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Report urges early intervention policies
The Labour MP Graham Allen delivered his government-commissioned, independent review of early intervention in January. Early intervention is a preventative philosophy - the idea is to provide infants, young children and their parents with appropriate support, such that social and emotional problems are averted or are dealt with before becoming entrenched.
Allen's review draws heavily on social and developmental psychology research, describing, for example: how an unhappy, unresponsive adult carer can impede an infant's development; that children who develop an insecure attachment style are at increased risk of health and behavioural problems in adulthood, including substance abuse; and that the greatest harm from neglect occurs during the first 18 months of life. 'Unless and until we recognise the way major problems are formed early in people's lives,' the review says, 'no amount of well-intentioned policy or initiatives will succeed in reducing them.'
The review's main recommendation is for the establishment of an independent Early Intervention Foundation to oversee and source funding for the roll-out of evidence-based policies and practices among an initial 15 'Early Intervention Places' - these are local authorities that have shown themselves to be best placed in terms of experience and innovation to promote early intervention in their locality. Examples cited in the review include the Family Recovery Programme in Westminster, and the early intervention approaches in Nottingham and Melton, Leicestershire.
Another of the review's chapters lists 72 specific early intervention programmes according to the levels of evidence supporting their effectiveness. Of these, 19 make a top list (to which more can be added as evidence is accrued), including: Curiosity for All; Incredible Years; Nurse Family Partnership; Ready, Set Leap!; and Safer Choices.
A further proposal in the review, which may prove more controversial, is for school 'year groups' and assessments to begin from pregnancy onwards, rather than starting at school. 'To support this recommendation,' the review says, 'it is important that everyone with responsibilities for child development, particularly parents, understands how the 0 - 18 health and educational cycle is continuous from birth and does not start on entry to primary school.'
Responding to the review, Sarah Teather, the children's minister, restated the government's commitment to improving support for families from all backgrounds. 'I will work with my colleagues across government to consider Graham's findings,' she said. Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham told the media that he welcomed the review, but he raised concerns about cuts to existing services.
Read the review at tinyurl.com/649yhcf
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