Evidence-based early years intervention: Government’s Response to the Committee’s Eleventh Report of Session 2017–19 Contents

1Evidence-based early years intervention: Government response

1.The Science and Technology Committee reported to the House on evidence-based early years intervention in its Eleventh Report of Session 2017–19, published on 14 November 2018.1 The Government’s Response to the Report was received by the Committee on 14 January 2019.

2.Our Report highlighted the correlation between experience of adversity or trauma in childhood and the prevalence of encountering a range of problems in later life, including physical and mental health problems, reduced educational attainment and increased involvement with the criminal justice system.2 Our Report also emphasised the ability of early intervention to reduce the chance of children encountering adverse experiences and to mitigate the long-term impact of such experiences.3 We also referred to the potential for effective early intervention to save the Government money, with the cost of ‘late intervention’ estimated to be at least £16.6bn each year in England and Wales.4

3.Although there are examples of good practice across the country, the Early Intervention Foundation told us during our inquiry that, through their work, they had encountered “lots of examples where we see a gap between what we know from robust, peer-reviewed literature and what happens in local services and systems”.5 Where services are not being delivered according to the latest evidence, vulnerable families are not being supported as well as they could be and precious public resource is being wasted on ineffective programmes.

4.Given the opportunity for improved provision of early intervention focusing on childhood adversity and trauma to transform people’s lives and save taxpayers’ money, we are disappointed with the Government’s Response to our Report. Rejecting our central recommendation for a new national strategy for early intervention addressing childhood adversity and trauma, the Government told us that:

This Government believes that local areas are best placed to understand the needs of their local communities, to commission early intervention services to meet those needs and to deliver interventions as part of a whole system approach to produce the best outcomes for families.

However, the publication of a national strategy would not have to run contrary to this locally-led approach. Instead, a new strategy could have raised the awareness and ambition among local authorities with regards to adversity-focused early intervention, provided guidance and described best practice, and established a central team to support local authorities. Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, the President of the Association of Directors of Public Health, told us during our inquiry that more strategic, overarching national direction “would be a very helpful framework for what then comes down to local level, and for what we do and how we join it up locally”.6

5.A new strategy could also have supported an improved locally-led approach by expanding the Government’s oversight of the early intervention services provided by local authorities to tackle childhood adversity and trauma. Mark Davies, Director of Population Health at the Department of Health and Social Care, accepted during our inquiry that “the Early Intervention Foundation has given us good information about what works, but we have not looked systematically at how that is applied”.7

6.The Response largely repeats the original Government evidence to the inquiry about ongoing programmes. For example, the Government lists multiple programmes that it said illustrated its commitment and practical approach to early intervention. However, while these programmes pursue laudable aims, most of them do not focus on childhood adversity and trauma.

7.The Government has formed a new cross-Government ministerial working group on family support from conception to the age of two.8 We welcome the formation of the cross-Government ministerial working group on family support from conception to the age of two. We urge this new group to consider the opportunity to improve the provision and oversight of early intervention addressing childhood adversity and trauma in England and we hope that our Report can be useful in this endeavour. We request that the new ministerial group consider our Eleventh Report of Session 2017–19 and write to us within three months to respond to our recommendations, and to outline:

8.The Government Response is appended. Each conclusion and recommendation made in our original Report is set out in a bold paragraph. The Government’s Response is set out directly beneath in plain text.

1 Science and Technology Committee, Eleventh Report of 2017–19, ‘Evidence-based early years intervention’, HC 506

3 See, for example: ‘Early Intervention Foundation Guidebook’, Early Intervention Foundation, accessed 22 January 2019, which lists six early intervention programmes with evidence of a long-term positive impact through multiple rigorous evaluations and 39 with evidence of a short-term positive impact from at least one rigorous evaluation

4 Early Intervention Foundation, ‘The Cost of Late Intervention: EIF Analysis 2016’ (2016)

5 Oral evidence taken on 20 March 2018, HC 506, Q175

6 Oral evidence taken on 17 April 2018, HC 506, Q311

7 Oral evidence taken on 1 May 2018, HC 506, Q388

Published: 8 February 2019