Early language development must be prioritised to close gap between children in low-income and better-off households

Press Releases   •   Sep 18, 2017 15:00 BST

Press release: embargo for 00:01, Wednesday 27 September

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) highlights the impact of family economic circumstances and disadvantage on a child’s ability to learn all the skills of speech, language and communication. It calls for early language development to be prioritised as a child wellbeing indicator, on a par with vaccination, obesity and mental health.

Early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of young children’s non-physical development. It contributes to their ability to manage emotions and communicate feelings, to establish and maintain relationships, to think symbolically, and to learn to read and write. While the majority of young children acquire language effortlessly, a significant minority do not.

Multiple studies have shown that income-related gaps in children’s language are detectable by the age of 18 months, and often become bigger throughout children’s early development. The UK prevalence rate for early language difficulties is between 5% and 8% of all children, and over 20% for those growing up in low-income households.

The evidence suggests that children living in better-off families will hear many more words from their parents than less well-off children, and that their parents are more likely to use more complex language, to ask children more questions, and to engage in verbal activities such as sharing a book or playing rhyming games.

The impact of this gap persists: language capabilities at age 3 are predictive of language capabilities at age 9.

Income-related gaps continue to increase once children enter school, where the evidence shows that a child’s economic situation may have a greater impact on their language development than their ability to learn. Over the course of primary school, the language skills of better-off children catch up and surpass the skills of less well-off children who started with higher achievement scores.

By the end of secondary school, better-off children consistently complete more GCSEs and attain higher scores.

Because language and communication skills are so essential for school education and achievement, and future employment prospects, allowing less well-off children to fall behind in their language development risks undermining their life chances and perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage and poverty. The evidence shows that children with poor vocabulary skills at age 5 are more likely to have reading difficulties as an adult, more likely to have mental health problems, and more likely to be unemployed.

Dr Jo Casebourne, Chief Executive of EIF, says:

“Our research makes clear the consequences of failing to close these income-related gaps in language development: a whole group of children who will face unnecessary extra challenges in achieving good school results, entering employment, and maintaining good mental health into their adult lives. For this reason, supporting early language development should be put at the heart of any social mobility strategy.

“Crucially, the evidence shows that early intervention may be the most important of all: children whose home learning environment improves as they approach school age don’t see the same benefits as children who were receiving more stimulation and interaction at an earlier age. The first three years are critical – by the time a child starts school, the damage to their future prospects may already be done.”

To ensure children with language development problems do not fall through the cracks, EIF is calling for early language development to be prioritised as a child wellbeing indicator, so that it must be treated as a public health issue, like vaccination, obesity and mental health. This change would make it clear that language development problems have serious consequences and require additional support, even when they are not the result of acute or clinical disorders.

Dr Kirsten Asmussen, co-author of the paper and EIF expert on early child development, says:

“The income-related gap in children’s language development is not a new story. However, knowledge about the magnitude of this gap and ways of reducing it is. We believe that prioritising early language development as a national wellbeing indicator is a vital first step in putting this knowledge into action.”

To support this change, EIF also calls for:

  • More testing of the effectiveness of interventions designed to support or improve children’s language development.
  • Developing a shared terminology and criteria for identifying and describing language development problems, to enable effective monitoring and diagnosis, and a consistent response.
  • Greater clarity from local authorities and schools on what they are offering to parents of children with language development problems.

*ENDS

References:

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence-base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/
  • The report is written by Professor James Law and Dr Jenna Charlton of Newcastle University in collaboration with Dr Kirsten Asmussen of EIF.

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

New research published by EIF highlights the impact of family economic circumstances and disadvantage on a child’s ability to learn all the skills of speech, language and communication. It calls for early language development to be prioritised as a child wellbeing indicator, on a par with vaccination, obesity and mental health.

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New research: Popular social work practices must be evaluated to ensure they are working to protect children

Press Releases   •   Jun 21, 2017 10:00 BST

Press release: embargo for 00:01, Friday 23 June

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) and Local Government Association (LGA) highlights the lack of evidence underpinning some of the practices and approaches that are widely used in the child protection system.1 In the absence of evidence to demonstrate that activities are improving outcomes for children and families, it is difficult to be sure that child protection services are producing good results or providing value for money.

The report argues that, with demand for services increasing rapidly and pressure growing on local budgets, stronger central action is urgently required to help councils evaluate and monitor whether the services they deliver are improving outcomes for children and families and providing value for money.

The study also identifies a number of interventions with proven results that have not been widely publicised or implemented. It highlights the need for more central action to provide clear messages about which approaches have a good track record and which have not been tested that can be used by local councils to inform their work with vulnerable families.

Carey Oppenheim, Chief Executive of EIF, says:

“There is a striking gap between what we know works to protect children and support vulnerable families, and what is happening in our child protection system right now. At a time of shrinking budgets and increasing demand, it is particularly important to use the evidence to ensure scarce resources are directed towards interventions with the greatest chance of success.

"Evidence is not the only consideration in how local authorities decide what services to deliver. Nevertheless, on balance, families and children who receive interventions shown through robust methods to improve outcomes are more likely to benefit and to a greater degree than those who receive other services.”

Reducing this gap between evidence and local decision-making requires stronger centrally co-ordinated activity to:

  • Supporting the use of evidence by clearly communicating what the evidence tells us.
  • Help build ‘evidence literacy’ among local leaders, commissioners and practitioners.
  • Fill crucial gaps in evidence, for example by robustly evaluating the effectiveness of multi-agency models of working, and developing and testing new approaches to tackling child neglect.  
  • Provide investment and resources to rebuild the analytical capacity that has been pared back in many local areas.

Donna Molloy, Director of Dissemination at EIF and one of the report authors, says:

“It is of concern that many local authorities lack the capacity to monitor whether the things they are delivering are working to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children. In both early intervention and children’s social care the lack of analytical resource to understand the nature of local demand, and use the evidence to meet this demand, needs tackling if we are to see a shift in the use of evidence to improve effectiveness in child protection work.

“We also rely too much on evidence from overseas in the UK and need to grow the UK evidence base about effective children’s and family services by investing in evaluation of interventions and approaches that are being delivered here. This needs central investment and input and the Government’s planned What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care provides an important opportunity to provide central infrastructure that is needed here.”

Richard Watts, Chair of the Children and Young People Board at the LGA, said:

“Councils are committed to providing the best possible care for children and their families, but the sector urgently needs more support to understand whether the services we provide are consistently improving outcomes for some of our most vulnerable people.

“The scale of the challenge facing councils is clearly evidenced in this report. In the last decade, central government funding has significantly reduced whilst the number of children on child protection plans has increased 124 per cent between 2002 and 2015. By 2020, councils are expecting a £2 billion funding gap to open in children’s services. The reality for many councils is that right now they are struggling to provide the essential services and simply lack the capacity to robustly evaluate the impact of different approaches.

“The Government’s proposed What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care provides a valuable opportunity to fill this gap at national level, but it is vital that this also provides capacity to boost local learning and evaluation. Councils need to understand what will work in their area, for the specific children and families they are working with and within the resources available to them. It is not always possible or practical to simply transfer a seemingly effective service from an inner city area to a rural county region, and we should not attempt to provide a centrally-focussed, one size fits all solution to the notion of “what works”.

“It is more important than ever that we better understand how to target resources to ensure they are used effectively. But with services for the care and protection of vulnerable children already at breaking point in many areas, government must recognise that additional investment is urgently required to ensure vulnerable children get the appropriate support and protection they need.”

*ENDS

Contact:

Donna Molloy

Director of Dissemination, EIF

E: donna.molloy@eif.org.uk

T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

References:

  1. An overview of the EIF/LGA project on improving the child protection system is available at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/improving-the-effectiveness-of-the-child-protection-system-overview (from 00:01 Fri 23 June). Copies are available in advance, on request.

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence-base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/
  • This project on improving the effectiveness of the child protection system was conducted by EIF in collaboration with the LGA and supported by the NSPCC, Research inPractice, and the DepartmentofSocialPolicyandIntervention at the UniversityofOxford.

New research published by the EIF and LGA highlights the lack of evidence underpinning some of the practices and approaches that are widely used in the child protection system. In the absence of evidence to demonstrate that activities are improving outcomes for children and families, it is difficult to be sure that child protection services are producing good results or providing value for money.

Read more »

New research: Tackling conflict between parents is a crucial priority for early intervention designed to protect children from the impacts of economic stress

Press Releases   •   Apr 26, 2017 15:00 BST

Press release: embargo for 00:01, Friday 28 April
Issued: Wednesday 26 April 2017

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), in collaboration with Professor Gordon Harold from the University of Sussex, affirms the link between a family’s experience of poverty or economic pressure, parental conflict and an increased risk of long-term negative outcomes for children. This finding, combined with new qualitative research highlighting the barriers to accessing relationship support for families experiencing economic stress suggests that those who may benefit most from this kind of support may be least likely to receive it.

EIF sets out strong evidence that poverty and economic pressure increase the risk that parents experience psychological distress, such as anxiety or depression, which is associated with difficulties in the relationship between parents and in the parent-child relationship, and ultimately with long-term negative impacts on children, such as poor mental health or reduced academic attainment.1

28% of children in workless couple-parent families live with parents who report having a distressed relationship. This is almost three times greater than is reported where both parents are working.2

Supporting parental relationships and tackling conflict between parents – regardless of whether they are living together or not – has the potential to improve outcomes for children later in life. However, a range of barriers to accessing relationship support services exist – including the availability of services, cost, and perceived stigma – and EIF shows that these barriers may be greatest for low-income and other hard-to-reach families.

Carey Oppenheim, chief executive at EIF, says:

“Improving the quality of parents’ relationships and helping them to reduce and resolve conflict must be an important part of early intervention designed to protect children from the long-term consequences of living with poverty and economic stress. We need existing services to support parental relationships as well as other types of family and parenting support, in order to address the multiple challenges of worklessness, economic pressure and family stress in a holistic way.”

EIF highlights that relationship support services in the UK are under-developed and under-resourced.3 EIF identifies 13 programmes which focus on the parental and parent–child relationship, some of which have been shown to have positive effects on outcomes for children in poverty. There is a clear need to grow and invest in relationship support provision, to diversify the range of types of intervention provided, and to test the effectiveness of new and existing interventions, whether developed in the UK or imported from other countries.

Tom McBride, director of evidence at EIF, says:

“Evidence indicates that the context of economic pressure can disrupt the inter-parental relationship, which in turn impacts on couples’ parenting abilities and ultimately on long-term outcomes for children. There are overseas interventions which recognise this link and provide effective support to families under economic pressure. However, the UK evidence-base on how relationship support can improve child outcomes is less developed, creating a valuable opportunity for policymakers and practitioners to identify and test new approaches.”

There are interventions which have evidence of effectiveness in supporting parental relationships and conflict resolution that could be delivered more widely. EIF recommends that:

  • A new focus on parental relationships should be embedded in existing family services, such as early help services, services for troubled families, children’s centres or health visiting, to reduce barriers and reach families early, before problems become more deeply entrenched.
  • Crucial ‘transition points’ – such having a child for the first time, a child’s transition to primary or secondary school or facing the prospect of losing work or experiencing poverty – should be targeted to prevent future problems.
  • The potential of interventions that support couple relationships alongside parenting and other skills, such as problem-solving and coping techniques, to reduce the negative impacts of poverty and worklessness should be explored further.

Previous EIF research has highlighted that the quality of the inter-parental relationship – the relationship between parents, irrespective of the family structure or couple status – is a primary influence on children’s long-term wellbeing, mental health and life chances. In particular, experiencing sustained, intense and unresolved conflict between parents is associated with poorer long-term outcomes for children, including health and economic outcomes as an adult.4

*ENDS

References:

  1. EIF’s review of ‘what works’ to support families in poverty is available at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/inter-parental-conflict-and-outcomes-for-children-in-the-contexts-of-poverty-and-economic-pressure (from 00:01 Fri 28 April). Copies are available in advance, on request. This research was conducted by EIF with Professor Gordon Harold and the University of Sussex, as part of a programme of work on early intervention and poverty, in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
  2. ‘Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families Analysis and Research Pack’, available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/605989/analysis-research-pack-improving-lives-helping-workless-families-web-version.pdf
  3. EIF’s review of current UK family support provision in five areas is available at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/exploring-parental-relationship-support-a-qualitative-study (from 00:01 Fri 28 April). Copies are available in advance, on request. This research was conducted by researchers from NatCen, commissioned by EIF as part of a programme of work on early intervention and poverty, in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
  4. See EIF report, What Works to Enhance Inter-Parental Relationships and Improve Outcomes for Children? (March 2016): http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/what-works-to-enhance-inter-parental-relationships-and-improve-outcomes-for-children-3/

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence-base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/
  • An overview of EIF’s work on early intervention and poverty is available at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/interparental-relationships-conflict-and-the-impacts-of-poverty-an-overview (from 00:01 Fri 28 April). Copies are available in advance, on request.
  • Information on a range of evidence-based programmes, including parenting and family interventions, is available via the EIF Guidebook: http://guidebook.eif.org.uk/

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

New research affirms the link between a family’s experience of poverty or economic pressure, parental conflict and an increased risk of long-term negative outcomes for children. This finding, combined with new qualitative research highlighting the barriers to accessing relationship support, suggests that those who may benefit most from this kind of support may be least likely to receive it.

Read more »

Early assessment of free childcare for disadvantaged 2-year-olds shows modest impact on children’s educational attainment, points to importance of increasing take-up

Press Releases   •   Aug 21, 2018 15:30 BST

Embargo for 00:01, Thursday 23 August

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) shows that although the government’s expansion of free childcare provision to disadvantaged 2-year-olds (the 2-year-old offer) has been associated with a modest change in educational outcomes, it has not so far led to a significant change in the closing of the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers.[1]

EIF’s analysis uses the attainment scores of pupils who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) at the end of Reception year to compare children’s progress between two cohorts: those who have been eligible for additional free childcare via the 2-year-old offer, and those from older cohorts, who were age 2 prior to the introduction of the 2-year-old offer.

Over the past five years, the performance of FSM-eligible children has improved, and the gap in attainment with non-FSM-eligible children has closed by a small amount.[2] However, if the gap were to continue to close at the same rate, it would be over 40 years before the same proportion of FSM-eligible pupils achieved a ‘good level of development’ as non-FSM-eligible pupils.[3] Moreover, the rate at which this gap has been closing did not accelerate notably in 2015/16 and 2016/17, the first years in which the effects from the 2-year-old offer would be seen.

Although the attainment of FSM-eligible pupils has improved over the past five years, the rate of improvement at a national level has slowed over this period (2015/16–2016/17). At a local level, however, there is some evidence of positive impact. Looking at data for local authorities across England, EIF’s analysis detects a small positive relationship between increases in take-up over the first two years of the entitlement and increases in attainment of FSM-eligible children.[4]

Tom McBride, director of evidence at EIF, says:

“This analysis provides an initial picture of the impact of an important national programme to support young children’s development. The 2-year-old offer is a key plank in the government’s efforts to close the gap in educational attainment that we know emerges before children even reach school. The government is right to focus on the early years as a key window to tackle these inequalities before they take root. High-quality childcare is an important part of the solution, and there is good evidence to suggest it can improve long-term outcomes for disadvantaged children.

“In this case, the evidence is more equivocal: there is little evidence to suggest the introduction of the 2-year-old offer has been associated with a substantial increase in the early years educational outcomes of more disadvantaged children at the national level, but the picture at the local level is more encouraging, showing a modest impact on attainment that is associated with the proportion of children in the area who have taken up the offer.”

Donna Molloy, director of policy and practice at EIF, says:

“The 2-year-old childcare offer is a crucial part of the government’s attempts to close some of the gaps in development that open up between disadvantaged children and their peers. Given the level of funding involved, it is imperative that the government continues to monitor the impact this policy is having on participants’ later educational attainment.

“The 2-year-old offer is still in its early days, yet nonetheless, this analysis does provide some cause for reflection. If over the coming years the programme does not demonstrate clear evidence that it is fulfilling its stated aim of closing the early years attainment gap, then we should be open to considering whether changes to this policy are needed to ensure investment is being used to best effect.”

The authors note that, while the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is the government’s national measure of a child’s progress in the early years, it is a relatively insensitive measure: it is tightly bunched, with around 28% of children in 2016/17 receiving exactly the same score.[5] This means that significant changes in EYFSP scores across the national population may be difficult to detect over time.

EIF’s analysis also focuses on take-up of the 2-year-old offer: how widely families are taking up the opportunity for additional free childcare provision, and the factors that may influence differences in take-up. Key findings include:

  • Take-up is particularly low in London and Birmingham and surrounding metropolitan areas, although low take-up isn’t confined solely to large urban areas.
  • Demographic characteristics explain a significant proportion of the variation in take-up. Take-up is lower for pupils from non-White British backgrounds, and particularly low when English is an additional language spoken at home, suggesting cultural and linguistic differences could be a barrier to accessing childcare.
  • Characteristics of childcare provision available in an area may also be a contributory factor. In addition to the absolute number of places available, where the concentration of maintained providers (such as schools and nurseries) is high, take-up tends to be lower, implying that not all types of providers have been able or willing to expand provision to younger children.

Tom McBride, director of evidence at EIF, says:

“The 2-year-old offer is a national programme, with the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of children. According to the latest data, take-up of the 2-year-old offer is around 72% nationally – but this trails way behind take-up of the 3- and 4-year-old offer, which is around 94%. It is vital to understand the barriers that might be preventing disadvantaged families and children from taking up this entitlement.

“Our analysis shows a relationship, on a local level, between take-up of the 2-year-old offer and disadvantaged pupils’ attainment. While administrative data can’t tell us the reasons for this finding, it does suggest that increasing take-up should be a priority for government.

*ENDS

Contact:
Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

Notes:

  1. The report will be available from 00:01, Thursday 23 August at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/an-initial-assessment-of-the-2-year-old-free-childcare-entitlement. Available in advance on request.
  2. Over the period 2012/13–2016/17, the attainment of both FSM-eligible and non-FSM-eligible pupils increased, by 20 percentage points and 18 percentage points respectively. The size of the attainment gap fell from around 19 percentage points in 2012/13 to 17 percentage points in 2016/17.
  3. ‘Good level of development’ is a formal designation which indicates a child has achieved at least ‘expected’ progress (on a three-point scale from ‘emerging’ to ‘exceeding’) towards five of the early learning goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile: communication and language development; physical development; personal, social and emotional development; literacy; and mathematics.
  4. A simple comparison of national-level trends cannot explain the extent to which the introduction of the 2-year-old offer has been associated with changes in attainment. Data regarding local authority-level take-up and attainment at the end of Reception allow us to test more rigorously for an effect, exploiting the variation between local areas.
  5. On the three-point scale of ‘emerging’, ‘expected’ or ‘exceeding’ progress, most children receive a ‘2’ (expected progress) on most of the 17 sub-scales of the EYFSP, and thus many children will receive a very similar score.

About EIF:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing poor outcomes. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/

​New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation shows that although the government’s expansion of free childcare provision to disadvantaged 2-year-olds (the 2-year-old offer) has been associated with a modest change in educational outcomes, it has not so far led to a significant change in the closing of the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers.

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Early Intervention Foundation comments on Home Office's announcement of local areas to receive Trusted Relationships Fund investment

Press Releases   •   Aug 21, 2018 14:30 BST

Press note: embargo, 00:01 Wednesday 22 August

The Home Office has today announced the local areas in England that will receive funding via its Trusted Relationships Fund, a £13 million investment to support vulnerable children by ensuring they have positive adult role-models in their lives if they are at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, gang exploitation and peer/relationship abuse.

Donna Molloy, Director of Policy and Practice at the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), says:

“It is great to see new funding being used to grow system capability for trusted relationships at the local level. The evidence tells us that positive relationships with a trusted adult can support the development of children’s skills, coping strategies and confidence. 

For young people vulnerable to child sexual abuse or exploitation, there is a strong logic for thinking that trusted relationships between a practitioner and a child provide can act as a protective factor. This new funding provides a great opportunity to test this, and to build the evidence about which ways of working are most effective in building trusting relationships with vulnerable children. We hope the government will support and encourage local areas to evaluate the impact of their plans.”

*ENDS*

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

Notes:

  • The £13-million Trusted Relationships Fund was established in February 2018, to reduce young people’s involvement in exploitation and abuse, as victims and/or perpetrators, by facilitating consistent, trusted relationships between young people and the adults who are there to support them.
  • EIF’s 2018 review of the evidence base relating to how trusted relationships can be built and sustained is available at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/building-trusted-relationships-for-vulnerable-children-and-young-people-with-public-services-2/
  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/

The Home Office has announced the local areas that will receive funding via its £13-million Trusted Relationships Fund. Donna Molloy, Director of Policy and Practice at the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), says: “It is great to see new funding being used to grow system capability for trusted relationships at the local level.”

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Early Intervention Foundation comments on Home Office's doubling of Early Intervention Youth Fund to tackle youth violence

Press Releases   •   Jul 30, 2018 10:07 BST

Press note: for immediate release

The Home Secretary today announced that funding for the Early Intervention Youth Fund would be doubled to £22 million. 

Donna Molloy, director of policy and practice at the Early Intervention Foundation, says:

“Youth violence is a chronic problem that needs a sustained, strategic and coordinated response, and we agree that early intervention is a critical part of the solution. However, we mustn’t fall into the trap of assuming that any early intervention is better than none. It’s great to see new investment for early intervention announced by the government today, but it is vital that this is channelled into evidence-based, effectively targeted and well implemented forms of early intervention, to ensure that these precious resources are more likely to translate into better outcomes for young people and their communities.

“This isn’t always easy to do: there is a lot we don’t yet know about how best to prevent certain types of problems or certain behaviour. But there is an awful lot that we do know, and the government should act on this.

“We know that effective forms of early intervention can be delivered both in schools – building vital social and emotional skills, such as managing emotions and regulating behaviour – and in the home, to support effective parenting and tackle family conflict. These interventions can build the strong family relationships which are important protective factors against involvement in violence and can have an impact on highly relevant risk factors, such as aggression and conduct problems.

“We also know there are popular forms of early intervention which have not been shown to have positive impacts for violence outcomes among young people – such as 'tough love' or approaches based on deterrence or discipline – and others, such as mentoring, where we don't yet know enough about what works for different groups of young people. It is imperative that new initiatives and programmes introduced through this fund are rigorously evaluated over time to record their actual impact on young people’s outcomes.

We need to start using the evidence base in attempts to tackle youth violence, and would like to see the Home Office working with Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure these resources are directed to the kinds of approaches that are most likely to be successful.”

***ENDS

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing poor outcomes. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence-base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

The Home Secretary today announced that funding for the Early Intervention Youth Fund would be doubled to £22 million. Donna Molloy, director of policy and practice at EIF, says: “It’s great to see new investment for early intervention announced today, but it is vital that this is channelled into evidence-based, effectively targeted and well implemented forms of early intervention.”

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EIF updates evidence for vital maternity and postnatal support and highlights critical gaps in evidence on what works to reduce the impact of parents’ drug and alcohol misuse

Press Releases   •   Jun 25, 2018 15:00 BST

Press release: embargo for 00:01, Thursday 28 June

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) shows how maternity and postnatal support for parents and children could be improved by wider take-up of evidence-based practices and programmes. For example, EIF’s report highlights the importance of mental health screening for women during pregnancy, and of the use of infant sleep routines for both children’s development and parents’ wellbeing. 

EIF identifies common, light-touch activities for which there is not good evidence. It also highlights worrying gaps in what is known about how children benefit from many mental health treatments commonly offered to their parents, including those made available to parents who misuse drugs and alcohol.

EIF’s review focuses on the latest evidence for early childhood support commissioned and delivered locally as part of the Healthy Child Programme, an evidence-based framework for supporting pregnant women, new parents and infants set out by Public Health England. There is good evidence underpinning many of the activities already delivered through the Healthy Child Programme. EIF’s findings suggest that, while there are some notable gaps in the evidence, there are several areas of practice that could be enhanced by increasing the use of evidence-based activities.

Dr Jo Casebourne, Chief Executive at EIF, says:

“This review adds significantly to what we know about what works to support mothers through pregnancy and infants in their crucial first 12 months of life. Just as importantly, it casts light on those common practices which haven’t been tested for mothers or very young children, as well as those which have been tested and shown not to work.

“Early years professionals, such as health visitors, are such a vital link between families and other public services, and provide essential and valued support right there in the home. That is why it is so important that these lessons about the evidence of effective practice are heard and acted upon both by the policymakers who continue to shape this vital programme, and those hard at work on the frontline.”

When the Healthy Child Programme was introduced in 2009, it was based on the best available evidence. EIF’s evidence update captures findings published in the decade since the Healthy Child Programme was launched, and uses the evidence to set out when and how effective interventions might be delivered.

EIF concludes that the Healthy Child Programme is a good delivery mechanism for many of the evidence-based interventions identified in this update, and that the majority of these interventions can be delivered as part of the Healthy Child Programme with minimal additional training for midwives, nurses and health visitors.

Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse at Public Health England (PHE), says:

“This Early Intervention Foundation publication sets out the continued case for early intervention, and strengthens the evidence of what works within the Healthy Child Programme to improve outcomes for children and their families, and is a welcome addition to a growing suite of ‘what works’ resources published by EIF.

“As the evidence for early intervention continues to grow, we gain a greater understanding of the individual factors that influence why certain interventions work for some people in some circumstances and not others. This publication will help policy-makers, commissioners, providers and practitioners use high-quality evidence for decision-making, which in turn contributes to our ultimate ambition for every child to have the best start in life.”

EIF’s review highlights a significant lack of good evidence of what works to reduce drug and alcohol misuse among parents, and its impact on infants in the home. The small number of good quality studies which exist have failed to demonstrate meaningful benefits from available interventions for either the parent or the child.

Kirsten Asmussen, co-author of the report and Head of What Works Child Development, at EIF, says:

“Parental drug and alcohol misuse and dependency is strongly associated with a range of negative outcomes for children, and is a primary reason for child protection referrals for infants up to the age of 12 months. We know that tackling the problem is tough: the effectiveness of many commonly used practices remains unclear, improvement is often gradual and relapse is common.

“Given the significant risks to children’s wellbeing associated with parental substance misuse, it is imperative that more is done to develop and test interventions which reduce drug and alcohol misuse and improve outcomes for children.”

A variety of light-touch interventions commonly delivered through early years services have been found through rigorously conducted evaluations or systematic reviews not to be effective in terms of improving outcomes for children, including:

  • Infant massage, when offered universally to mothers and healthy, full-term infants – while this may be enjoyable for parents and children, there is no evidence that it improves attachment or other child outcomes.
  • Parent management training for child behavioural problems, when offered to parents during pregnancy or during a child’s first 12 months – although there is good evidence to support its use for children over the age of 2.
  • Book gifting and other light-touch interventions designed to support children’s language development.

*ENDS

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/
  • The Healthy Child Programme 0–5 is a Public Health England (PHE) programme intended to support healthy pregnancy, ensure children’s early development and readiness for school, and reduce health inequalities in young children. It is one part of the overall Healthy Child Programme for children between birth and the age of 19, which is delivered primarily via health visitors (for children up to the age of 5) and school nurses (ages 5–19). 

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation shows how maternity and postnatal support for parents and children could be improved by wider take-up of evidence-based practices and programmes. For example, EIF’s report highlights the importance of mental health screening for women during pregnancy, and of infant sleep routines for both children’s development and parents’ wellbeing.

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Opportunities for primary schools to assist in preventing gang and youth violence are being missed

Press Releases   •   Mar 08, 2018 15:30 GMT

Press release: embargo for 00:01, Tuesday 13 March

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) shows that primary school teachers often know which children are at risk, but feel powerless to help them.1 Helping schools to support these vulnerable children more effectively is a vital part of wider attempts to address concerns about the prevalence of gang and youth violence.

This new research is based on interviews with school staff from six schools from the south London boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth, as well as local government officials, police and voluntary sector organisations working in the area.

Previous EIF research2 identified risk factors that are strongly predictive of a child’s later involvement in gangs, including aggressive behaviour, early offending and having friends who are frequently in trouble. This work found that these risk factors can be spotted in children as young as seven years old.

Dr Jo Casebourne, Chief Executive of EIF, says:

“There is a clear opportunity to intervene earlier than we do currently on a key issue affecting children, and primary schools have an important role to play. The reality, starkly illustrated in our report, is that these opportunities are being missed. This is not a criticism of primary schools or teachers, who are supporting children to the best of their ability, in spite of the challenges they face. But it does mean that it is imperative that schools are given the information and tools they need to tackle the risks associated with gang and youth violence in an evidence-led way.”

Previous EIF research has shown that some of the best-evidenced approaches to preventing gang involvement and youth violence are schools-based programmes that aim to teach children a set of social and emotional skills – such as the ability to manage their emotions, to form positive relationships, and to set and pursue personal goals.

Schools need to be supported by national government to prioritise children’s wellbeing and social and emotional skills development as much as their academic attainment. This goes beyond the question of whether PSHE should be made compulsory in all schools. Schools need to be encouraged and enabled to create a ‘whole school’ environment that nurtures children and prioritises their wellbeing, and Ofsted inspections should include specific consideration of how effectively schools are supporting children’s social and emotional skills.

Stephanie Waddell, co-author of the report and EIF lead for high-risk children and young people, says:

“Primary schools have an essential role to play in countering the risk of gang and youth violence. They know their children, families and local areas well. School staff have genuine care and concern for the children they see every day, and they are very well placed to spot the signs that a child or a family needs additional support. Nonetheless, it is clear that schools are facing a number of significant challenges, from teachers’ workloads, to uncertainty about how best to access external support and services, to a national curriculum which limits time and space in the school day for developing valuable social and emotional skills.”

EIF’s report also calls for:

  • Accessible messages for schools about the evidence base: what works to support children who are at risk of gang and youth violence, and in what circumstances.
  • Clear routes to help for children and families who do not meet statutory thresholds for social care intervention or specialist mental health support.
  • Further research to understand and test how the police can work most effectively with schools to prevent gang and youth violence.

*ENDS

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

Sources:

  1. The report is available at: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/intervening-early-to-prevent-gang-and-youth-violence-the-role-of-primary-schools (from 00:01 Tuesday 13 March). Copies are available in advance, on request.
  2. http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/preventing-gang-and-youth-violence/

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence-base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/

New research published by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) shows that primary school teachers often know which children are at risk, but feel powerless to help them. Helping schools to support these vulnerable children more effectively is a vital part of wider attempts to address concerns about the prevalence of gang and youth violence.

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Early Intervention Foundation appoints new trustee

Press Releases   •   Oct 18, 2017 11:00 BST

Press notice: for immediate release

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) has appointed a new trustee to its board: Martin Pilgrim.

Martin Pilgrim is a former chief executive of London Councils, the body which brings together London’s local authorities, and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. He is currently a trustee of the Family and Childcare Trust, the Young Women’s Trust (formerly YWCA) and the Diana Award.

Martin Pilgrim will fill the role of treasurer for EIF.

Two longstanding EIF trustees, Jeremy Hardie and Martyn Jones, have stepped down from the board.

Martin Pilgrim, EIF trustee, says:

"I am delighted to become a trustee for the Early Intervention Foundation. I am committed to improving the lives of disadvantaged families and young people. Early intervention has a crucial role to play in addressing so many of the pressures facing families and communities today, and I am thrilled to be able to support EIF in their excellent work in this area."

Dame Clare Tickell, EIF chair of trustees, says:

“We are very pleased to welcome Martin to our team. He brings a wealth of experience to the board, and a broad perspective on both public policy and local government. We look forward to working with Martin to maintain EIF’s influence and operational effectiveness. At the same time, I must record my thanks and the organisation’s gratitude to Jeremy and Martyn, who have provided outstanding oversight and leadership during EIF’s formative years.”

The appointment is effective from 16 October 2017.

*ENDS

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
Head of Communications, EIF
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence-base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) has appointed a new trustee to its board: Martin Pilgrim.

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Press note: Early Intervention Foundation CEO comments on LGA's 'Brighter Futures' plan for children

Press Releases   •   Oct 11, 2017 08:30 BST

Statement: for immediate release

In response to the publication today of the Local Government Association’s Brighter Futures plan, Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, says:

"We welcome the LGA’s focus on improving understanding of 'what works' so councils and their partners are able to provide the right support for children at the right time. Early intervention can make a difference to outcomes for children but only if it is evidence-based, well implemented and carefully matched to the specific needs of a child or family.

"EIF research has highlighted the lack of evidence underpinning some of the practices and approaches that are widely used in both early help and the child protection system. As the LGA’s plan rightly highlights, more support is required to ensure that approaches which may be innovative, but are not yet well evidenced, can be robustly evaluated. We need to develop the UK evidence about what works for whom and when, and to fill the gaps in the available evidence about how best to respond to some of the issues driving demand on children’s services. 

"We look forward to working with the LGA and others to develop and disseminate the evidence about what works for children."

*ENDS

Notes:

  • The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run. As a member of the What Works network, EIF is dedicated to expanding and communicating the evidence base related to early intervention in the UK. For more information, see: http://www.eif.org.uk/
  • For more information on challenges and next steps in improving the child protection system, see Improving the effectiveness of the child protection system: Overviewhttp://www.eif.org.uk/publication/improving-the-effectiveness-of-the-child-protection-system-overview/

Contact:

Mark Ballinger
EIF Head of Communications
E: mark.ballinger@eif.org.uk
T: 020 3542 2481 (switchboard)

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, comments on today's launch of the 'Brighter Futures' plan for children's services by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Read more »

About Early Intervention Foundation

EIF is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children, young people and their families, reduce hardship and improve value for money in the long run.

Address

  • Early Intervention Foundation
  • 10 Salamanca Place
  • SE1 7HB London
  • United Kingdom

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