Support for children in the early years

We want all children in Dorset to have the best possible start in life. Helping them, and their families to be ready and excited for the move onto school. Sometimes, children and their families need a little more help with this. The support you can access is provided through a variety of places including:

Early years settings

We provide information, advice and training to our early years settings. Helping them meet the needs of our youngest children.

We advise early years settings about:

We do this in a variety of ways including through a Best Start in Life Advisor. Our former Portage Consultants, and Early Years Support and Advice Officers became Best Start in Life Advisors on 1 June 2024.

Best Start in Life Advisor

The Best Start in Life Advisor helps settings to support young children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) before they start school. Specifically children whose development is severely delayed in at least two 'areas of development'. This could be:

  • speech, language, and communication
  • physical development
  • personal, social and emotional development
  • their thinking, understanding and learning

We support families to learn together through play, we also:

  • visit some families in their home
  • promote inclusion in the community for young children and their families
  • encourage families to access the Local Offer of support for children with SEND
  • support early years practitioners to meet the needs of all children

Home visits

For some children we offer short term visits in your home. To begin with, this will be every two weeks for a period of time depending on the needs of your child and family. After that children can access support by attending an early years setting.

Accessing early education is beneficial for all children. It can support them to build relationships and extend their learning from home. 

This helps them be ready for the next phases in their life. We recommend all children attend a local early years setting. We want them to make friends, have fun and develop their independence.

We are members of the National Portage Association. We promote the use of 'Portage Principles' in homes and settings. You can find out more about Portage on the National Portage Association website.

Support we provide

We understand that children's needs change over time. The level and type of support may need to change to meet those needs. We can offer support in several different ways depending on the circumstances. We have listened to our families and the things they have told us make a difference. Parents have told us they like:

  • a named contact who knows their child
  • practical tips and ideas to use at home
  • support with speech and language
  • someone visiting your home and support in your child’s early years setting
  • a warm welcome from toddler groups, play sessions and libraries
  • a clear route to find the information yourself
  • the opportunity to link with other families in similar situations
  • being able to access community activities

We will be strengthening the support for children and families:

  • in homes and early years settings
  • through regular stay and play sessions with speech and language support
  • through our health visiting services, Family Hubs and Libraries

How to access support

Health professionals and early years settings usually ask for support. Parents or carers can get in touch direct. Contact your locality area and request a call back from an early years specialist.


Chesil locality

Name: Weymouth and Portland
Tel: 01305762400
Full contact details