Early intervention: Where now for local authorities?

Up to one million children are at risk of being trapped in the same cycles of deprivation and neglect as their parents. Our research shows these cycles can be broken if families, and particularly children, are supported early enough through the right services.

There has been an enduring debate over the past two decades about whether services should take a preventive approach or focus on crisis intervention. There is mounting evidence that shows acute problems (such as neglect or family breakdown) cost more to address and can have long-term implications, rather than intervening early when problems first arise.

Traditional political and funding structures however have made it almost impossible for local authorities to shift away from costly crisis interventions and towards prevention. This problem has created a mismatch between successive governments’ ambition for early intervention and their ability to deliver it.

The truth is that making early intervention a practical reality on the ground remains fraught with problems. In our report Early intervention: Where now for local authorities? we look at the challenges of making early intervention a reality, specifically:

  • how political and funding structures are working against the collective desire to change how we respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families;
  • how local authorities continue to have their autonomy undermined by central political timescales and short-term funding arrangements;
  • how we achieve change and overcome the barriers to early intervention approaches.

In the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) report Early intervention: decision-making in local authority Children’s Services we set out to answer the following questions:

  • to what extent the provision of children’s social care is subject to short-term policy and budgetary decisions?
  • why does this happen and what can be done to address the problem in order to provide children with security and stability?

Our infographic What the system looks like when it goes wrong looks at the impact of one to four year spending reviews.

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