Luton Libraries during Lockdown

Luton Central, Leagrave and Stopsley Libraries are currently still open with reduced hours offering:

Book Drop – a handy ‘Book Drop’ bin at the entrance doors so customers do not need to come into the library to return books. The return date for all items borrowed has been automatically renewed. Customers will not be charged overdue fees during lockdown.

Select & Collect.  – phone or email the library and choose from; pre-selected bundles, staff choice or specific titles. There is a great selection of books for babies and toddlers, just ask for a pre-selected bundle. How about a selection of Christmas books, nursery rhymes or a title from the new Covid Children’s Booklist;  a collection of books to help children stay safe, calm, connected and hopeful during the COVID-19 crisis.

Luton Libraries Online – join online for free access to a fantastic selection of books and resources to keep you amused at home.  You’ll find e-books, newspapers, magazines and comics, e-learning courses and streaming services including concerts and films. You can even research your family history with Find My Past and browse the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Home Library Service -The Home Library Service is free to Luton residents who are unable to visit their local library. Books are delivered to your home on a regular basis by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers. For details on how to join this service call: 01582 491428

Children can take part in this year’s Winter Mini Challenge with a free-to-access website featuring rewards and incentives for reading and reviewing books.  The Winter Mini Challenge starts on Tuesday 1 December 2020 and ends on Friday 15 January 2021

*You can also pick up your Bookstart Baby pack from the library. Just contact your local library or the Bookstart Coordinator at:

We hope it’s not too long before we can safely welcome people back into libraries and restart some of our activities including: Knit and Natter, Colour Me Calm, Bookstart rhyme times and story times and library games.  In the meantime there’s never been a better time to join the library and access our great range of resources, including online story times and rhyme times, find out more at:

Healthy Pregnancy with Total Wellbeing and Active Luton

Total Wellbeing currently offers a range of services to support mums-to-be to achieve a healthy pregnancy and after baby is born.

The Healthy Pregnancy Services provide;

  • Free Health Walks for pregnancy and post-natal women (partners welcome too) once per week. This is a chance to walk and talk all things pregnancy and beyond. Walking is good for both our mental and physical health and it’s a great chance to meet other families. The walks are led by our Health Walk Leader and Nutritionist and some weeks a midwife attends to join in on the fun and answer any pregnancy related questions you may have!

Contact Laura today on 07850 938849 to book a space or refer a client. Alternatively, you can email a referral to

Women can self refer by texting PREGNANCYTWL to 60066

  • A ‘perinatal’ mental health problem is one that you experience any time from becoming pregnant up to a year after you give birth. Having a baby is a big life event. It’s natural to experience a range of emotions during pregnancy and after giving birth. But if any difficult feelings start to have a big effect on day-to-day life, it might be a perinatal mental health problem. Total Wellbeing therapists can support and offer free online, telephone, virtual 1-2-1 sessions and group workshops. Contact the team today to find out more on 0300 555 4152 or refer via our referral form to
  • Stopping smoking at ANY point during pregnancy is better than not stopping at all. Women can self-refer by texting PREGNANCYTWL SSS to 60066 for support. Free support is also available for family members. You can refer to the service by sending a referral form to or contact 0300 555 4152.
  • Pregnancy nutrition support can be provided 1-2-1 virtually or via telephone for women who require further healthy pregnancy support in relation to healthy eating. This is provided by a Nutritionist. Contact Laura today on 07850 938849 to arrange or refer a client. Alternatively, you can email a referral to

Women can self refer by texting PREGNANCYTWL to 60066

All of the above services are available for women and families post birth. Their allocated advisor will guide them through this journey and provide them with the most suitable support throughout their time with Total Wellbeing.

Active Luton Pregnancy sessions

Active Luton also provide exercise support for pregnant women and sessions suitable for after birth:

  • Active Luton provide pregnancy specific exercise classes delivered by an ante-natal trained instructor. Each session is just £3 and any pregnant woman can attend (must receive clearance from midwife or GP to exercise safely). The must pre-book the session via telephone or online, to book visit: (More classes with be launching in January plus Aqua Natal). 
  • Legs bums and bring your tots fitness classes, you can find these at different centres on the timetable: Please contact the preferred centre to check what is still running during COVID. Sessions must be pre-booked.

Like Active Luton’s Facebook page to keep updated with what’s running during COVID: @activeluton

Healthy Start Scheme- Update November 2020

Healthy Start provides young pregnant women and low-income families with children under the age of 4 in England with free vitamins and food vouchers to purchase vegetables, fruit, pulses and cows’ milk.  From April 2021 the value of the Healthy Start vouchers will increase from £3.10 to £4.25 per week for families eligible for the scheme.

Retailers are beginning to recognise their role in supporting the scheme, for example, Iceland is offering a free bag of frozen veg to all families using Healthy Start vouchers in their stores. Tesco and various Co-op branches will also add an additional £1 to all healthy start vouchers used in-store across the winter.

Unfortunately the digitalisation of the Healthy Start scheme that was due to launch in October 2020 has been delayed until October 2021. This means that there are still challenges for families with applying for the scheme which still requires a physical form to be posted. This also means the number of stores that the vouchers can be used in is limited; currently there are 45 stores across Luton that accept the vouchers.

Since COVID 19 we have seen an increase in the number of families eligible for the scheme however uptake of the scheme remains low meaning that approximately 1500 families in Luton are missing out on the scheme. Opportunities to promote the scheme through Flying Start children’s centre has reduced and we will be looking for new ways to increase uptake of the Healthy Start scheme, including working with professionals, retailers and community organisations to promote the scheme.

All services working with pregnant women and families with children under 4yrs can help promote the scheme and support families with applications. To order application forms to be sent free visit:

Healthy Start Vitamins

Healthy Start Vitamins are available from some Children Centre sites at select times and parents need to call ahead to advise they are coming. To find out where and when vitamins can be collected see the Flying Start Children Centre timetable available here:

To find out more about the Healthy Start scheme or to organise a short staff training session on the scheme contact

National research project comes to Luton

Luton parents are participating in national research into Strengthening Families Strengthening Communities parenting course

Together Research, University College London is working with Flying Start Luton as part of their national research study aiming to assess whether parents who are offered this 13-week group-based parenting programme will feel better in themselves, feel less stressed and generally more able to cope with looking after their families.

For over 10 years, the Race Equality Foundation, a charity working to promote race equality in the UK, has been organising group-based parenting programmes for families particularly from minority ethnic communities and those living in poverty. Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communitieshas had major success in engaging with communities across many parts of the country. Although very popular with the families involved, including courses regularly offered in Luton, the programme had not yet been fully evaluated to show if it is effective in achieving its goals. The Race Equality Foundation, keen to address this gap in knowledge initiated this current study.

Across several urban areas of England, including Luton, where ethnically and socially mixed communities live, the course is being offered to families who either decided themselves that they need help or families referred by professionals. Parents taking part in the study have been randomly allocated to either immediately start the Luton course in January 2021 or to wait for a nine month period before starting it in September 2021.

All the parents agreeing to take part in the study have been interviewed by phone at the start, will be interviewed after the programme has been completed and then 6 months later. A smaller number of parents and staff involved in delivering the programme will be interviewed about their views and experiences of it.  This is a great opportunity for the voice of Luton parents to contribute to this important national research.

We are still recruiting parents for the courses.  They need to live in Luton and have a child aged between 3 and 16 years of age in the family.  Please send any referrals through to

Flying Start Children’s Centres Virtual Parenting

Since late September 2020, Flying Start facilitators have been offering a virtual version of the four week Family Links Parenting Puzzle course.  An additional welcome week has helped to ensure parents have the chance to get onto the Zoom platform and test it out before starting the course the following week.  Generally, engagement has been good.  Dads have also been attending and fed back that they prefer this way of taking part. We have a waiting list of parents and will be offering at least two more courses – one starting Tuesday 12 January and another Thursday 25 February 2021. Parents can self-refer or you can email to refer a parent. More course dates may be added depending on demand.

The FREE online courses by Solihull Approach continue to see new parents registering each month via using the access code HATTERS and their Luton postcode. A new addition to the suite of courses is aimed at teenagers themselves “Understanding Your Brain (for teenagers only)” which compliments the course for parents “Understanding Your Teenager’s Brain”. This together with the antenatal, postnatal and Understanding Your Child programmes means parents can be supported throughout the parenting journey.

Details of other Flying Start online sessions available for families can be found by checking the Flying Start website and social media pages.  The creativity and adaptability of Flying Start staff means parents can still access a wide range of support even in these times of change. 

Early Years Alliance Family Corner

Early Years Alliance have worked hard to provide lots of FREE useful information for parents via their Family Corner website. 

One example, Family Time Tips – is an innovative new digital service for families and is FREE to join! It offers fun, practical tips and advice to promote children’s learning and development direct to your mobile. Daily topics include language and learning through play activities, health and wellbeing tips plus nutritional advice for you and your child.

Activities are carefully chosen to ensure they positively support a child’s development. 

The service uses WhatsApp to send parents learning and development ideas direct to their mobile phone. If parents choose to sign up – using the online form – every day they are sent activity suggestions to do with their child. These will include handy hints, video clips and other ideas to encourage chatter and play. Importantly, this is not a commercial activity so parents will not receive any advertising. Parents can choose to opt-out at any time.  To find out more parents can visit

Let’s Learn Together @Home

This is a six-week programme, taking place in August, September and October – with courses starting each week. The course offers a personal approach to family learning and helps parents better understand how children like to learn whilst also providing an opportunity to meet and connect with other families online.

The sessions focus on two different age groups — 0-2yrs and 3-5yrs.  The courses are free of charge thanks to funding by the Department of Education. To register online visit

For parents who don’t wish to do a course,, the Family Corner website also provides links to Family Corner YouTube clips by an early years professional discussing topics such as:-

  • how to prepare children for key transitions,
  • understanding and managing behaviour,
  • positive interactions for building brain development
  • building important life skills through play
  • family meditation session

Talking continues to Take Off in Luton – An opportunity to have work celebrated in print!

Back in July we were thrilled to launch a new project as part of our continuing work around Talking Takes Off – and it is not too late to join!

Children are invited to send us, via a parent/carer or through their nursery, childminder, school or community group a piece of their work to be collated into an e-book as part of a Places and Dreams Project.

What is the theme?

  • Places I know
  • Things I dream of doing again

You might like to draw a picture of you and your family eating an ice cream at the park or write a poem about something you can see from your window.

What can I submit?

We welcome all kinds of work; let your imagination go wild! Think about a short story, poem, rhyme, comic strip, cartoon, picture or drawing.

It can be completed on your laptop, computer or tablet and emailed to Flying Start. Work can also be scanned and then emailed or just pop it in the post to the office!

When is the deadline for submissions?

Friday 6th November 2020 at midday

How do I find out more and where do I send my piece of work?

Please contact for further information and to receive an entry form

FreeToFeed Campaign one year anniversary

As part of world breastfeeding week, which took place on the 1 to 7 August this year, we celebrated one year since the launch of our #FreetoFeed campaign. FreeToFeed is a Bedfordshire wide campaign that aims to normalise breastfeeding in public and help mothers feel supported when out and about.

In the last year 122 businesses across Bedfordshire, including The Mall shopping centre, Luton airport, Luton Town Football Club and Whipsnade Zoo, have supported #Freetofeed , displaying welcome stickers at their venues and committing to making their venues breastfeeding friendly. The full list of businesses is available here:

The breastfeeding Hub App is available to download free and provides information and support on breastfeeding including a map of breastfeeding friendly places in the local area. Mothers can rate and review places to help other mothers know what to expect.

The first birthday of #Freetofeed was marked with another video, bringing together mums who have supported our campaign talking about their breastfeeding journeys. The video is available here:

We would like to thank all of the mothers and businesses that have supported the campaign over the last year.

Covid 19 has posed a huge challenge to our services and the support that mothers receive; despite this, our breastfeeding rates have shown a sustained increase with 66% of mother’s breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks. This is significantly higher than the national average, which is below 50%. A huge thank you to all of the staff that have continued to support mothers with breastfeeding throughout lockdown. Lockdown has allowed mothers the time to establish breastfeeding in the comfort of their home and has highlighted the need for the campaign to ensure mothers continue to feel Free to feed anytime and anywhere.

Please continue to promote #FreeToFeed. For more information contact or visit

Living with COVID19 – Luton’s Flying Start Children’s Centre update

The last time I wrote an update for the newsletter was in April when we were in lockdown and just beginning to understand the impact of Covid19 on all our lives. It feels like a lot has changed since those early days. We have got used to new ways of doing things including holding meeting via Skype, Zoom or MS Teams and working from our kitchens/dining rooms/bedrooms.

Our staff have been remarkable, many rapidly learning new IT and social media broadcasting skills, while thinking of innovative ways in which to provide a comprehensive range of activities and support for children and their carers. We have continued to offer support to parents online, by telephone, via Facebook and video-conferencing.

·         Family Workers have been making regular phone calls to all families they were working with before lockdown to check on their welfare, offer emotional and practical support and sign-post them to other relevant agencies.

·         Support workers have been phoning regular users of the children’s centres on a daily or weekly basis to check on their welfare, offer emotional and practical support and sign-post them to other relevant agencies.

·         Family Workers have supported colleagues in the Cambridge Community Services Health Visiting team by carrying out telephone reviews for parents with babies of 6-8 weeks old

·         We have been delivering remote activities for children such as messy play ideas, storytelling, and physical exercises through Facebook. Whilst parents have been supported with advice on parenting skills, healthy eating and personal well-being. All the activities are delivered by children’s centre staff ensuring that families see and are able to engage with familiar faces and staff that they know well. This has been very popular with parents.

Due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID19 especially as the days become colder, we will not be resuming our large stay and play sessions or parenting groups for parents and children. But we are now looking forward to opening our four children’s centre neighbourhood bases from September. The buildings have been risk-assessed and are Covid-safe. This means that families will be able to make an appointment to visit Dallow, Beech Hill, Park Town and Limbury to pick up Healthy Start vitamins, or to speak to a member of staff face to face. We will also offer small groups for parents either face to face or via video-conferencing. Please look on the children’s centre pages of the Flying Start website for details

We are still accepting Service Request Forms from any professional who would like us to support families with under-fives.

Our Family Workers will still be providing support, advice and guidance by phone and parents can ring us on the appropriate number or email as below

Flying Start Central:          01582 546931 or

Flying Start North:            01582 546925  or

Flying Start South:            01582 546929 or

Flying Start West:             01582 546932 or

We will continue to provide material on our Facebook pages for all families to access at a time that suits them such as home-learning ideas and activities, story times and rhyme times.

All Luton parents and carers are able to access FREE online courses at using access code HATTERS and their Luton postcode.   This includes four courses; antenatal, postnatal, understanding your child and understanding your teenager’s brain.

Key information for parents such as videos of our three-week Bump to Babe course can be found on the Flying Start website:

Flying Start Children’s Centres redesign consultation

Luton Council has launched a public consultation about proposed changes to the Flying Start Children’s Centres and it is important for us to hear your views.

The proposal is to bring together four of the children’s services.  These are; Flying Start Children’s Centres, Early Help, Fresh Start and Manor Contact Centre into one Integrated Family Resource Service.

This new service will focus on supporting children, young people and families who are facing the most complex and significant challenges and who need support the most.

If the proposals go ahead then services currently delivered by children’s centres, which you may currently refer families into, will not be available in the future.  These include universal services such as ‘Stay and Play’, Take Five Café and baby massage.

Please have your say on our proposal by:

  • completing the consultation online at
  • Requesting a hard copy of the consultation by calling 01582 546939

The consultation is open until 20 September.

There are also online Public Consultation meetings on the 7th and 8th September, which you can attend to share your views and ask questions. To book your place contact 01582 546939

No decisions have been made and we really value your views and that of your organisation, so tell us how this proposal will impact on you and families you support.