Evidence-based early years intervention Contents



1.Early intervention is a loosely-defined term that refers to taking action as soon as possible, to tackle problems before they become more difficult to reverse. In this Report, we consider early intervention in relation to childhood adversity and trauma, to tackle the potential long-term problems that children who had such experiences appear to be more likely to encounter. Such intervention can take a variety of forms and covers an array of different sectors including education, health, social care and justice.1 Examples include parenting programmes, behavioural classes for children or programmes supporting early years child development.2

2.In 2010, Graham Allen, the then MP for Nottingham North, was commissioned by the Coalition Government to review early intervention in the UK. Two reports were published by Mr Allen the following year.3 Following his recommendations, the Early Intervention Foundation was established in 2013 as the ‘What Works Centre’ covering this area.4 In 2016, the Early Intervention Foundation estimated that the cost of ‘late’ intervention in England and Wales reached at least £16.6bn,5 and in 2017 reported a “significant gap between what is known to be effective from peer-reviewed studies and what is delivered in local child protection systems”.6 We consequently decided to launch an inquiry to examine the evidence base underpinning the arguments for early intervention as an effective strategy to address childhood adversity and trauma, and to assess the extent to which this evidence base was informing early intervention practice across England.

Our inquiry

3.As part of this inquiry, we launched a call for evidence seeking written submissions regarding evidence-based early years intervention on 26 October 2017. We received over 100 pieces of written evidence, and took oral evidence from 26 witnesses, including academics, charities, organisations delivering early intervention programmes, local authorities, the Early Intervention Foundation, Public Health England and Government Ministers. We also visited Cornwall Council and Tretherras School in Newquay, and the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development to learn more about the HeadStart Kernow and Better Start Blackpool programmes respectively. To assist us in our work, we also appointed Dr Caroline White, Head of the Children and Parents Service in Manchester, as a Specialist Adviser for our inquiry.7 We are grateful to everyone who contributed to our inquiry.

4.In this Report we set recommendations for what the Government should do nationally, and what local authorities should do locally, to ensure that every child has access to evidence-based early intervention if they need it. Specifically:

1What is Early Intervention?’, the Early Intervention Foundation, accessed 4 May 2018

2 There is no universal definition of ‘early years’, with common interpretations including the first 1,001 days of a child’s life, from birth to the start of compulsory schooling or other periods that can include pregnancy.

3 Graham Allen, ‘Early Intervention: The Next Steps’ (2011) and Graham Allen, ‘Early Intervention: Smart Investment, Massive Savings’ (2011)

4 The Cabinet Office, ‘What Works?: Evidence for decision makers’ (2014); the UK’s network of seven independent What Works Centres and two affiliate members aim to promote the use of high-quality, independently assessed evidence at every level of policy-making.

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

6 Early Intervention Foundation, ‘Improving the Effectiveness of the Child Protection System: Overview’ (2017)

7 Dr Caroline White declared her interests on 15 May 2018: accredited trainer in Incredible Years Parent Programmes and director of Evidence Based Psychology Hub Ltd.

Published: 14 November 2018