20th October 2023
This week is #CelebratingCommunityServices organised by the NHS Confederation. It is providing a concerted week-long special focus on community health services, specifically on children and young people’s services including the breadth of what’s provided in the community and the difference it makes to people’s lives. As part of this week’s celebration, Shereen Penny, Health Visiting Professional Development Lead at Achieving for Children (AfC), shares her experience of meeting Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales during her visit to Windsor in June earlier this year. The visit was to learn more about the work with families at their Windsor Family Hub and through their health visiting service.
Achieving for Children (AfC) in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) was honoured to host a visit by local Windsor resident, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. The visit took place at the Windsor Family Hub near the castle on Tuesday 6 June 2023 and I consider myself to be fortunate to be selected to be part of the occasion.
AfC is a Community Interest Company providing children’s services in three demographically similar boroughs in the southeast of England (RBWM, Richmond, and Kingston). AfC delivers children’s social care and early help in all three boroughs but also provides health visiting and school nursing services in RBWM.
Her Royal Highness shared with staff that she had passed the building on many occasions and always wondered what actually went on in there! The Princess was delighted to discover that the AfC activities within the building (and throughout the borough) resonated closely with her own passion for supporting families. The Prince and Princess of Wales are committed to supporting initiatives which minimise the long-term negative impact of poor early childhood experiences through the work of the Royal Foundation and its Centre for Early Childhood.
“What we experience in our early years, from conception to the age of five, shapes the developing brain, which is why positive physical, emotional and cognitive development during this period is so crucial. It is a time when the building blocks are established, laying foundations that help provide greater resilience to deal with future adversity. Her Royal Highness is committed to this crucial cause, but only by working together can we bring about positive, lasting change for generations to come.”
Royal Foundation (https://royalfoundation.com/early-childhood/)
The Princess was also pleased to discover that AfC is highly committed to the prevention and mitigation of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on families in her own local neighbourhood. This aligns well with the Centre for Early Childhood’s current ‘Shaping Us’ campaign which makes the case that strong support for children, parents and carers during these most preventative years is essential and can have a life-changing impact.
During her discussions with both staff and families during the visit, it was evident that Her Royal Highness was hugely knowledgeable about the key role of the health visiting service and the Healthy Child Programme in supporting families in the critical earliest years of life.
The Princess did not limit her visit to the family hub building and was interested to understand more about its wider work in the community. To complete her experience, we arranged a home visit to a family living in a tower block on a local housing estate, following the family hub visit. The host family were thrilled to receive Her Royal Highness into their home and were eager to share their experience of the support that AfC had provided to them.
The publicity generated for the positive work of AfC and health visiting in RBWM by the royal visit has been hugely appreciated. Through the Royal Foundation, The Princess of Wales has not only highlighted to the wider public the importance of early years on future outcomes for each individual, but has showcased the health visiting service and our key role as collaborators in ‘driving real and positive change’ for the families we serve.
You can read more about the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood ‘Shaping Us’ campaign here.
You can also watch a short film on The Princess of Wales championing the important role of health visitors released by Kensington Palace in June here: