FAMILIES in some of Gwent’s most deprived communities are set to benefit from improved support as part of a multi-millionpound investment.

Flying Start programmes in Newport, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen and Monmouthshire will receive a total of £5.23m as part of a £19m Wales-wide investment in new children’s centres and childcare settings.

This comes in addition to a £55m investment in expanding Flying Start programmes in Wales during the next three years. Flying Start aims to support families with children up to four years old who live in deprived communities.

Around 18,000 children under the age of four and their families currently benefit from Flying Start projects, including free part-time childcare, parenting support, intensive health visiting and early language development.

The programme supports families in looking after their children’s health and wellbeing, working with primary and community healthcare.

The aim of the Welsh Government’s investment is to double the number of children benefiting from Flying Start to 36,000 by 2015.

For several years Flying Start worked alongside the longerestablished Surestart programme, but now operates on its own, to different criteria but in similar areas.

In Gwent, Blaenau Gwent Flying Start will benefit from a £2,035,000 investment, with Newport receiving £1,940,000, Caerphilly £685,000, Torfaen £420,381, and Monmouthshire £155,000.

Flying Start aims to bring improvements in language and cognitive development, emotional and social engagement, and parental engagement.

“It’s about providing support, and it makes a big difference to the children and their parents,”

said Newport-based Flying Start programme midwife Nicola Kilby. She runs a number of projects in the city, including a breastfeeding ‘buddies’ course, which aims to train mums who have breastfed their babies to pass on their advice.

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for chiildren and social services, said: “We are prioritising early-years support because we know that is where we will make the most impact.”