The Solihull approach in East Ayrshire

Early years framework for those working with families and children

The Early Years Framework is intended to improve the life chances of Scotland's children and tackle inequalities by targeting the early years.  It is an ambitious framework and requires all services and agencies, including the voluntary sector to be bold in their ambitions, re-design their services, where appropriate, to improve services to children and their families.  It seeks to take away the bureaucracy and any duplication in services and seeks to build capacity within communities to support children and their families.

The aspiration is to develop longer term solutions that support children and parents.

For many service providers, it will mean a challenge from dealing with the here and now, often through crisis management, to intervening at a much earlier stage in a timely, meaningful and purposeful way, to effect longer term change and improve outcomes in later life.

The Early Years Framework is also set within the context of the Scottish Government's Equally Well report, which tackles health inequalities and Achieving Our Potential which tackles poverty and income inequalities.

Community planning partners, led through the East Ayrshire Community Health Partnership Officer Locality Group for Children and Young People have decided to focus their priorities on the following elements of transformational change:

  • Helping children, families and communities to secure outcomes for themselves
  • Using the strength of universal services to deliver prevention and early intervention
  • Simplifying and streamlining delivery
  • Collaborative approaches

The Community Health Partnership Officer Locality Group (Children and Young People) agreed that the roll out of the Solihull Approach would support these priorities. It was agreed that the initial roll out be based around the five nursery and family centres in East Ayrshire, with staff trained across agencies to achieve a consistent multi-agency approach to working with parents.

The approach

The Solihull Approach is designed as an intervention measure particularly to assist health and care professionals who work with families and children aged 0-5 years with sleeping, toileting and behavioural difficulties.  Practitioners are trained in theoretical approaches and in using a range of material containing practical leaflets and resources provided for parents and carers, which supports them in their role and is responsive to their needs.

The Solihull Approach is a highly practical way of working with families.  It is an integrated psychodynamic and behavioural approach for professionals working with children and families who are affected by behavioural and emotional difficulties. The theoretical model has been developed from the three concepts of containment, reciprocity and behaviour management.  Teamwork and collaborative working between professionals using these principles will help to support parents in a creative and consistent way within East Ayrshire. Development of this 'shared' approach and language can be effective in a multitude of settings from individual practice through to group settings.

A strength of developing this approach locally is that it is not an assessment process to be used at certain circumstances to decide upon an intervention.  It is a way of working and thinking which helps families to process their own emotions and anxieties which in turn restores their abilities to think and enables them to help their child cope with his emotions or anxieties.  This ultimately facilitates the relationship between parent and child and supports the parent to work with their child's behaviour.

Aim and outcomes

The overall aim of the Solihull three-year training programme is to improve opportunities "to build the capacity of individuals, families and communities to secure the best outcomes for children and young people which reflect the universal and targeted approaches" that is founded on the principles of early intervention to ensure that every child gets the best start in life.  The outcomes for the programme are:

  • Increase positive parenting skills across the East Ayrshire area
  • Strengthen the levels of community contact and support for families
  • Improved joint working between and across agencies

The model will encompass all associated services and agencies which have direct contact with families who have children 0-8 years. It is proposed that staff who have a leadership role and /or who work directly with parents will be trained in the two-day basic foundation course using the 0-5 years training manual The First Five Years.


The objectives of the Solihull training programme are to:

  • Help practitioners become reflective in their work with children and young people and their families
  • Help them acquire the language to describe and shape practitioners thoughts and experiences
  • Increase practitioners understanding of how emotional and behavioural difficulties develop within families
  • Provide a coherent model for assessment
  • Build confidence and skill level
  • Provide reference to evidence based practical advice and resources
  • Develop a more consistent approach
  • Identify trigger points for early referral to other specialist services

Further information

Janie Allen, Principal Officer (Early Education and Childcare), Department of Educational and Social Services: 01563 578125

Kathleen Winter, Public Health Practitioner (Child Health): 01563 551529