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Realising the Potential of Early Intervention

Early intervention means identifying and providing early support to children and young people who are at risk of poor outcomes, such as mental health problems, poor academic attainment, or involvement in crime or antisocial behaviour. Effective early intervention works to prevent problems occurring, or to tackle them head-on before they get worse.

It can take many different forms, from home visiting to support vulnerable parents, to activities to support children’s early language development, to school-based programmes to improve children’s social and emotional skills, to family therapy to improve children’s behavioural development. This support is more intensive or additional to the help that is typically available through universal services such as schools and GPs.

Early intervention is not just about what happens in the early years. While the years before a child starts school are a particularly important stage of development, problems can arise at any stage. Effective interventions can improve children’s life chances at any point during childhood and adolescence.

Rigorous evaluation and testing of early intervention programmes and approaches tells us which forms of support have been effective at improving child outcomes. This is what we mean when we talk about the importance of effective early intervention: on balance, families and children who receive interventions shown through rigorous testing to have improved outcomes are more likely to benefit, and to a greater degree, than those who receive other services.