Early intervention: the next steps

15 February 2011

Early intervention is about working with children and their parents in their first three years of life to make a difference to child development and prevent serious emotional, social and educational problems later on. Last year Graham Allen MP was tasked with reviewing this agenda and has just published a

report which suggests how it can be developed and supported.Why is it important for cultural learning?We know all types of cultural learning have significant impacts on children’s health and wellbeing. Using cultural interventions with families can be a short cut to improving the social and emotional foundations for children, a key aim identified in the report.The report recommends that any new funding for early intervention be prioritised for:

  • existing ‘programmes’ and projects which have been proven to be effective.
  • the most effective ‘places’ – drawn from local authorties, agencies, organisations and the voluntary sector.
  • the Early Intervention Foundation.
We should therefore be aligning our work with these priority partners, and embedding cultural learning into early intervention. This is an opportunity for us to make such programmes sustainable, and to evidence the impact of cultural learning.What does the report say?The report sees the development of the social and emotional ‘bedrock’ of a child between birth and the age of three as the central objective of early intervention. The top three recommendations of the report are:
  • Promotion of Early Intervention Programmes: the review has evaluated the existing evidence base and 19 programmes have been identified that deliver significant evidenced outcomes for children and their parents
  • Encouraging 15 local Early Intervention Places run by local authorities and the voluntary sector to pioneer programmes
  • An Early Intervention Foundation to identify effective programmes, evidence them for commissioners of services for children and their parents, and look at funding models
Further recommended actions include the development of a Foundation Years Plan from pregnancy to five years of age.The role of the Early Intervention Foundation would include providing support to develop and share information about what works, and acting as ‘an honest broker between financial investors, local authorities and deliverers’. (Early Intervention: The Next Steps, p.xv)The report includes no proposals for new legislation and no new immediate public spend. It does, however, contain strong evidence for the social, personal and economic impact of early intervention which can be used by cultural learning partners.Key issues for the cultural sector to be aware of:

  1. The report sets out recommendations for data collection and advises partners on what to track and evaluate
  2. The report identifies that excellent early intervention programmes are medium to long term in nature, with clearly defined structures and progression.
  3. This report advocates using existing Sure Start and Children’s Centres to deliver early intervention. The cultural sector needs to use its existing strong partnerships with these organisations to get involved with this agenda.
  4. As with all ‘Big Society’ projects, central government will act as a champion for this work, but will not deliver it directly. The role of local cultural sector organisations taking part in local conversations cannot therefore be underestimated.
  5. The report recognises the importance of sharing expertise, best practice and information between local authorites, central government and the third sector.
The CLA will champion the role of cultural learning within this agenda. However, we want to know what is working in your organisation. Get in touch to tell us about the work that is currently taking place, and what you think will work for your audiences and partners.