Going in the right direction?

Posted by Sir Tony Hawkhead / Wednesday 18 February 2015 / Early intervention

With the countdown to the General Election firmly underway, discussing whether early intervention is a political priority is a particularly timely topic. 

The Early Intervention Foundation’s first national conference offered the chance for professionals from a range of sectors to come together and discuss the value of early intervention. Importantly it also brought politicians into the same room to hear why it should be at the top of their agenda. 

There were some positive signals both from the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP and from her Labour shadow, Tristram Hunt MP. The announcement of new funding for early intervention programmes, including one delivered by Action for Children, and a commitment to place Early Intervention at the heart of The Department for Education under Labour show that real progress has been made in the last few years. 

Nevertheless, more needs to be done. How far will the warm words heard at the conference translate into action as other, conflicting, pressures arise? Will bold decisions be taken to invest resources in different, more efficient ways? Will there be leadership for driving changes to the system so that it designed for early action and not limited to a response to crisis? Will our decision makers take the long view and act now to invest in children's futures? 

New analysis from the Early Intervention Foundation has for the first time estimated how much we as a country pour into interventions for children and young people when they have already reached crisis point. At £17 billion a year, it is a colossal and also truly shocking amount of money. Stepping in to help children and families at the earliest point doesn’t just make sense in delivering better outcomes. In the current economic climate, it is a necessity. 

But there is also enormous value and positive long-term impact when we act early. Working with children and families everyday, we in Action for Children see the value families place on services that step in and help. Parents are quick to tell us about the difference their local children centre makes, how helpful their key worker has been in helping them learn new techniques to improve their child’s behaviour or how much further their money is now going with support to budget effectively. Putting families voices at the heart of the debate, demonstrating the value of early help services, is a crucial element to making a well-rounded case to politicians. 

Bringing this all together and taking it directly to decision makers is exactly what Action for Children and partners have been doing. Working strongly within the Stitch in Time coalition alongside other children’s charities, Barnardo’s, NSPCC, Save the Children and The Children’s Society, we have met with Ministers and Shadow Ministers from all the major political parties. We have demonstrated why early intervention should be at the heart of supporting children and families. 

There were positive signs last week that they are listening to our calls - the work of the Stitch in Time coalition was acknowledged by politicians at the national conference. But all of those in attendance know that making early intervention a top political priority will not happen overnight. As we approach the general election, we must now make sure politicians in all parties understand the value, and necessity, of acting early.

This blog post was originally posted on the Early Intervention Foundation website. 

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