Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP Council) Portage Service

← Back | Last updated on 21 Sep 2022

About Organisation

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

The Service is registered with the National Portage Association and has been recognised as a 5-star Portage Service.

The team are committed to continuing professional development through training and specialist workshops and put their skills and knowledge into practice with children and families.

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. The ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire) summary sheets will show a minimum of three areas of development in the black shaded area. For more information please talk to a member of the health visiting service.


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 stay and play 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 - this may be offered instead of a Portage home visit

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 early advice

Portage early advice is a blended offer which includes a block of four online information sessions where parents can gain information, advice and practical play and learning ideas. These sessions are followed by two individual home visits with a named Portage officer. This offer is for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) who meet Portage criteria and are already accessing their full early years education funding in a pre-school, nursery or childminder setting.

Portage home visiting

This service is for children who are either not yet attending an early years setting, or are not able to access their full early years education funding. 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, including ASQ profiles and summary score sheets and any relevant reports that show the child's strengths and needs.

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Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP Council) Portage Service
01202 261 931
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Bourne Avenue
Bournemouth, BH2 6DY

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