It is important to emphasize that the relationship with the parent will be non-judgemental, seeking to establish a rapport based on trust, empathy and mutual respect. The support worker will see the parent as the expert with her own child. Parental needs will be different, as social, economic, educational, and family support circumstances will vary. Children may have particular physical or mental disabilities. Flexible support must be built into the programme, in order to take account of all these variables.
The support workers themselves are all parents, and mostly local to the Greater Shankill area. They will be based with one of these three localities Shankill, Ballygomartin or Ballysillan.
Training has been undertaken, and although long pre-service training is seen as undesirable, ongoing training will be linked to field work. All training will be accredited and will therefore provide added value for individuals seeking employment in the future.
The programme will be measurable in both qualitative and quantitative terms. External evaluators will be appointed for the duration of the programme.
The "Early Years Project" was conceived during 1994, the International Year of the Family. It is designed to be part of a larger, ongoing regeneration strategy for the Greater Shankill area and is also the catalyst and core of that strategy. It is consistent with the thinking in the recent Inter-Departmental Review of policy for the under five's. The programme is supported by long established and recent academic research on the decisive role played by the family in the formation of children's character and in the foundation of positive pathways for social, educational and economic well being.