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Early intervention is a public policy approach to identify and support children and their families at an early stage, to prevent problems developing later in life, such as poor physical and mental health, low educational attainment, crime and anti-social behaviour. The Early Intervention Foundation charity notes that policies in this area can take many different forms, from home visiting to support vulnerable parents, to activities to support children’s early language development.

Early intervention policies are not limited to early years but due to the rapid pace of physical and social development in very young children, policies are often targeted at this stage. The focus of this briefing is on early intervention policies targeted at children from conception to age five. While some early intervention policies can be universal in scope (such as mandated health visits and access to children’s centres) other policies are targeted at children deemed to be at higher risk of disadvantage.

The Library briefing Early intervention: a background paper (CBP 9292) provides an introductory overview of the development of early intervention policies, their evidence-base and their impact. It also includes suggestions for further reading. This paper focuses on the development of early intervention policies in England and programmes directed at parents and children from conception up to age five years in the following areas:

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

As many areas such as health, education and local authority children’s services, are devolved, this briefing paper focusses on early intervention policy in England, unless otherwise stated.

In addition, this paper includes details of government commissioned early intervention reviews, select committee inquiries, and reports from All Party Parliamentary Groups. It also notes some approaches to early intervention and prevention taken by local authorities.

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