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Early intervention

Woman laughing with young child on her knee

Up to 1 million children are at risk of being trapped in the same cycles of deprivation and neglect as their parents, according to estimates*.

These cycles can be broken if families, and particularly children, are supported early enough through the right services.

We know that families can become trapped in cycles of deprivation for a range of reasons, but once trapped they are at risk of harmful situations such as violence, drug or alcohol misuse, mental ill health and child neglect. Where more than one of these risk factors exist, deprivation is more likely to be passed from generation to generation. This can be prevented by delivering early intervention.

What is stopping early intervention becoming a reality?

Making early intervention a reality remains problematic for a number of reasons:

  • The way we respond to the needs of vulnerable children has to change, but political and funding structures are currently working against this.
  • Local authorities' power continues to be undermined by national political timescales and short-term funding arrangements. We want local authorities to be able to spend their money better by planning for the long-term, so ultimately they can shift their resources to focus on supporting children and families at the earliest possible stage.
  • There is instability in the current system which is partly created by short-term policy making, passed down the chain from central UK Government to local authorities and services. Ultimately, this has a detrimental impact on vulnerable children. Take a look at our infographic ‘What the system looks like when it goes wrong'

For more information on what early intervention is, and what's stopping it becoming a reality read our report.

In 2008 our As Long As It Takes report found that during the lifetime of a 21-year-old there had been over 400 different policies and funding initiatives. This meant that on average there were around 20 new initiatives every year, each only lasting a little over two years. This is damaging because:

  • Services barely have enough time to set up and begin delivering support before staff need to start applying for funding all over again.
  • Many children and families will have just learned to trust their key workers, only to suddenly find themselves with new people to work with, or with no help at all.

How do we achieve change?

This is why we have called on the Government to rethink the way it finances children’s services via local government:

  • We want the government to set out the funding available for children’s services in a ten year spending plan.
  • We need to shift from short-term thinking, too often driven by political expediency, to long-term strategies that put children first and short-term politics second.

Further information

Estimate based on Oroyemi, P, Damioli, G, Barnes, M and Crosier, T (2009) 'Understanding the risks of social exclusion across the life course: families with children'