This week, the new and independent Early Intervention Foundation was formally launched by the Prime Minister with cross-party support from Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. This is the latest initiative in the rapidly expanding field of early intervention approaches and programmes for children and young people.
As funding becomes increasingly scarce across all sectors, the focus on providing evidence-based early intervention for children and young people is becoming sharper. Opinions from a broad range of experts in policy-making, research, and the voluntary and community sectors are beginning to coalesce and move towards addressing the root cause of problems.
A Local Government Education and Children’s Services Research Programme report (2012) found that ‘the evidence demonstrates that addressing a problem’s root causes, rather than reacting to its symptoms, produces better outcomes and is more cost effective. Every baby, child and young person needs strong social and emotional bedrock upon which all else is built, without it, massively expensive dysfunction can occur.’ The report also highlighted a scarcity of evidence-based, cost-effective interventions.
The Young Foundation in partnership with Catch22, the Social Research Unit, and Substance is working to address this gap through a major new programme, Realising Ambition. This is a five year £25million investment by the Big Lottery Fund in 25 outstanding evidence-based projects – across the UK – that have strong track records or have already been proven to work in helping young people fulfil their potential and avoid pathways into offending.
This programme seeks to replicate the very best evidence-based early intervention practice so that children and young people receive the optimal support. Children’s Parliament, a Scottish-based Realising Ambition organisation, is working to raise aspirations of young people from the east end of Glasgow and were recently profiled in a piece on BBC Scotland.
The UK still has a way to go to build up capacity, expertise and impact in evidence-based early intervention but major initiatives like Early Intervention Foundation and Realising Ambition are important steps in the right direction.