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Portage Home Visiting Service

Portage is a home-visiting education service for children aged 1-3 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 Home Visitors deliver Portage to parents and their child at home. 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 and daily practice of Portage activities. 

Portage for families living in Bournemouth

Children living in Bournemouth who meet Portage criteria are offered an Initial Assessment and are then put on the waiting list for Portage home visiting.  These children are also offered the opportunity to access a Stay and Play group.


An offer of an initial 6 home visits will take place. This is then reviewed by the Portage Team Leader and an Educational Psychologist to see if further support is needed.  Each offer is tailored specifically for the child and their individual needs. Whilst receiving Portage home visiting, children can access Stay and Play sessions. 

How to apply for Portage home visiting if you live in Bournemouth  

Parents can contact their Health Visitor, Early Years Setting, Children’s Centre or any Professional you may be involved with.  A referral will then be made on your behalf to the Portage Service.  


Referrals to the Portage Service are usually made by health professionals, childcare settings or social care and are made via a secure portal which requires a Bournemouth online account.  


For assistance, see our guide on how to create an account. If you have any difficulties, contact the switchboard on 01202 451451.   

If your enquiry is about the completion of the forms please email us.  

How to contact the Portage service for Bournemouth 

Contact details for the service can be found here

Portage for families living in Christchurch and Poole

For families in Christchurch and Poole there are three tiers of Portage service delivery: 

Tier 1 - Light Touch Portage Stay and Play -  A group offer via Portage Stay and Play sessions - targeted play and learning sessions for children who meet Portage criteria and their families, including those who are on the waiting list for Core Portage.  

Tier 2 - Portage Early Advice - A monthly Portage home visit or telephone consultation with an experienced Portage Home Visitor, providing basic Portage teaching/learning strategies, and signposting to other information, services and support including Children's Centre activities.  

This is only offered to children considered to be more vulnerable at the time of initial Portage assessment, where it is identified that immediate learning and development support will be beneficial prior to Core Portage. 

Tier 3 - Core Portage Home Visiting - Regular Portage home visits: initially weekly for a period of  half a term and then fortnightly for a maximum of two further terms. Depending on capacity within the Portage team and waiting lists, the length of service involvement and visiting patterns may be subject to change. 

How to apply for Portage home visiting if you live in Christchurch or Poole  

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 email: 

Professionals must submit a Portage Referral Form (parental permission is required).  Family background information must be provided as supporting information.


How to contact the Portage service for Christchurch and Poole

Contact details for the service can be found here.  

Ending Portage Home Visits

Portage home visits will end when:


  • Your child is making good 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 participate in the Portage way of working or take part in home visits on a regular basis.
  • Your child starts attending a pre-school placement in a special school.
  • 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 Home Visitor will contact the setting’s Special Educational Coordinator  (SENCO) and arrange a Transition meeting attended by:


  • You
  • The SENCO
  • The Portage Home Visitor
  • 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. 


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 Home Visitor 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.