House of Commons Library

Early Intervention

Published Monday, June 26, 2017

This House of Commons Library briefing analyses early intervention policies aimed at parents and children from conception to age five, covering health, education, social development and financial benefits. This paper also looks at broader arguments around early intervention as a policy approach.

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Early intervention is a public policy approach which encourages preventative intervention in the lives of children or their parents, to prevent problems developing later in life. Interventions can either be targeted at children deemed to be at higher risk of disadvantage, or can be universal in scope.

As well as the political and social benefits of preventing poor outcomes in later life, such as mental health problems, low educational attainment and crime, advocates of early intervention also cite economic benefits to the approach. This is based on the argument that preventative policies cost less to implement than reactive policies.

Due to the rapid pace of physical and social development in children’s early years, early intervention is a policy approach often targeted at very young children. This briefing paper looks at early intervention in terms of policies targeted at children from conception to age five.

Although policies directed at very young children and their parents have been around in various forms since the nineteenth century, early intervention as a distinct Government policy approach only began to develop significantly from the 1990s onwards.

A range of policy programmes, such as Sure Start children’s centres, the Healthy Child Programme and the Early Years Foundation Stage have been introduced in recent years. This briefing paper sets out recent developments and Government programmes in the following areas of early intervention policy:

  • Health
  • Educational development
  • Social development
  • Benefits and financial assistance

In addition, this paper also provides information on Government thinking on the topic, including two major reports on early intervention by former MP Graham Allen, commissioned by the Coalition Government, as well as approaches to early intervention taken by local authorities.

As many of the more significant policy areas for early intervention, such as health, education and local authority children’s services, are devolved areas, this briefing paper primarily looks at early intervention policy in England only, unless otherwise stated.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7647

Authors: Alex Bate; Sarah Barber; Tom Powell; Elizabeth Parkin; Robert Long; Paul Bolton; Tim Jarrett; Steven Kennedy; Andrew Mackley

Topics: Benefits policy, Child care, Children's social services, Family benefits, Health education and preventive medicine, Health services, Mental health, Pre-school education, Public expenditure, Special educational needs

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