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Portage Home Visiting Service - BCP Council

Portage is a home-visiting education service for children aged 1 to 3 years with significant developmental delay and complex SEND needs.

How Portage Works

Portage is a partnership between parents and professionals where parents take the lead role.  The service responds flexibly to the individual needs of each child and family, in order to equip parents with the skills and confidence to help their child play, learn and gain new skills. 

Portage Officers usually deliver Portage to parents and their child at home, although advice and support may be offered via a Portage group activitiy or via virtual video sessions. They begin by looking at what activities the child enjoys and the skills they already have and build on this.  

This involves: 

  • designing activities for parents and their child to do together 
  • breaking activities down into small, achievable steps 
  • reviewing progress, agreeing outcomes and celebrating success 

Each small step helps the child to learn and succeed and make progress in their learning and development. 


To receive Portage support your child must: 

  • live in Bournemouth, Christchurch or Poole 
  • be 1 to 3 years old   
  • be significantly delayed in at least three areas of development by half of their chronological age OR have a recognised syndrome that is likely to have a significant impact on learning and development


You must be willing and have the capacity to make time for regular home visits or video sessions and daily practice of Portage activities. If there is a waiting list for Portage home visiting, priority will be given to children with the most complex needs who are not yet accessing an early years setting or other form of specialist SEND support. 

Types of Portage support available for families living in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

For families living in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole there are different types of Portage service delivery: 

Portage Group Sessions

These invitation only sessions, held in Family Hubs, are for children with SEND and their families. They provide an opportunity to meet other children with developmental delays and their families, whilst having fun, playing and learning new skills together. Siblings under school age are also welcome to attend. Information, advice and practical play and learning ideas can be gained from the Portage team and colleagues across Children’s Services. These groups can be a positive step towards your child transitioning to an Early Years Setting.

Portage Virtual Support

We offer a telephone or video appointment with a named Portage Officer. The aim is to offer Portage advice and learning strategies, provide a listening ear, answer questions and signpost parents to relevant information or services. We will agree with you a fun play and learning activity to help develop your child’s learning at home.

Portage Home Visiting

This service offers short blocks of home visits with a named Portage Officer. The frequency of these visits will vary depending on the individual needs of each child, other services and support being accessed and capacity within the Portage service. Lasting for around an hour, parents will be taught how to break learning outcomes down into small achievable steps. For Portage support to be successful, parents need to be willing and able to practise agreed learning activities/strategies with their child in between home visits.

Ending Portage Home Visits

Portage home visits will end when:

  • your child is making progress and you are confident in implementing a small steps approach
  • your child no longer meets the service’s learning and development criteria
  • you are unable to practise the Portage learning activities or take part in home visits on a regular basis
  • your child is attending a pre-school placement and it is agreed that their SEND needs can be best met by existing professionals in the Team Around the Child/Family
  • you request the Portage service to end
  • you move out of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.

Moving from Portage Home Learning to an Early Years Setting

Once you have chosen an Early Years setting the Portage Officer will contact the setting’s Special Educational Coordinator  (SENCO) and arrange a Transition meeting attended by:

  • you
  • the SENCO
  • the Portage Officer
  • other Professionals working with your child

The purpose of the meeting is to make sure that everything is in place so that your child makes a successful and happy transition. 

With your permission, learning and development information will be shared and a Portage Transition Plan completed.  This will include any actions which you, the SENCO or the Portage Officer need to complete before your child starts.  For example: arrange joint Portage home visits, or applying for additonal resource funding following the guidance in the Early Years Graduated Response.

How to apply for Portage advice and support

You can refer your child directly or ask any professional you are working with to make a referral on your behalf.  

Helen Jones, Portage Team Manager, will be happy to discuss the referral with you. Telephone: 01202 261931 or 07824 521406 or email: 

Professionals must submit a Portage request for involvement form (parental permission is required) via a secure email address:  The request must include additional supporting information.

How to contact the Portage Service

Contact details for the service can be found here.