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Award-winning Baby Chatter programme gives little ones a great start in life

Image shows a group of babies and adults.

Babies are getting a great start in life thanks to a programme developed by an award-winning Swansea Bay team.

Baby Chatter is a programme for families and childcare workers which focuses on early language and interaction development with babies and pre-school children.

Main pic above: Samantha Mcewan and Cloe Beynon from Little Acorns, along with some of their young charges, enjoy a Baby Chatter session with speech and language therapy assistant Lucy Waterman

It has six themes – sing, play, music and sounds, book sharing, talk and do – and is designed to use with parent and baby groups in the community, mainly with children from four months to 12 months.

It has also been designed to support staff in childcare settings as well as health practitioners such as district nurses.

Baby Chatter has benefits for children, including developing early attention and listening skills, promoting early social interaction and language development, and teaching basic signs to support communication development.

Swansea Bay’s speech and language therapy (SLT) team adapted it from the Baby Language and Play ethos developed by the Basic Skills Agency.

It grew out of the Early Years Integration Project, which had fixed-term funding from the Welsh Government.

The project involved creative and innovative ways of supporting families with children of pre-school age who lived outside Flying Start areas.

In Swansea Bay it involved a multi-agency and multidisciplinary team including speech and language therapists, health visitors, nursery nurses, early years setting staff and local authority colleagues.

Image shows three people, one holding a Baby Chatter booklet. They delivered a wide range of preschool and baby sessions to a large number of early years staff, parents and carers across Swansea Bay.

Speech and language therapy assistant Lucy Waterman, clinical lead speech and language therapist Hannah Murtaugh and Cloe Beynon from Little Acorns

These included existing groups but also new groups including asylum seeker groups, neonatal parent support groups, and community library song and rhyme sessions.

Hannah Murtaugh, clinical lead speech and language therapist, said: “What became obvious was that a structure would be beneficial for the early years workforce – a structure they could pick up and run with.

“The team got together and looked at best practice and what was currently out there. They felt there wasn’t anything quite right, that fitted the needs of the local population.

“So they refreshed what was already available and created Baby Chatter. It was launched across Swansea Bay in the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot council areas with the support of the wider workforce and local authority partners.

“It was met with great success. Many childcare settings have been upskilled to use this approach and it is having a real impact.”

Speech and language therapy assistant Lucy Waterman said the previous programme was too long and was not available in Welsh.

“We reduced it from eight weeks to six and included more Welsh language content,” she said. “We did the first Baby Chatter programme in Little Acorns Day Nursery in Swansea and everyone was great at taking the ideas on.

“We did it in the baby room but then they took the idea to the toddler room and with the pre-school children too – so across the entire nursery.

Image shows a group of people at an award presentation. “We have done several more nurseries and 30-40 groups in the community with babies and their parents, and even their grandparents. It has been very successful and we are so pleased with it.”

(L-r) clinical lead speech and language therapist Hannah Murtaugh; speech and language therapist Lucy Jones; speech and language therapy assistants Lucy Waterman, Alexis Coulson and Jon-Paul Batty; Director of Therapies and Health Sciences Christine Morrell; Deputy Director of Therapies and Health Sciences Alison Clarke.

Cloe Beynon from Little Acorns said: “We use the activities every day with the children. We do find that it’s helping with their speech and language development. It’s a really good programme.”

The fixed-term Early Years Integration Project has now ended but its legacy lives on as both councils have commissioned further Baby Chatter sessions from the SLT team.

And there is further recognition for the team, comprising Lucy Jones, Lucy Waterman, Angeliki Nikolopoulou, Alexis Collison, Jon-Paul Batty, and Kath Hopkin.

They have won an Impact award from Swansea Bay’s Executive Director of Therapies and Health Sciences, Christine Morrell.

These recognise the hard work and achievements of therapists, healthcare scientists, psychologist and colleagues supporting them.

Hannah, who nominated the team, said: “It was a real boost for the team to be recognised and valued for what they had done.

“It was a great way to boost morale as well. It lifted them up, acknowledging all their hard work and innovation really nicely.”

Lucy added: “We were very pleased to get the award. That was a real recognition of the work the whole team put in and also how well it worked out in the communities and in the nurseries.”

Christine Morrell said: “It was a privilege to meet the team and hear about the impact they had had with the Early Years Integration project and the work that has sprung from this.

“The teamwork resulted in the upskilling of staff, parents and carers, potentially preventing referrals into services. It also upskilled staff to manage children within their care setting and in the community.

“The team was highly skilled, committed and passionate about its work, and this was perfectly aligned with our vision for services.”


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