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At the heart of our Better Start Bradford Neighbourhoods

18 March 2024

Community engagement is at the heart of Better Start Bradford. Everything we have delivered for our families has been developed with our local community.

The Neighbourhoods Project was launched in 2019 in recognition of the need to optimise recruitment into Better Start Bradford projects from under-represented groups, and to ensure that the programme messages reach as many families as possible.

There was a desire to have grassroots involvement and prioritise the needs and interests of local families in the wider Better Start Bradford offering. The project therefore brought together a number of organisations with existing relationships with the local community, and tasked them with disseminating programme messages, engaging families and, where appropriate, referring them into Better Start Bradford projects.

How the project was set up

Working in partnership with existing community organisations in the Better Start Bradford area – including BD4 Community Trust, The Karmand Centre, The Thornbury Centre, and later the West Bowling Community Advice Centre – we developed the Neighbourhood Project and a network of Neighbourhood Workers to be a first contact point for local families, signposting families to Better Start Bradford projects, events and activities.

Being embedded within established organisations also meant they could offer an enhanced service, helping families access additional services, advice and activities provided by those organisations.

By the end of 2019, we had recruited four Neighbourhood Workers: Fozia, Gulsoom, Jenny and Melissa.

They got busy getting to know local families and setting up activities like parent and toddler coffee mornings, taking grandparents on trips to the Industrial Museum, running First Friends Baby Groups and delivering story and rhyme time sessions.

How the pandemic changed everything

When the pandemic struck they could no longer provide face-to-face support. Their way of working and approach had to adapt almost before they were fully settled in their roles, but they rose to the challenge and successfully maintained a connection with their communities and built further relationships, becoming a lifeline to families when face-to-face contact was so limited.

They continued to support families with young children by delivering online sessions such as Cuppa and Chat groups and Music Mayhem, where families with toddlers would get their pots, pans and wooden spoons and rhythmically beat together on a Zoom session; delivering well-being packs, activity packs and food parcels; staying in contact with hundreds of families over the phone and via WhatsApp; and developing packages of support which included activities to do in the home, budgeting advice and signposting to local services.

Once COVID rules were relaxed, they arranged safe activity bubbles in local parks and eventually started organising face-to-face activities again and began supporting families and young children who had been socially isolated.

The pandemic highlighted the need for this type of role within our communities and the Neighbourhood Project expanded. We welcomed Arian, Ludmila, Maria, Rachel, Saira, and Sofia to the team, and the West Bowling Advice Centre as a new partner.

The Neighbourhood Workers have made a significant contribution to the work of Better Start Bradford and have made a huge impact for families.

Achievements and ever-evolving roles

Between 2019 and March 2023, the Neighbourhood Workers reached over 2,000 families and made over 900 referrals into Better Start Bradford projects. Those figures will now be much higher as the Neighbourhood Worker project officially ends March 2024.

During this time the Neighbourhood Workers organised numerous events and activities, from gardening clubs, coffee wellbeing sessions, baby groups and stay and play sessions, to outdoor play sessions and trips for families who had never ventured outside of Bradford.

They have been fundamental in encouraging and supporting parents to apply for funding through our Happy Early Years (HEY!) Fund, have helped parents deliver their activities and supported them to sustain these after the HEY! funding has ended.

They have been a constant presence at every large Better Start Bradford event – including large-scale Baby Week Bradford events –  bringing families from their neighbourhoods and hosting innovative and creative activities.

As a team, they all brought different skills and worked in a variety of creative ways to build relationships with local families with 0-3s. Between them they could speak Russian, Latvian, Pushto, Urdu, Czech, Polish and Slovak, which really helped in communicating with families with English as a second language. Maria’s role focused on working with EU families while Arian’s role focused on working with refugees and asylum seekers.

The Neighbourhood Workers grew further to include Romana, who was seconded from her Nursery Manager role at the Karmand Centre, and Valeria, a local mum who developed skills with the support of Ludmila to host her own stay and play groups and then into employment as a Neighbourhood Worker.

The activities that the Neighbourhood Workers have put on have been so engaging, not only have my sons come out of their shells, I have - it’s been lovely to meet new parents and make friends. It’s been amazing to be part of.


On Wednesday 28 February 2024, Better Start Bradford hosted a celebration event for our Neighbourhood Workers to thank them for all of their hard work before the Neighbourhood Project closes at the end of March 2024, in line with the final stage of the Better Start Bradford programme.

Families and colleagues from across the Better Start Bradford area came together to thank this amazing team of individuals, who have shown commitment, passion and kindness for the communities within which they were embedded.

Senior representatives from each of the lead organisations spoke with admiration for the work that the Neighbourhood Workers have achieved.

Mel Astin, Manager at BD4 Community Trust said: “Thank you to Better Start Bradford for giving us this opportunity to have a Neighbourhood Workers programme and thank you to everyone that has been involved in that journey.

“At BD4 Community Trust, we were already working with 0-5s and this project meant that we could complement what we were already offering and our families have had a more enriched opportunity for learning with their children before they start school thanks to the support of our Neighbourhood Workers.”

Firdos Hussain, Community Development Worker, West Bowling and Advice Centre said: “Well done for all of your efforts, the passion with which you engage with your community, the difference that you have made in families’ lives. Those families have kept coming back because of you! Your friendly personalities, your warmth, your encouragement – without you it would not have been a better start for them.”

Gill Thornton, Director, Better Start Bradford, said: “We worked together to design a project that brought Better Start Bradford into other organisations that were already embedded and trusted within their communities. Together we made our vision work.

“I am so glad that these brilliant workers are going on to do further community work. It’s wonderful to hear that the parents that you have encouraged through your work will continue to support little ones to have the best start in life, so that the voices of 0-3s are continued to be heard as they will be the voices that will help build future services.”

The voice of the community was also heard at the event. Two mums, Miriam and Humera stood up and talked about how the Neighbourhood Workers have positively impacted their lives.

Miriam said: “We have enjoyed all of the activities that the Neighbourhood Workers have put on. Our children have come out of their shells and are ready for pre-school. Hopefully we will continue your legacy. Thank you to all of you and thank you for welcoming families like us.”

Mum of two, Humera said: “I have two boys aged 3 and 1. By being part of Better Start Bradford, it has brought them out of their shell. The activities that the Neighbourhood Workers have put on have been so engaging, not only have my sons come out of their shells, I have – it’s been lovely to meet new parents and make friends. It’s been amazing to be part of.”

Ludmila Novosjolova, Neighbourhood Worker spoke on behalf of the whole team when she said: “The Neighbourhood Workers have made a significant contribution to the work of Better Start Bradford and have made a huge impact for families. This work has been our passion.

“Thank you to all of you for coming and joining this event and coming on this journey together. This has been an amazing start for our journeys as this is not the end for us in the community, for all the skills that we have learned will enable us to continue in other roles.”

Each of the Neighbourhood Workers were presented with flowers and chocolates by Gill and personally thanked for all their hard work.

While it’s the end of the Neighbourhood Project, it’s the start of new journeys for the team, with many going onto new roles within the community, thanks to the skills and knowledge that they have gained.

Arian and Sofia now work in the Better Start Bradford Community Engagement Team and Jenny is now working for the Start for Life programme, and Rachel will continue in a role at BD4 Community Trust.

Watch the Neighbourhood Workers journey here and all the wonderful things that community members have said about them:



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