for Dads.

We were delighted that 237 families participated over these 5 events, 63 of these were at our final warm hub event.

Our warm hub partners

A wide range of partner organisations participated in our warm hub events, including Morley college; Blue Strawberry; The Southbank Centre, Brixton Advice, Lambeth Libraries, St Johns Ambulance, Sunshine Arts, Lambeth Health and Wellbeing team, Lambeth Fire Service, Watusi dance, Health watch, and Kooth.

We were also able to share surplus toys for babies from Little Village and energy saving packs.

Outcomes and feedback

Feedback from families was overwhelmingly positive with many sharing their appreciation for the unique experiences and learning that the events provided. The little ones particularly mentioned the fire engine attending one event. One parent fed back “My little one is still talking about the red fire engine with its flashing lights!”. Parents enjoyed that the events provided a welcome opportunity to connect with other families in their local area. The Warm hub events provided a gateway to a wide range of LEAP services. Many families who came to our warm hubs were new to LEAP and are now regularly attending our other weekly sessions.

“I loved having a warm fun and educational environment for my child to enjoy and develop. I was able to connect with other parents, sit eat and have a warm drink with my community”.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

Sign-up to join our mailing list

Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.