Early Childhood and Family Service in Norfolk – does it match the hype?

A couple of weeks ago Norfolk County Council gave a big old PR Puff to their Early Childhood and Family Service. The service replaced the former Children’s Centre Services. Not only were dozens of children’s centres closed at the time but a large amount of direct funding support was cut from the service. After the closures, I proposed that £1 million was put back into funding for front line services but this was rejected by the council.

Have you used the new Service? Does it match up to the hype? I’d love to hear your views. Please get in touch if you want to have your say.

Here’s what the official County Council press release said about the new service:


15 December 2020

New council service helps thousands of families

Thousands of families with young children have been supported by Norfolk County Council’s Early Childhood and Family Service (ECFS) in its first year of operation.

More than 1,250 families have received individual support, with thousands more accessing information and advice online.

Support has been provided through face to face visits at home and through telephone or online advice and support.  With many families facing increased pressures during lockdown, the service has supported them with food packages, essential items, support with travel and help with paying bills during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The support received has been reported by families as being ‘helpful’ or ‘amazing’, enabling them to make ‘loads of changes’ with good relationships being developed as highlighted by a parent who said that thanks to ECFS they were ‘loving life’ with their eight- month-old baby daughter.

By the start of December this year the ECFS Family Support Fund had provided £184,000 of additional support to families, including more than £49,000 to support those with increased needs due to the pandemic, with Action for children contributing £9,000 of this from their own Emergency Coronavirus Appeal Fund.

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said, “The successful launch of the Early Childhood and Family Service in October last year has had a significant impact in ensuring families across Norfolk have access to the support they need.

The service ensures that families across the county can access the support and services they need flexibly, and in a way that meets their needs best,  whether through targeted individual support or ensuring that communities have local groups for young parents and children to join.

“In connecting the different services across different parts of the council, and across the county, we’ve been able to improve the support we’re offering to families, whatever situation they find themselves in.

“The service, along with a range of partner agencies, have adapted tremendously to ensure that they’ve still been able to support those in need through the coronavirus pandemic. The innovation and use of technology has meant families, who could have been more isolated than ever, have been able to connect with professionals and other parents across Norfolk and receive the support they need.”

The ECFS services support families with young children from birth to five years old. The three elements of the service are:

·        A commissioned outreach service delivered by the national charity Action for Children, which provides targeted support for those families who need extra help either in groups or one to one, in the community or in the family home.

·        Financial and other support for established community groups or help to start new groups to develop local activities supporting families with under 5s.

·        Online and telephone support, advice and information.

Six Early Childhood Advisory Boards have been established across the county, allowing services to work more closely and effectively together at a local level enabling practitioners across services to better prioritise families in greatest need earlier. The service’s establishment of an Early Language Forum was praised by Ofsted in the recent Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) inspection.

The enhanced digital presence of the ECFS has also proved a success both before and during lockdown making it easier for families to find out what is on offer. In the first year the new web pages, which not only provide advice and information but also seamless links to other resources including the Healthy Child Programme’s innovative Just One Norfolk and the Norfolk Community Directory, achieved over 13,000 hits. The new social media platforms have also proved popular with district pages totalling 4,452 followers, and the main ECFS page, set up in June 2020, already gaining 4,270 followers. Content shared includes a wide variety of activities for families, as well as signposting followers to services and support on offer.

Further information about ECFS online activities for children aged 0-5 can be found at


The programme can also be found on the ECFS Facebook pages and the Action for Children app.  More information about the support available can be found by contacting 0344 800 8020.