Lancashire Portage Protocol

1. Background

Lancashire Portage service provides educational home-visiting for pre-school children who have significant special educational needs and disabilities. The portage home visitor works in partnership with parents and carers in their own home. The aim of the service is to empower parents and carers in developing their child's play and learning and promote positive outcomes. Lancashire Portage service is registered with the National Portage Association (NPA) and adheres to the NPA Code of Practice and Ethical Guidelines (2006). The service is extremely proud to have a 5 star award from the NPA.

The Lancashire Portage protocol was developed and agreed through discussion with all portage home visitors, the Lancashire Portage Forum, the Lancashire Parents Forum and the Inclusion Senior Management team. Health colleagues, early year's providers and schools were also involved.

All Lancashire County Council policies and procedures and those of Lancashire Inclusion Service are adhered to. These include:

  • Safeguarding and Child Protection;
  • Lone Working;
  • Complaints/Grievance Policies, Equalities, Continuing Professional Development, Confidentiality Policy (2019);
  • Inclusion privacy notice;
  • Health, Safety and Welfare;
  • Management of Sickness Absence and Sick Pay.

They are all available through the Portage Service.

2. Service ethos

Lancashire Portage Service follows the guidance available from the NPA Code of Practice and Ethical Guidelines (2006) and the principles of the NPA are embedded within everyday practice, so that:

'The keystone of all Portage practice is PARTNERSHIP, placing children and families at the centre and working with parents as the senior partner and lead educators.

Partnership also extends to multi-agency working with all involved with the child and family.

Portage supports parents and practitioners to use a SMALL STEPS approach to learning, breaking down long term goals into achievable targets that are PRACTICAL, IMMEDIATE AND RELEVANT for the WHOLE CHILD, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.

Through playing and learning together, families and children are supported to GENERALISE SKILLS; participating and working towards full INCLUSION in their community.

Working in a genuine partnership with families, Portage practice is SUPPORTING & ENABLING for parents, offering practical strategies, signposting and joint problem solving.

Portage practitioners aim to empower parents to make informed choices about their child’s development whilst supporting them to feel confident in their own abilities.

The Portage CAN DO approach CELEBRATES DIVERSITY and emphasises that all children are able to learn.

By building on abilities and strengths rather than focusing on difficulties, Portage supports families in LOOKING FORWARD, with small step targets planned to CELEBRATE SUCCESS.

Parents often comment that they value Portage most for BEING POSITIVE.'

(NPA Principles, 2019)

3. Aims and objectives of the service

Portage is delivered as part of the County Council's Local Offer for children from birth to the time the child is eligible for their funded early education for three year olds who live in Lancashire and meet the referral criteria.

The service aims to:

4. Referrals

The service operates an open referral system, in line with NPA recommendations, so that parents are able to self-refer. This can be done by using the parent/carer self-referral form available from one of the area offices.

Children can also be referred to the Portage team through discussion and agreement with parents/carers through an EHA/EHP by any involved professional.

Referrals will be accepted using the following criteria:

  • The child lives in Lancashire
  • From birth to the time the child is eligible for their free Early Years Entitlement for three year olds
  • The child has significant difficulties in two or more areas of development (this would usually be of around half-life age) or an identified condition, such as Down's Syndrome
  • If the child is not accessing any other educational specialist services

5. Priority and waiting lists

In order to meet the local authority's statutory regulations for Safeguarding and SEND Code of Practice (2015), all referrals and waiting lists will be prioritised as follows:

  • If the child is looked after (CLA), has a Child Protection Plan or is a child in need
  • On a 'first come, first served' basis
  • Provision the child is already receiving
  • Length of time on the waiting list
  • The child's age

6. End of service

Continuation of Portage visits will be reviewed alongside the review of targets and will take into account:

  • Family requests for a temporary or permanent cessation of visits
  • Progress made by the child so that criteria may no longer be met
  • If the child is accessing any other educational specialist services – e.g. special school
  • If it is the term after the child's third birthday
  • If there is a succession of three or more unexplained failed visits
  • Parent/carer not wanting to be present during the home visit
  • Where the Local Authority Lone Working Risk Assessment identifies risk for staff safety in the child's home, although whenever possible alternative venues will be sought.

7. Service level agreement

This will be discussed with the parent/carer during the initial visit and, if the involvement of the service is agreed, it will be signed by the parent/carer.

8. Confidentiality

All Portage staff should be familiar with the National Portage Association guidelines and Lancashire County Council guidance on confidentiality and adhere to the general rule that no information is to be disclosed to another person or agency without parental consent, except in the case of issues of Child Protection.

All Lancashire County Portage staff and contracted employees must familiarise themselves with and adhere to the existing information governance policies. 

Information about individual children will be kept under the terms of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018. Full details of how Lancashire County Council uses your personal information including your rights with respect to your personal information are available in our privacy notices published on the Lancashire County Council website. There is a dedicated Inclusion Service privacy notice publicly available.

In order to minimise disruption to the family, portage home visitors will try to arrange joint visits with other professionals whenever this is appropriate.

9. Portage Visits

Once a child has been accepted into the service a play plan will be written based on what the child can already do and focus on positive outcomes. This plan will be agreed between the parents/carers and the portage home visitor and will last for an agreed period of time. It may include ideas to help develop all aspects of the child’s play and learning or even advice around establishing a good sleep routine.
The Lancashire Portage model of visits reflects that outlined by the NPA and is characterised by:

  • Regular home visits, which are usually on a weekly or fortnightly basis, by a trained portage home visitor. The portage home visitor will normally visit on the same day at a set time during the period equivalent to school terms.
  • Working in a co-productive way with parents/carers so that they take the lead in the role that is established
  • To support parents/carers to identify outcomes they would like for their child, and plan goals for learning.
  • Empowering parents/carers to support their child’s development by setting small achievable targets and to demonstrate the child's progress through regular programmes of activities.
  • Parents/carers being encouraged to find time each day to practice the activity and observe how the child gets on. Other members of the family are encouraged to join in too. The activities can often be included in the child’s normal daily routine or play.
  • Keeping a shared record of the child's progress
  • Reviewing and discussing the child's progress with the parent/carer during each visit and will include a review of weekly targets. We will also carry out a more detailed review the child’s progress at the end of each block of visits. These reviews aim to celebrate success and outline the focus for the next block of visits.

10. Gifts

The Code of Conduct for Employees of Lancashire County Council is followed. Portage home visitors would not be expected to be given any gifts, but in the event of this happening will declare this, in line with the policy.

11. Funded early education for two year olds (FEE2)

The Lancashire Schools Forum have agreed that funded early education for two year olds (FEE2) can be given for young children who meet the Portage criteria. When children access FEE2 under the Portage criteria home visits will continue in the home. To support a robust transition and promote inclusive practice there will also be visits from a specialist teacher into the early years setting, usually on a termly basis. At the point of transition, the portage home visitor will go into the early years setting rather than visiting at home for one or two visits.

12. Induction and training

Newly appointed portage home visitors will work through a programme of Core Competencies which extends their skills under a range of headings and ensure that they have met the standards expected of visitors by the NPA. This will include completion of an NPA approved Portage workshop delivered by NPA Accredited Trainers. Training required by the NPA will be carried out as part of Lancashire County Council's induction programme and the Lancashire Portage bespoke induction.

All newly appointed Lancashire County Council employees must complete the relevant information governance training. 

Following a successful 6 month induction period, the portage home visitor will then have regular appraisal meetings, in line with Lancashire County Council continued professional development policy and procedures. Individual training needs will be identified in this way alongside the ongoing business development needs of the service. Training will be provided primarily through 5 days annual INSET days.

Supervision, in relation to the portage home visitor's casework, will take place through regular team meetings.

13. The Portage Forum

This management group meets on a termly basis and has a responsibility to oversee, review and ensure that Portage is delivered in line with NPA requirements and the SEND (2015) Code of Practice. Members of the Forum consist of the strategic lead for the Specialist Teaching Service, area managers, portage teachers and a portage home visitor representative.

14. Service evaluation

Following initial involvement with a family and in line with NPA requirements, all portage home visitors will have a supportive joint visit with their Portage teacher at or around 10 weeks. Following the visit the Portage teacher will provide written feedback to the portage home visitor. This monitoring promotes a quality and consistency of provision. During the visit parents/carers will also be asked specific questions on their views of Portage, which will be recorded by the Portage teacher. This information is then collated on an annual basis and reviewed by the Portage Forum.

Parent's views are sought and recorded as part of the Portage visit.

When visits have ceased parents are sent an evaluation questionnaire. These are collated on an annual basis and shared with the Inclusion Senior Management team.

15. Review of the Portage protocol

The Lancashire Portage protocol will be reviewed formally on an annual basis by the Portage Forum.

September 2019.


  • Lancashire Portage Protocol