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Early Years - The Bridge Centre

What do we offer?

The Bridge Centre offers a specialist service to children from birth up to the age of 5 years old, with:

A recognised disability/diagnosis where significant development delay is likely to feature

Complex health needs and neuro-developmental conditions

A significant delay in 2 or more areas of development.

We provide a child centred approach offering assessment, monitoring and intervention through multi-agency working, portage home visits, preschool developmental groups and training to professionals and families.

Assessments, interventions and support for each child is carried out following an individual pathway of care, this pathway is agreed and with parents. This is reviewed regularly with parents and professionals involved, depending on the child’s current needs.

Throughout the time working with a child we regularly gather and record the child’s voice, this is completed through completing activities with the child, observations of the child, and gathering information from parents and other professionals working with the child, we then use this information when planning future activities.

Who is in the team?

The Bridge Centre team includes the Early Years Manager, Senior Portage Worker, Specialist SEND Teacher, 5 full time Portage Workers, 3 full time Preschool Support Workers and 3 part time Preschool Support Workers.

Senior Portage Worker – Emma Flynn

Portage Workers – Lisa Yates, Nicola McCarthy, Frances Cunliffe, Jane Gavaghan-Hurd, Sonya Gavin.

Specialist SEND Teacher – Alicia Monks

Preschool Support Workers – Karen Harmon, Karen Rigby, Gaynor Sharples, Jacqui Brown, Lauren O’Hara, Emma Horabin.

We have an 'open referral system' meaning a parent/carer or a professional involved with a child can ask us to see the child.

If parents/carers are worried about their child’s development we would encourage them to speak to professionals already involved with their child, for example the health visitor and an early years setting. Professionals working with the child should complete an Early Help Assessment Tool (EHAT) gathering information about what parents and professionals are worried about, and what support the child may need.

If a family has no contact with universal services we do accept self-referrals, parents/carers can contact The Bridge Centre for more information.



Once the referral is fully completed a casework co-ordinator is allocated to each child, this person will co-ordinate the team around the child approach, and this means families will have a designated point of contact from the beginning of their child’s journey with the team, to the end.

Play and Information Session

The child is then invited in to a Play and Information Session along with their parents/carers to discuss the information in the referral.

What happens during the session?

The child will be offered an opportunity to participate in the Play Session, alongside other new children who have also been referred for a service.

A member of the Bridge Centre Team will also be available to make some initial observations of the child.

The allocated Case Co-ordinator will also meet with parents/carers and discuss the information contained in the referral, ask about concerns and give families an opportunity to add more information to the referral.

Panel and allocations

The information from the referral and the play and information session is then presented at the Early Years Operational Team Meeting. This panel consists of a multi-agency team including Early Years Manager, Senior Portage Worker, Specialist SEND Teacher, Social Worker, Educational Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, and Sensory Support service. The team screen the information and a final plan is set for the child’s assessment including all agencies. The case is allocated to workers from The Bridge Centre and the multi-agency team may take the information back to the relevant service for assessment with their team.


Portage is a home visiting service working in partnership with families to support their child’s development. Portage Workers understand that parents/carers know their children best and are key figures in their care and development. Portage visits happen in the home so that the very young children we work with can be assessed on an individual basis in familiar surroundings.

The portage assessment is completed over a 12 week period. During the assessment the Portage Worker will complete home visits to gain a baseline assessment of a child’s development, if the child attends an early years provision, observations will also be completed there to gain a holistic assessment of the child.

Portage assesses a child’s development using a range of specialist checklists and profiles, and report on what a child can do. A Portage Worker will act as a keyworker for a child and their parents/carers, offering emotional and practical support. They may also take on the role of keyworker within the a multi-professional team which, depending on the complexity of a child’s needs may consist of a Speech and Language therapist, Physiotherapist, Occupational therapist, Community Paediatrician, Educational Psychologist, & Specialist Nurse, who will all work alongside Nursery & School staff, Health Visitors and other universal services involved with a child.

Once a portage assessment is completed and it is decided that portage will continue the Portage Worker will write targets jointly with parents and the multi professional team involved with the child’s care, for the child to work towards, this will be called an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Following this the Portage Worker will continue to visit on a regular basis completing activities with the child and working towards them achieving the targets in their IEP.

Every 6 months the child’s development will be reviewed and milestones the child has achieved will be celebrated in a multi-agency meeting. It will be discussed in each meeting if the child continues to receive services from portage.

More information about portage can be found on the website www.portage.org.uk/

The Pre-School Team at the Bridge Centre consists of a small team of Pre-School Support Workers (Senior Learning Assistants) and a Specialist SEND Teacher. 

The team provides a centre based approach and a peripatetic service, offering and delivering a range of small, specialist groups, outreach advice and recommendations. This includes: Early Years Nursery settings, including: private day nurseries, day care, school nurseries, child minding services, transition to Reception (school) and home visits.  

We support children and their parents/carers within the group session. We support children with all aspects of SEND. We observe, assess,review, model and implement appropriate strategies following a multi-agency model; giving focus to parents/carers and any professionals working with the child. This includes using specialist tools to assess each child's development or specific needs and provide individual targets for both settings and families to work towards. This involves regular multi-agency review meetings to review and agree any further actions required.  

We guide parents through the assessment process and other processes relating to their child's SEND. This may include completing applications or referrals with families, in relation to wider agencies to provide holistic assessment and support. We initiate and contribute to Enhanced SEN Support (ESS) funding applications and Education, Health, Care, Plans (EHCP) in order to fulfil every child's SEND requirements, in line with the graduated approach within St Helens.

Training and support for parents

Early Bird – A training programme for parents following a diagnosis of Autism

EarlyBird is a training programme delivered by licenced trainers to support families to understand autism, and support their confidence to encourage interaction and communication with their child and manage their child’s behaviour.

More information can be found on the website www.autism.org.uk/earlybird

Portage Workshop

We currently offer places for parents on the Portage Workshop training, the aims of the training is for parents to understand the small steps approach to learning for children with SEND.

More information about the training can be found on the website


Parent Workshop for parents with children following the social communication pathway of care 

We currently run sessions as part of the social communication pathway of care, for parents to attend. These sessions cover the assessment process, communication, behaviour support and information about support services available for children and their families.     

Parents coffee morning

A coffee morning runs during term time at The Bridge Centre every Monday morning for parent/carers to attend, the session runs from 9.30am till 11.30am and families have a chance to meet up and discuss any worries they have about their child with each other, gaining peer support from other families.

We also run a coffee morning for parents who have a child currently having an assessment for social communication difficulties at The Bridge Centre or for families with a child currently being assessed following the Early Years ASD pathway. The coffee morning offers parents the chance to have a brew and a chat with other families who have a child with social communication difficulties and gain some peer support from each other, in addition to this there is a portage worker present at the coffee morning to offer advice and emotional support as needed, for further information please contact The Bridge Centre.


Training and support for professionals

Portage Workshop

The Portage Workshop is delivered by licenced trainers to professionals and parents in the St Helens and the surrounding areas.

 During the 3 day workshops participants will cover the following modules

  • the portage model
  • helping children learn – using clear language, planning for success, a small steps approach
  • planning, recording and sharing
  • supporting the development of play
  • positive approaches to children's behaviour

Professionals will learn about the portage partnership model of working with parents and other professionals, portage principles and how they can be applied in the home and in settings with young children who have SEND, planning for success and setting long term goals, how to use a small steps approach in teaching children new skills through play and appropriate responses and approaches to address children’s behaviour with SEND.

More information about the training can be found on the website www.portage.org.uk/support/training/types-training/portage-workshop

An Introduction to Autism

The course is delivered by staff from the Bridge Centre. The sessions offer attendees to gain an understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as looking at strategies to support children with ASD. We also cover recognising and recording behaviour, and how you can support children and lessen these behaviours. The final part of the session attendees will gather information and explore sensory differences in early year’s children and how to adapt your environment to support these children.

The course is available to professionals working with children who have social communication difficulties or a diagnosis of ASD aged 0-5 years old, for example nursery settings, Reception class teachers, SENCO's, Speech and Language therapists, Health Visitors, Child minders Family support workers, Social Workers etc

To book on the training professionals can contact The Bridge Centre on 01744 673131 for dates and request an application form    

Professionals coffee morning

The professionals coffee morning is set up for professionals working with children who are known to The Bridge Centre, it is a chance to meet with members of staff and gain support with introducing strategies to their setting or supporting families at home. Professionals also have chance to network with each other from different agencies.

Professionals are also invited to have case discussions prior to a referral to the service, regarding the referral process and support and strategies to implement when working with the child.

The coffee morning sessions run from 9.30am – 11.00am and the dates are as follows 

Thursday 11th January 2018  Thursday 17th May 2018 Thursday 4th October 2018
Thursday 25th January 2018 Thursday 7th June 2018 Thursday 18th October 2018
Thursday 8th February 2018 Thursday 21st June 2018 Thursday 1st November 2018
Thursday 1st March 2018  Thursday 5th July 2018  Thursday 15th November 2018
Thursday 15th March 2018 Thursday 16th August 2018 Thursday 29th November 2018
Thursday 3rd May 2018  Thursday 20th September 2018 Thursday 13th December 2018

 Outreach Support

When a child is receiving services from The Bridge Centre, staff will complete outreach support visits to the early years setting. During these outreach visits staff will observe the child in their nursery environment and offer recommendations regarding assessment, support and strategies to use.



Children's Disability Service
The Bridge Centre
Roper Street
St Helens

Telephone: 01744 673131/3132

Contact a Family