Lucy Potter's story
Lucy's Fellowship in 2014 took her to the USA and Brazil to investigate parental engagement in socially deprived areas.
Lucy, a family outreach worker from Leeds, wanted to investigate how Children's Services in Leeds could improve the practice of parental engagement in family support services. She travelled to the States and Brazil, and in both countries observed effective parent participation programmes through grassroots organisations, as well as through federal government, NGOs and academic establishments.
Thanks to ULBRA university and UNICEF, Lucy was invited back to Canela in Brazil as a guest speaker at the 'Semana do Bebe' (Baby Week) in 2014, where she shared her own experiences of running infant massage workshops in Leeds.
An annual event, Semana do Bebe attracts families, professionals and students interested in the early stages of babies’ physical and mental development. Over 17 years it has helped influence local policy, reduce infant mortality and mobilise communities in Brazil. Lucy was inspired by this approach and the way that it drew together a variety of people focusing on the challenges faced by parents and carers.
On her return, Lucy shared the success of Semana do Bebe with professionals in Leeds family services, who welcomed the idea of implementing the initiative.
Working with a steering group whose members include academics, health visitors, the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Leeds Children Centre Family Services and Home-Start, and after attracting public funding, Lucy has turned Baby Week Leeds into a reality. The group see Baby Week as a vehicle to share best practice and highlight Leeds’ strong commitment to families including Child Friendly Leeds, and 'The Best Start Program’ Maternity Strategy (Clinical Commissioning Group). The event will provide a platform on which mainstream and voluntary sector family support services can come together and promote their services, thereby helping to engage wider participation for isolated families seeking support.
The group are currently planning a programme of events in September 2016, beginning with a conference at Leeds Beckett University and ending with a closing speech from The Rt Hon Hilary Benn at the Civic Hall. Similar to Brazil’s model, it will involve guest speakers and educational workshops on issues surrounding pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers and infants. It will see contributions from community organisations, with activities and exhibitions throughout the week. This will help reflect the city's diverse needs, providing more opportunities for families to participate and making services more accessible.
Lucy has maintained links with UNICEF and ULBRA university in Brazil to help evaluate and record findings for research purposes. Leeds is the first English-speaking city to replicate the Semana do Bebe model, with an aim to roll out the programme to other cities in the UK.