The Area Based Childhood Programme

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SPECS is part of the National Area Based Childhood Programme (ABC Programme). This is a national Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) Programme funded by Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (DCDEI), delivered through the Prevention Partnership and Family Support Programme (PPFS) within Tusla.   The programme invests in effective services to improve outcomes for children and families living in areas of disadvantage. The ABC Programme sees the direct implementation of evidence-based approaches and creates learning opportunities to enhance workforce and service capacity within the PEI children and family sector.

Early Experiences can last a lifetime. ‘Virtually every aspect of early human development, from the brain’s evolving circuitry to the child’s capacity for empathy, is affected by the environments and experiences that are encountered in a cumulative fashion, beginning early in the prenatal period and extending throughout the early childhood years’ (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000).

ABC Programme Background

Between 2007 and 2013 The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) and Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) jointly resourced the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) in three areas, with each area meeting regularly with both funders.  Significant investment was allocated over a six-year period to the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of evidence-informed practice in children’s services to improve learning and wellbeing outcomes. An extensive programme of research was undertaken to gather learning on the processes of implementation and outcomes achieved.

In 2013, PEIP transitioned to the Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme which was established under a commitment in the Programme for Government to adopt an area-based approach to tackling child poverty and extended with large programmes in a further nine areas as well a smaller initiative in the Midlands.

The DCYA and AP funded the ABC Programme between 2013 and 2018 with an investment of €34 million. Since November 2018, the programme has been aligned with Tusla (Prevention, Partnership and Family Support), with funding from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

ABC Programme Vision

An Ireland where no child is impacted by poverty and all children are supported to reach their full potential.

ABC Programme Mission

Through prevention and early intervention approaches, the Area Based Childhood Programme aims to work in partnership with families, practitioners, communities, and national stakeholders to deliver better outcomes for children and families living in areas where poverty is most deeply entrenched.

ABC Programme Objectives

  • Support children at critical stages of their development and wellbeing and through key transitions, with a particular focus on pre-birth to six years of age.

  • Translate the science of early childhood development and evidence-informed practice into locally appropriate programmes and approaches.

  • Mitigate the impact of intergenerational poverty and improve outcomes for children and families.

  • Take a progressive universal approach to addressing child poverty.

  • Actively support and work in partnership with parents as the primary carers and educators in their children’s lives.

  • Enhance the provision of quality prevention and early intervention approaches by developing workforce capacity (education, training, coaching, mentoring and reflection) across children’s services.

  • Utilise and enable whole-systems, multi-stage processes to enhance children’s services and practice at local and national level to improve outcomes for children.

  • Use monitoring and evaluation systems to inform our practice and measure impact.

  • Share the learning and work to embed effective practices in all children’s services.

  • Inform policy development at local and national levels where ABC areas are utilised to test, evaluate and disseminate intervention processes and outcomes.
     

ABC Delivery Approaches

ABC sites operate at three levels of change:  

  • Frontline delivery of PEI services for children and families which support early child development 

  • Capacity building, facilitation, and support to other service providers to implement evidence-based ways of working

  • Systems change efforts with managers and decision makers at local, regional and national level.