Portage in the UK: recent developments

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BackgroundPortage provides home-based, early intervention and support to families who have a young child with additional needs. Working in the context of the Every Child Matters agenda, the National Portage Association (NPA) aims to develop inclusive, high-quality provision. This paper reviews their recent work, presents a summary of the findings of a national survey of Portage and discusses their implications.MethodsAll Portage services known to the NPA and local authorities in England were asked to complete a questionnaire and forward another to families using early years' services to evaluate the support they receive.ResultsThe survey identified the extent and gaps in Portage provision and the level of unmet need. Families who contributed said they valued Portage because it helped their child and provided support for the whole family.Discussion of findingsThe survey identified 31 local authorities in England, where Portage is not available. Geographical gaps were most notable in the North East and West Midlands regions. Despite a small increase in the extent of Portage provision, it is estimated that services only meet the needs of a small proportion of families that are eligible. Current work may help overcome geographical gaps through supporting the development of high-quality Portage services but, in endeavouring to meet the needs of families waiting for Portage, it is important not to diminish the quality of support already provided. Portage aims to provide flexible support for families to respond to their individual needs. Evaluating its effectiveness is problematic because of its complex nature but this survey provided an opportunity for families to share their views at a national level.ConclusionsContinued development work can help Portage provision become more accessible and one of the options routinely available to families who have a young child with additional needs.

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